Gaming Today Impressions of Fantasy Wars
Fantasy Wars (a.k.a. Mythic Wars)
Publisher: 1C Company/Atari
ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language)
Release Date: October 2007
Fantasy Wars is a turn-based strategy game set on a hexagonal combat scheme with RPG elements throughout the game. When I first heard about it, my initial thoughts were the standard “great… another run of the mill turn-based strategy game”. You know what? I was correct. On the surface, you have your usual suspects fighting it out for supreme dominance of the land – elves, humans, and orcs – and while this may seem like just the “same old same old”, the pleasant surprise with Fantasy Wars is that you get a turn as each. Also, with most hex-based strategy games, not much is given in the way of presentation and variety – untrue with this particular game. Fantasy Wars is a vibrant 3D game and having played this type of game numerous times, I was very pleased with the amount of detail on everything from the buildings and trees to the characters themselves. Usually, your units will look like blurry pixilated blobs running around on green blocks of grass; therefore I was extremely impressed with the amount of focus dedicated to the overall look of the game. While indeed I was impressed with the graphics, the rest of the game’s features are clearly lacking; therefore the esteem I originally felt vanished like oatmeal cookies at a Weight Watchers meeting.
To begin with, the two tutorials are inane and poorly done. First off, you watch a video tutorial, then in the second tutorial, you have to do the same thing you just watched as they verbally walk you through it. This was a bit annoying and seemed highly repetitive not to mention uncalled for. They should have just stuck with the verbal walk-thru and have been done with it. In Fantasy Wars, there are three different races you get to take turns playing. Yes, the idea of playing as each race is fun and less boring than playing for hours on end as one race or the another, and the overall quality of gameplay mechanics is top notch in certain respects, but the story of an orc leader and his warring tribes is completely forgettable and feels more like pulp filler than anything. The three single player campaigns, while somewhat lengthy, are also a bit difficult from the get go. Fantasy Wars does not ease you into the fray nor give you much of a chance to acclimatize yourself – it sucks you in and you either have to keep up or get mangled. Granted, I did not feel what I like to call “finger fatigue” as I usually do when playing a strategy game such as this, the difficulty has more to do with your units’ overall ineptness than your ability to comprehend the control scheme. You start out small and frail and eventually (through getting your ass kicked repeatedly), your units’ abilities from each campaign begin to carry over into the next skirmish. Thankfully, you become less frustrated with each scenario and the experience you gained sticks with your unit whether you have lost members or not; eventually your units grow to become powerful and battle smart at the end of each campaign.
Like most strategy games you are given your initial troops, but with Fantasy Wars you have up to 500 units which can be displayed simultaneously – and they run the gambit of the usual sword fodder. Archers, cavalry, infantry, mages, skirmishers, and a few aerial units each have their own bonuses and stats and, of course, gain experience through combat. You can always choose “perks” for them that increase their stats, and through the course of your campaigns you will figure out quickly which perks work best for you. You can recruit new units through a ridiculous looking list, but most of these additions will not add to the size of your unit as much as they are replacements for the ones that were slaughtered on your way to glory. Making sure your troops have the time to heal and rest will save you a lot of grief in the long run – it is best to try and keep your guys around than deal with the annoying, horrible interface of a list. The biggest thing of benefit to you and your troops is the main focus on overtaking towns which are displayed in choke-points on your map – they have a very high defensive bonus; therefore the cash gained from these towns will come in handy when you decide to make upgrades. Destroy as much as you can to reap the benefits of your labor.
The campaigns themselves lack in length and even after you have become less of a peon, they do not offer you much in the way of content. By content, I mean that there are only five missions for both single player and multiplayer. In addition to this, multiplayer is over a LAN without a matchmaking system available, so your only option is to run around searching for someone to play with you. Normally, I like to play by myself and have no desire to interact with a bunch of people I do not know – but I sacrificed my chagrin at this type of gameplay so that I may give you an idea of what to expect when playing multiplayer. I hope you appreciate the lengths I went to so that you may know how shoddy the online play is – you all owe me one. Needless to say, I found no one who wanted to play with me, so after shouting a few curse words and insults regarding brotherly love in the gaming community, I gave up. Due to the lackluster multiplayer and unfortunate way that it was created, the replay value for Fantasy Wars after you have defeated all five of the campaigns is nonexistent.
Okay, now that the multiplayer has been discredited, lets get back to single player mode. Considering that only one unit can occupy each hex at a time, the well designed interface of Fantasy Wars really comes into play here. All of your units are listed at all times and it is easy to see who has attacked, been attacked, died, or moved. The overlays are displayed in green so it is easy to see if your unit can move there or not, and like I mentioned earlier, no “finger fatigue” was felt when moving the mouse about and clicking away – although it is important to note that you must put your cursor directly on your enemies instead of the hex they are inhabiting. Knowing this will save you a lot of grief if you decide to play Fantasy Wars. What I liked most about the game was the strategic view where I could zoom out in order to distinguish the units dispatched as grouped squads per hexagon, or zoom in to see each one of my units and literally move around and inside the world to watch the close combat.
In conclusion, Fantasy Wars is mediocre and a bit linear for someone who wants a very in-depth strategy game. For gamers new to this genre, I suggest they try it out for its ease in getting you used to the mechanics – but gameplay may be a bit too difficult for a first-timer. The three different race campaigns were not as long as I would have liked, the five different scenarios within each elven, human and orc campaign not only did not add to the length, it felt a bit tacked on. Fantasy Wars is indeed a very nice looking game considering that it is hex-based, but all of the eye candy in the world can not make up for the lack of customization, borderline retarded AI, multiplayer content, skirmish maps, and the most redundant and nonsensical tutorial system I have ever encountered. Therefore, in the spirit of our ranking system, I would have to give this one a regrettable “Skip It”. If it were possible to rent PC games I would have suggested that instead, but you can always try out the demo first via FileFront and decide for yourself or buy it out of a bargain bin.