|Fantasy General is a
new, turn based strategy game developed by SSI's Special Projects Group, and as the title
suggests, places you in control of your own fantasy based army.
In the game, you control one of four champions to help extinguish the Shadowlord's cruel grasp on the five continents of Aer. Each continent is governed by a lieutenant of the Shadowlord. I must admit, I was one person that was never very particular with 'strategy' based games. I've always liked 'action' and 'role playing' type games, so I started playing the game thinking I would not like it and holding a few other preconceptions to it. But as I started playing it, about everything I thought and felt about strategy games before went out the window. How The Game Looks Fantasy General runs in 640x480 SVGA mode and requires a VESA 1.2 or higher compliant video card but also comes with the univesa driver (which does a very amenable job for all instances I have seen it work) for noncompliant cards. Once the hardware hurdles are overcome, the game is very pretty. The opening storyline is nice to look at though nothing out of the ordinary in this day of glamour and glitz graphics. The unit graphics during gameplay are quite nice and very well detailed. No 3D modeling or garad shading, but for the style of game, very good, the units are flat on the board like cardboard pieces with pictures on it. And The Sound I am going to give big kudos to the individuals who chose the soundtrack for the game. Since audio is such an important element in games these days, I can not think of any better than what is contained in Fantasy General. Epic, gothic, mournful. All are adjectives I will use to describe the tracks. They really set the mood for the game and make it that much more enjoyable to play. The digitized sounds of the various units is fine. They are not as good as the audio, however they are fitting to the unit and at times amusing. No ground breaking here in other words, but nothing wrong with it either. There is some digitized speech that introduces each new episode of the games (when playing the scenarios) and it was here that something struck me as odd. I felt I had heard that voice before in a very popular strategy game of the not to resent past. Maybe I have played to many games and all the voices are blurring in my minds ear. If you play this game, and have played the other, you will know what I am talking about. Game Mechanics
The Fantasy General engine is derived from SSI's Panzer General. I have never played Panzer General, but if FG is at all close, it seems to work pretty well. For each chapter of the game your army can only be so large (no wars of attrition I guess), and there are only certain hexes where you can place your troops at the beginning of the battle, which is only reasonable. Once the battle has begun, you are free to move the game map as you see fit, just remember not to necessarily move as far as you can, or you may put yourself in the middle of a lot of enemy troops. That is where your scouts come in handy. Terrain is a very important factor in the game, slowing movement, allowing certain troop types bonuses or disadvantages to fighting and/or defending. According to the game box there are over 120 different troop types, I never did count them all, and you allow yourself new ones by 'researching' them. There are really only three screens of import to view throughout the entire game: the combat map, managing army screen, and allocate rewards screen. Combat take place on a large hex map, the maps get larger as the game progresses, with certain sections of the map available for you to place your initial troops. One problem is that you only have so many turns to kick your opponent's hiney. Twenty turns is not a lot when you are dealing with big maps and what seems like ooddles of enemy to polish off. This actually requires thought and some knowledge of strategy, not the in your face whack and bash motif here. There are certain troops that have tactical advantages over others. Archers and all types that belong to that class do most damage when placed behind others for return fire when the first line of defense is attacked. This is also a good thing for you to remember when you attack. =) Special skills abound and are far to numerous to recite here. My advice to you is to read the manual before you play and keep it handy when you are in the thick of it. Buttons galore!!! To your left there lies eleven whole buttons and to your right there lies eleven more. More than enough to go around. On the left the buttons are mostly related to game control options and save/load game stuff. The exceptions are the cast character spell, which is the head of your army doing his thing; the purchase unit option: and the end turn button (use only when you are really done with your turn). On your left the most important button is hiding on the very bottom, the next unit arrow, which you naturally need to switch to get to your next guy. You can also hide terrain, hexsides, wounds, AI moves, and units as well as show them all. The strategic map is wonderful. It shows the bad guys as little black skulls, your units as gold rimmed shields and flashing flags that indicate victory hexes. Managing your army takes money, plain and simple. While you may get volunteers on your various campaigns as you go raging through the land, they leave after you have taken back the continent. All other troops require money to research, upgrade or to be simply bought outright. The manage your army screen allows you to do this. Be careful when you buy troops, some cannot upgrade and while it may be nice at first it blows later on when they can't hit and are getting killed left and right. Oh, and just a clue, flying snakes are pretty worthless and that is being nice. You can change any of your character's names in this window (I liked it), so if the '11th Volunteers' are not to your style, ditch it. You may also distribute your magical items in this screen. The only other things that you can do here are disband units or upgrade current units. Overall We really enjoyed this game and have no real gripes with it. The only real minor flaw we found was that (at least in version 1.0), the opening screen did not repaint itself properly, so you could see a bit of a ghost image in the background. We found also that when playing by mail, nice feature by SSI, that we were unable to get an mailed move when we retrieved it using Netscapes 2.0 mail facility. When using Eudora Light, we were able to get them without a hitch. Everyone out there who has a notion to try, do so and see what kind of result you get. I am not about to open that can of worms and report 'bugs' in software. I don't have that kind of time : )...
--Kevin & Jennifer