Taking place in a fantasy world of Human kingdoms, Orc clans, Dwarfs’ citadels and Elven forests the player is thrust into a world of war and legend. Play the role of an Orc or Goblin boss, a captain of the Human army or lead the elite forces of the Elven army. Participate in castle sieges and village defense, assault and reconnaissance operations and swift raids. To be victorious remember that the amount and experience of troops is not always the key factor, organize cooperation between different types of units and use the landscape to achieve strategic superiority. The game consists out of three story-connected campaigns. In each of them players will have to gather an army, upgrade units, find magic artifacts and study magic spells. An epic story has been crafted to draw players in. The great Orc chieftain and conqueror Ugraum, incited by the cruel shamans, gathers a huge horde to invade the land of Humans. Only a small, but experienced army of general Pfeil is able to fight against the powerful enemy. However the sides in this confrontation don’t know that this is all just a part of evil plot of the dark powers.

  • Battlefields and surroundings in full 3D
  • Various tactical opportunities
  • Vivid characters which develop during the game
  • More than 70 units and 9 types of armies
  • Advanced army upgrade system
  • Original storyline
  • Multiplayer mode (LAN, Internet, Hotseat)

My rig:
Athlon MP 2.2GHz
1.5GB PC3200 RAM
Nvidia 6800GT 256MB
NForce2 Sound

Dealing with miniatures is a fine art. It really is. A couple friends of mine buy those pewter Warhammer characters and paint them so I can say I’ve witnessed the insanity required to do these properly. So too does Fantasy Wars put an insane amount of detail into this HoMM-style-minimap visage before you. The maps are not exceptionally large, but the amount of details put into a village in a single hex is astounding. It’s isn’t crazy good with actual fires and such, but the textures of wooden buildings and burnt out campfires on that small of a scale must be appropriately appreciated.

The army types need to be mentioned as well. While there isn’t much in the way of faces, the level of detail in the gear looks to be taken seriously. The units move well together and when you are close up for some of the combat scenes there are glints of steel, or watch a squadron of archers let loose a volley of arrows upon their opponent. The wheeled units (catapults, ballista, etc) rumble down roads and have all the appropriate moving parts for their attack sans the operators.

However, such level of details is not without cost. Each time a unit is engaged or moves, it first resets to face East, and then goes about its business. This is just the way the animation starts and it is the same for each. Rather than doing 6 different animation procedures based which way the army is facing, they just start it off facing East. More glaring an issue was when my ballista fell through a hill and went about the rest of the battle underground. If you’re doing to do 3D hills, you best have your collision engine working properly or things can get a little silly.

All in all, the game looks great.

The sounds in the game are somewhat disappointing. The voice acting is given effort, but the level is on par with a starving student troupe. Some of the reading is downright rigid, some of the writing is downright hokey, and after the budget put into the looks I guess some sacrifices had to be made. The sounds of battle are quiet, simple, and as immersive as fat men pillow fighting. Being rated T for Teen might mean they tried to downplay the gore, but even in victory there’s no triumph in the voices of the conquerors. There’s no resounding clang of swords clashing, grunts of bodies colliding, or shouts of commanders barking orders to the troops.

There are some better than others, but overall the sound system is flat.

The control system is self-explanatory. Since this is a turn-based adventure, you aren’t frantically jabbing at the arrow keys to escape your hunter. That’s a good thing because I don’t need any more stress for the holidays. Everything is point-and-click, but sometimes that’s difficult because of the map’s angle. Again, there’s no hurry so make sure you clicked the right unit and that you put it where you wanted it to go. Even if you made a mistake, there’s usually an undo option. On occasion, you are unable to choose the undo a move (for tactical purposes) so don’t rely on this saving your bacon very often.

There are several keyboard commands, but the GUI is easy to use. The pace moves at your leisure. Where you can go, and what you can do, is pretty easy to grasp hold of after a short while even without reading the manual. There’s not much that can go wrong with this atmosphere, and they certainly did not go awry. I’d loved to have an option to rotate the camera though.

So this is a tactical, turn-based, game where armies of miniatures collide. The campaign is story-driven so there are no world maps that one captures treasure troves while moving towards a battle. Instead, the story dictates the battlefield and you do the fighting. There are many things to be considered during battle. The first rule is don’t let your hero get killed. He or she or it is a hearty lot so it’s not easy, but it can be done. Make sure your ground troops are on the front line. Your ranged units have zero melee skills, obviously, so you don’t want them exposed, but when they’re in adjoining hexes they can fire upon attacking foes and ‘cover’ your army being attacked.

Moving down the countryside has variables to watch out for too. Open terrain has no penalty, but moving through forests will hamper some of your units, swamps will bog everyone down except fliers, and some parts are just impassible. Be sure you’re not trying to go off the map though. The number of units isn’t much more than 10, so it’s not a whole lot to worry about, but you do worry and strive to have the best possible outcome.

The AI is tricky. The goblins make excellent use of tree cover for ambush as well as hit-and-run tactics. It uses its armies in tandem for the one-two punch knockouts, and knows when you’re ripe for a bombing run from its blimps. But once you’ve seen what it can do it can’t do much more. Utilizing a slow and steady approach it is not that tough to defeat. So thankfully, there is multiplay. Coming in two flavors, hot-seat and network, you can challenge other living brains to duels of wit. The hot seat option is where you have one instance of the game going, and everyone takes turns getting into the chair in front of the computer and making their army’s moves. Then that one hops out, and the next one jumps in, etc. The Network offers the opportunity for one to host a game and up to four can play at their own PC on a LAN, or you can go against one player over the Internet. There are 4-player maps for Direct Connect, but two have to be AI players.

The game is a bit like a stereotypical high-school cheerleader. She’s very pretty, has an annoying voice, can’t think much for herself, and is good at parties. (My brother is married to cheerleader turned doctor so I know you’re not all ditzes. Please don’t bother with the hate-mail again.) The game can go on for quite lengthy periods of time due to the turn-based architecture, but you don’t mind spending time because it looks so nice and plays so smoothly. The strategy fans should enjoy this quite a bit as well as anyone with a taste for the medieval.