Dominions 2:  The Ascension Wars

Review

posted 1/27/2004 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
In each turn, the various Pretenders set up all orders (building, research, movement/combat, recruiting), and then every order is carried out simultaneously. In addition to making Dominions 2 perfect for play-by-email multiplayer goodness, this makes for some interesting (and often difficult) choices. Armies you wish to attack may very likely move out of their current province just as you’re moving in. Reports from spies are always a turn out of date by the time you can react to them. Chasing a particular enemy commander is very difficult, almost puzzle-like, in attempts to block them in. This simultaneous turn mode also makes combat a bit unique.

Since all battles take place during the simultaneous “Hosting” phase of the turn, they are completely automated. Battle formations and orders are given during the turn, but once battle begins, the units are on their own. Players have the option of micromanaging, to some extent, due to the intricate army-managing screen. Mages can be ordered to cast particular spells in certain sequence, fighting units can be ordered to charge forward or hang back, and can be told to target particular types of enemy units. Or, for those who wish a more hands-off approach, these choices can be left up to the AI to handle. Most units are formed into squads, a commander followed by several non-commander units. These squads will rout when their commander is killed or they suffer enough casualties. Once the entire army on a particular side is routed, the battle is over. At the beginning of the next turn, players can watch the replay or read the report of the previous turn’s fighting. The battles themselves aren’t all that exciting to watch, but it is enjoyable to hit the “next-turn” button with fingers crossed, waiting to see how it all turned out.

While watching the battles can be a bit nail-biting, it certainly isn’t pretty. Nor is much of the rest of the game. Most of the game plays out on a static, 2D map overlaid with various pop-up menus. The battle scenes aren’t much more exciting, with small and often hard-to-differentiate units duking it out. Since this is primarily a turn-based strategy game, graphics really aren’t all that important. Sound is also a bit lacking, but again, this doesn’t detract from the play of the game in the least. The music is actually pretty good, but there isn’t very much, so it becomes repetitive rather quickly. I tend to play my own soundtracks for turn-based strategy games, so this isn’t much of an issue either. As for my initial impressions of a clunky interface, well, I got over most of that. It’s still not as smooth as I would like, but there’s a lot of information to process, and the pop-up menus do a decent job. Learning the hotkeys is important, though, and will help a lot in smoothing over the slightly rough interface edges.

I really can’t begin to scratch the surface of this game in one small review. There is a lot of depth and strategy here, which can be very rewarding for those who wish to take the time to delve in. This is also one of those games that just won’t appeal to everyone, nor is it even a safe bet for turn-based strategy fans. I was turned off at first, but after a bit of time and patience, I’ve found Dominions 2 to be an incredibly enjoyable (and challenging) game. I highly recommend the “try-before-you-buy” approach. Head on over to Shrapnel’s website, grab the demo and walkthrough, and give this title the time and patience it deserves.


B
A very good, but extremely deep, strategy title. This one has a very large learning curve, but once that’s overcome one finds an engrossing game. Well worth the extra time and effort to learn this one.


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