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Posted on Apr 17, 2014 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Fantasy Kommander: Eukarion Wars – PC Game Review

Fantasy Kommander: Eukarion Wars – PC Game Review

By Jim Cobb

fantasy-kommander-coverFantasy Kommander – Eukarion Wars. PC game review. Publisher: Slitherine. Developer: Age of Games. Boxed game $29.99; Download $19.99

Passed Inspection: Many interesting races, weapons and spells; some nice tactical situations; good manual; easy learning curve

Failed Basic: Dated and unhelpful graphics; irritating voice acting; tired story line; dull mechanics; locked campaigns; no multi-play

Fantasy games fill an odd psychic niche for some gamers. These games allow mayhem and bloodshed without bringing the violence too close to home. Orcs are killed, not Germans; wands are used, not flamethrowers. These twists should give developers license to let their imaginations run wild. Magic negates the laws of physics. Feats can be performed in fantasy games that would be unthinkable in a historical game. Such liberty has a price. The bar in the “Wow!” factor keeps rising with more glitz and odd powers. Monsters, missions and quests become more twisted and extravagant. Slitherine and Age of Games venture into fantasy games with Fantasy Kommander – Eukarion Wars. The results are quite mixed.

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Stepping into the Past
The graphics of the game would have been great in the 1990s. Unfortunately, time and programming marches on. Terrain is flat on the small maps. Brush looks like sun-bleached seaweed while mountains resemble egg cartons with a splotch of white on top. Towns are reminiscent of carnivals, not places of business. Temples and castles are recognizable as such but lack splendor. The best one can say of features like trees, streams and bridges is that they are clear if boring. The only bright animation occurs when supernatural beings appear from the depths and when spells crackle through the air. Navigation of the maps is done by keyboard arrows, not by mouse as advertised. Detail is further hampered by the lack of zoom. A World Map that serves as a campaign map is an interesting blend of European geography and mythology.

Unit icons fare a bit better. These figures are isometric, colorful with a hint of detail. Again, the lack of zoom detracts from what could be nice artwork and also hinders play. Unit facing is crucial to combat but can be hard to see from the medium level perspective shown. Animation is limited with units moving like chess pieces. Friendly units stand on a blue ring with enemies clearly marked with red rings. Heroes and particularly evil enemies have their names displayed over their icons. Health is indicated by the usual vertical bar. Small tags on the unit icons indicate morale status and any special powers being used. A side panel shows more information about the units, lists the special powers available and other game functions such as entrench, rotate a unit, next unit and the usual game options, e.g. “exit.”

Sound is disappointing. Movement is denoted by a slight sliding sound and combat by simple bumps and clanks. Wounded units let out a quick “Oof!” Monsters have unique cries. Friendly unit types repeat the same phrases when selected—nice for identification but irritating by repetition. Each monster group has an opening dialog, and players’ advisers chime in with clear but cheesy advice. Especially annoying is the imperial observer that uses a smarmy French accent.

The 131-page PDF manual covers the basics well, devoting the last hundred pages to a detailed description of units (called armies) and spells. A bibliography of books on medieval texts, a gameography of older games the designer drew on and notes on how the developers used medieval history and geography in creating the game are included.

Magical Mystery Slog
The story line of Fantasy Kommander – Eukarion Wars is a familiar one: a golden civilization lost its moral compass, was overwhelmed by evil forces and a few heroes and allied “good” races are now making a comeback. The saga is played out through five campaigns of four or five battles each. Each battle has primary and secondary objectives with ever-increasing difficulty. Campaigns and battles are locked, so, since no sandbox or editor is provided, players must follow the game’s script. Winning the game within time limits and achieving objectives determine which of four victory levels are obtained. The higher the victory level, the more gold and fame points received. These elements translate into increasing units’ defense and attack levels, resurrecting slain units, gaining new powers and recruiting more troops. This “leveling up” process occurs in the encampment the army visits after each battle.

Battle begins with troop deployment. Each battle has a set number of units players can deploy, numbers increasing with every new battle. Available troops are shown on a strip along the bottom of the battle map, with possible deployment hexes highlighted and arranged linearly across the bottom of the map. Players should be thinking on how they will move their troops on the first move during this deployment. When deployed, each unit has large blue arrows on each hex side indicating facing. Facing becomes important should the opposition move first.

The possible movement destinations for selected units’ movement are outlined in green and orange with orange representing the zones of control for enemies. Combat is the usual combination of melee and ranged fire with ranged fire including spells as well as missile weapons. Hovering over a target brings up a tool tip that details probable damage to attacker and defender and points out which facing the attack will come through. Side and rear attacks increase the attacker’s damage while minimizing the points the attacker may lose from defensive moves. While rabbit-punching an enemy may seem like a good idea, the attacker’s facing may leave an opening for an equally savage counter-attack. Such attacks can be offset by having bowmen or priests adjacent to an attacked unit. The ranged weapons yield support.

With 32 special abilities and 32 spells spread out over six different races, tactics would seem to be innumerable. Indeed, the use of spells and different units such as war machines and fliers add flavor to combat; there are limits on the number of times spells and abilities can be used. Yet, fighting seems limited by the inability to move more than one unit at a time and the strictly symmetrical approach to turn-based play. A unit can only invoke some spells but cannot do anything more during that turn. After an attack, units cannot rotate to protect themselves. Thus, combat seems very scripted and puzzle-like.

The AI moves fairly intelligently but its main strength comes from sources of units creating unending amounts of reinforcements until the sources are captured. Moreover, some monsters seem to regenerate limitlessly giving attacks a tedious feel. Having the different races fight differently according to the environment is a nice touch and may give players some tactical challenges initially, but they will learn how to deal with these after a few replays. Campaign mechanics suffer from the inability to remove units from the line-up thus harnessing players to unit types that were useful in one scenario but not the next. The greatest omission of the game is the lack of any multi-play capability at all.

Fantasy Kommander – Eukarion Wars has some nice concepts such as innovative spells and units. Unfortunately, these elements are overwhelmed by graphics so mediocre that play is damaged. The battles become tedious after a short while and the story line has been done so many times that calling it predictable merely highlights the obvious. Unless enhancements are made, players should wait for a sale and even then weigh the cost of disk space against savings.

Armchair General Rating: 69%

About the Author
Jim Cobb has been playing board wargames since 1961 and computer wargames since 1982. He has been writing incessantly since 1993 to keep his mind off the drivel he dealt with as a bureaucrat. He has published in Wargamers Monthly, Computer Gaming World, Computer Games Magazine, Computer Games Online, CombatSim, Armchair General, Subsim, Strategyzone Online and Gamesquad

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