The original Kohan was a refreshingly new title that took several of the tired RTS elements and tweaked them into something quite enjoyable. It was lauded by the critics but, unfortunately, it was released at such a time as to be buried is a sea of better-hyped, flashier games. Along comes Kohan 2: Kings of War, still refreshingly different than most of the RTS offerings, still very well polished, and still quite enjoyable. And like its predecessor, Kohan 2 is facing some serious competition from some much better-hyped, flashier RTS games. Hopefully it won’t simply fade into “cult” status, since Kohan 2 is a game worthy of notice.
For those fortunate enough to have played the original Kohan, much of Kohan 2 falls into familiar territory. The Kohan, a race of powerful immortal beings, are still at play in the world following the events in the first game and its expansion. The defeated Ceyah (the original’s Big Baddies) are trying to regroup and start the naughtiness up all over again. One of them taps into the netherworld power of the Shadow, and a new Evil is born. It’s up to the Forces of Good to rally together and stop the world from being destroyed or forever drowned in Evil. Typical fantasy stuff, really, but the gameplay more than makes up for the clichés.
Rather than command individual units, as in many RTS titles, Kohan takes a squad-based approach. Each squad must consist of a Leader unit or Kohan (unique leader) and a set of 4 frontline units. Additionally, each squad can also be given a set of flanking units and support units. For example, a typical human assault squad might be the chosen Kohan, 4 swordsmen flanked by pikemen (to keep those pesky cavalry at bay), and a healer and a wizard. Since there are almost 2 dozen different units for each Race, there are many ways to mix and match squads to meet particular tastes or needs. For those who don’t enjoy micromanaging or babysitting each individual unit, Kohan 2 is a blessing. Each individual unit in a squad works together in the proper way, without direct intervention on the player’s part. So the swordsmen and pikemen would take the front, while wizard would hang back and blast away from relative safety and the healer would keep everyone patched up. Set up archers in the flanking position instead, and they’ll hang back behind the front lines to rain down pointy death. Squads can be grouped together and commanded to act in unison, so relatively large armies can be easily directed around the field of battle.
City building and resource management is a little more involved than in the original title. Cities are quite a bit more detailed on the map itself, and it’s possible to keep armies safely inside the city walls. Each city much be constructed on a settlement point, much like Age of Wonders. Limiting the number of settlement points on a given map adds some interesting strategies. In addition to settlement points, there are several resource points on the map just ready to be mined by an Engineer company. Resources are in infinite supply, as resource points never really run out. Increasing the rate resources (including gold) are gathered requires mining additional resource points or constructing resource-gathering building in the cities. Each building requires a certain amount of gold to produce, as does each squad. In addition, most squads also have a certain upkeep requirement, and fielding them causes a drain on resources. If there is a shortfall in a particular resource, it is automatically converted from the gold coffers at a rather alarming rate. And running out of gold can be a very bad thing. In addition to being unable to purchase anything useful, Supply slows to a crawl.
The concept of Supply is one of the high points of the Kohan series. Each city and outpost has a “Zone of Supply”. While in this Zone, squads will be healed automatically, even going so far as to replace fallen units. As long as just a single member of a squad can limp back into a Zone of Supply, the entire squad can be fully healed/reinforced in short order. With careful watch over the squads, breaking them away from the battles if they’re getting too clobbered, they may never need to be replaced for the length of the mission.
There are six different races to choose from, each embodying a familiar fantasy niche. There are the usual Humans, generalists and jacks-of-all-trades. Rounding out the “good guys”, there are the fast-but-fragile Haroun, the barbarian Drauga, and the requisite dwarf-like Gauri. Fighting for Team Evil are the Undead, slow and plodding but always considered In Supply, and the unearthly Shadow. While each race has a similar mix of melee, ranged, and siege units, they are different enough that players will soon find one that well suits their style of play. In addition to race, each player can also choose from five Factions, reflecting the ideological allegiance. Each Faction confers a certain bonus and additional unit, further increasing the options available for play.
Kohan 2 has a unique feel to the gameplay. Things aren’t as frantically paced as many RTS outings, since everything is commanded at the squad level. Battles are a matter of setting up the proper mixture of squads and sending them after the enemy, and letting the individual squads take care of business on their own. Once battle starts, there’s very little control over even the squads themselves, other than sounding the retreat. Because of this, Kohan 2 feels like a much more “thoughtful” RTS than many of the other titles available, something that very much appeals to my style of play. Much of the game is fought in the planning stages of combat, and victory is often decided before the armies ever meet.
The single-player campaign included in Kings of War is quite good, offering the chance to get to know most of the races involved, although it is a little light on Shadow or Fallen missions. Almost all of the missions are of the “build up and destroy X” variety, so no puzzle maps or RPG elements here. The story behind the campaign is typical fantasy fare but good enough to tie everything together. For those who want to jump right in to the fight, there is a fairly competent AI for single-player skirmishes, and a decent multiplayer experience as well. Unlike the original, players won’t be finding random Kohan units as they wander around the map, so there won’t be the problem of your enemy finding the best Kohan in the game in a stroke of good luck.
Kohan 2 looks and sounds great, although the computing requirements rather harshly reflect this. For those with an aging system, it would be good to check a demo and look closely at the minimum specs before taking this plunge. Still, I was running at close to minimum myself, and didn’t have too many problems with slowdowns or chugginess. The interface is clean and intuitive, so it won’t take long for anyone familiar with the genre to jump right in.
The Kohan series is a unique take on fantasy RTS, and Kohan 2 does an admirable job of reliving the high quality and enjoyment of the original. A bit more thoughtful than many RTS games, Kohan 2 is perfect for those wanting a deeper real time strategy. With yet another rush of RTS games being released, don’t overlook this gem.
A worthy successor to the great-but-overlooked original. An RTS title that leans a bit more toward â€œstrategyâ€ and a bit less toward â€œreal-timeâ€.
Rating: 8.8 Class Leading
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I'm an old-school gamer, and have been at it ever since the days of the Atari 2600. I took a hiatus from the console world to focus on PC games after that, but I've come back into the fold with the PS2. I'm an RPG and strategy fan, and could probably live my gaming life off a diet of nothing else. I also have soft spot for those off-the-wall, independent-developer games, so I get to see more than my share of innovative (and often strange) titles.
Away from the computer, I'm an avid boardgamer, thoroughly enjoying the sound of dice clattering across a table. I also enjoy birdwatching and just mucking around in the Great Outdoors.