Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Publisher: 1C Company
Release Date: November 7, 2007
The fantasy lands of orcs and elves have become quite trendy nowadays. It's hard to deny that no matter what new race a developer might introduce to the game, the orcs and elves seem to prevail in terms of lore and backstory. Creating a story with these sci-fi fantasy inhabitants doesn't necessarily create an instantly satisfying title, however. Fantasy Wars takes the races that we know all too well — including humans — and hurls them into a war-torn world. Does this turn-based RPG create another breath of fresh air for the genre, or does it simply push it along toward its repetitive doom?
The orc leader has rallied his tribes to unite under one banner and crush the humans and elves of the lands. What about the rest of the story, you ask? Well … that's about it. The story in Fantasy Wars is actually somewhat non-existent, and anything that might be considered story is only there to explain the geography and purpose of each map and scenario you encounter.
Just because the story is lacking doesn't mean the entire game is bad, though. The gameplay is where it seems Ino-Co spent most of its resources, and it's actually pretty fun. Each scenario takes place on a hexagonal map layered with geographical features — such as forests, mountains and rivers — as well as landmarks such as cities, farms and outposts. The title is turn-based in the sense that both you and your opponent take turns advancing your armies across the map, taking over landmarks, finding treasures, and ultimately, killing your opponent or seizing his cities. Terrain such as rivers or mountains can halt both you and your enemy when you're trying to move across the map, while certain landmarks can help in your conquest. Finding a long-forgotten outpost may cause a hopeless army of guards to join your cause, while scouting out an abandoned spire might reward you with a special item or weapon to help you do your bidding.
When it comes to a strategy game, one of the most important assets is the units. Fantasy Wars doesn't necessarily pull any stunts to create a unique or extensive assemble of units; each race typically has the same units, only with different names. You have ranged units, melee units, mounted units, magic, and so on, but ultimately, they are the same for each faction. Of course, each unit type has a specific unit that it's strong or weak against, but the factions themselves really do not differ in terms of unit customization.
Despite having rather bland and simplistic unit styles, the title features a well-done leveling system. Each unit gains experience after victory in battle, and once it accumulates enough, it levels up. When a unit levels up, you can choose from one of three different skills that will help aid it in future battle. Some skills are active, which requires you to manually activate them, while other skills are passively enabled and automatically activate when applicable.
Fantasy Wars is actually quite challenging. I found myself having to play each mission a couple of times just to figure out how exactly I should move my troops. The terrain creates several hardships as you traverse the map. Would crossing the river here leave my units open, or should I head through the forest? While the latter option would take longer, it would provide my units with better cover. The only downside to such difficulty is that I often found the map not fully explored after each scenario. Splitting up my troops too much would result in a massacre for one of my units, but if I kept my troops together, I'd give the enemy too much time to advance on my castle while my troops were nowhere near his.
Graphically, Fantasy Wars isn't bad. It certainly doesn't push the limits of graphical processing power, but it does provide a bright and cartoonish atmosphere that flows pretty well. The animations during combat are pretty concrete, and overall, the unit and terrain detail is quite beautiful. The only downsides are the occasional clipping or unit glitches, where a unit's equipment simply clips through bodies or when a unit literally runs right through another.
Unfortunately, the audio of Fantasy Wars is on par with its story. The music is somewhat tedious at times, while the sounds simply don't come off well if more than one is triggered at once. The voice-overs were quite horrendous and can sometimes be painful to hear. The voices sound nothing like the characters should have, and it sometimes sounded like several people were asked to voice the same character.
Fantasy Wars certainly reaches its downfall when it comes to replay value. There is simply no form of multiplayer, and the single-player campaign doesn't prove to be enjoyable if you play it more than once — if you can struggle through that in the first place. The game does offer a skirmish mode when you're not playing through the campaign, but it plays the exact same way and is rather dull and pointless.
Overall, Fantasy Wars was rather disappointing, since it had the potential to be so much more. Perhaps more differences between the faction units or a multiplayer mode could've saved the title, but in the end, the lack of a plot really did it in. As I mentioned from the outset, the sci-fi fantasy theme has become quite popular, if a little overused, in the gaming market. Simply parading orc and elf characters around, but not backing it up with a strong plot can hurt a game rather than help it. I'd recommend picking up Fantasy Wars if you're a hardcore turn-based strategy fan, but if you're looking for a unique fantasy title or a good story, you'd best look elsewhere.
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