Guest Author - James Shea
Kohan II is a Real Time Strategy with a wide selection of units and races and some fairly interesting gameplay mechanics. Though in many ways it seems a mishmash of other RTS games, it has a couple twists to it that make it more of its own game.
The game takes place in an epic fantasy land. There is a vast campaign mode that covers the many different races present in the game. The sides in the war are defined both by what race a group is and what affiliation they hold. Races in the game include Humans, Drauga (a warlike tribal race similar in some ways to orcs), Gauri (a stone-based race similar in theory to Dwarves but influenced more by Sumerian culture), Haroun (nature-worshipping elves), Shadows (demons and their worshippers), and the Undead. Each race has a couple different affiliations available, as well. Royalists get bonuses in combat. Nationalists have bonuses in more supply-related areas. Council followers get a reduction to structure costs. Ceyah, or exiles, can entrench and run faster to support their guerilla warfare. The Fallen - the dark forces that seek to invade the world - can see farther and are more resilient than the other groups.
The races have similarities and differences. All groups use the same basic formula for units and buildings; both are reminiscent of Lord of the Rings: The Battle For Middle Earth's particular style. Buildings are constructed in settlements - towns or cities that can only be built on certain spots. These settlements have a limit to the number of structures they can hold, which necessitates upgrading. Upgrading also increases the strength of the city's walls. Building structures allows you to access new technologies and new unit types. Units are grouped into "companies" of 4 to 8 units. Unit types include melee soldiers like swordsmen and pikemen, ranged units like archers, and support units like catapults, engineers, healers, and mages. Aside from the homogenous regular companies, it is also possible to create custom companies that mix and match several unit groups. Companies are led either by a generic captain or a hero. Heroes give bonuses to the units they command, and can also gain experience from combat. In non-Campaign missions, the number of heroes can be set and all are available from the start to be attached to a unit.
Resources come in two varities: Gold, which can be stockpiled, and miscellaneous materials like wood, iron, and stone that are done with a different mechanic. Both types are generated by certain buildings. Gold is used to pay directly for units. Materials, however, are necessary to keep them. For example, training a cavalry company costs gold and wood. For the gold, you can simply wait until you have the amount that you need. Wood, on the other hand, will be generated in a certain amount by buildings like sawmills. Non-upgraded sawmills generate 6 wood. A lancer unit costs 4 wood. So basically as long as that company is alive it will consume 4 of the 6 wood units generated by a sawmill. Resource collectors can be built either in towns or on resource deposits outside of towns. Inside of towns, resource collecting buildings can either be upgraded to make more of their resource, or upgraded to markets to get gold at a slight cost to the resource. Which to do - keeping in mind the limited space in each town - is an important tactical decision.
Combat consists of companies clashing against each other. The front line will engage first, with the leader providing support. When the front line is destroyed, the leader will come under attack. There are several options for combat. Formation can be changed, basically trading speed for power or vice versa. Morale can falter in dire circumstances, causing the unit to rout until it recovers. There are also strengths and weaknesses for each unit; for example, cavalry can easily ride down archers. The other main thing about combat is supply areas. This is an area around towns and outposts where friendly units can heal and replenish their lost members. It is better to fight close to your towns and outposts so that you can get this bonus, or you can go there to recover after a battle. Furthermore, the maps are littered with important sites; settlement points where new towns can be built (once the point's monster inhabitants are removed), creature lairs and bandit camps that can be attacked and destroyed for gold, for research bonuses, and to ensure safe passage through the wilderness, and resource points where engineers can construct mines.
As a whole, the gameplay works pretty well. While it is complex, the nuances and options available make the experience pretty interesting. I think the main problem is pacing - the game starts to slow down once you go through your starting gold, and apart from finding gold deposits out in the wilderness there's not a lot you can do to speed it up. The races do have their own little unique touches despite keeping the same basic formula.
The graphics in this game are reminiscent of Warcraft 3, though not as cartoony. The game uses the same style and the same "animated head in portrait" that WC3 uses. Overall, they're pretty good, and the colors are bright and identifiable to avoid confusion during play. There's not a lot that's really spectacular about them - I wouldn't say that they're great by any means - but they do the job and they look pretty nice too. The sound is about the same - it's good, but not great. It's serviceable, if anything. The music is an exception, as the composition is really nice. The voice acting is bland, and tends to be over-enunciated, but doesn't have a lot of active problems.
As a whole, this game is pretty good. It's not groundbreaking, and it's not fantastic in any particular field, but it's a pretty solid package. It's worth a look if you're a fan of either Warcraft III or Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth, but don't expect anything extraordinary.