Release Date: Fall 2009
Fantasy RPGs are nothing new, but when they are done right, they can still be one of the most popular genres in gaming. That is a truism that publisher Akella is banking on as they prepare the final builds of Disciples III: Renaissance, the latest in the award-winning series. While we've yet to get our grubby little hands on a playable build of the title, so far it's looking to be a promising entry into the series.
During our demo, we learned that Disciples III will feature three linear campaigns spread among humans, demons and elves. Players will take control of each faction for one-third of the campaign, which creates some potential benefits and drawbacks. On the upside, gamers won't grow bored fighting with the same units and waging war against the same baddies for the duration of the title. On the other hand, we don't yet know how differently each group fights, so if there are vast differences in strategy or skills among the races, then it might lead to frustration for those who spent the past several hours honing their battle strategy only to have to essentially start all over again.
Gameplay is split into three main components, though all of them interweave into one continuous experience. The first stage consists of exploration as players scout the battlefield in search of items and artifacts. In this stage, gamers can also plant banners in certain spots and create outposts. The advantage to these locales is that you can then drop off healing items or gear in case you find yourself in a pinch and thereby aren't forced to flee all the way back to the capital to lick your wounds. However, these points need to be defended, so you'll likely be forced to drop off at least a portion of your fighting force to hold down the fort in case some baddies wander too close and threaten your stores.
Obviously, exploring will eventually lead to enemy encounters, and Disciples III sticks with the classic turn-based formula. Defeating enemies not only earns you new weapons and items, but also leadership points, which can be spent in the game's third component. Dropping points into different aspects of your leader characters allows them to command larger and larger parties, which in turn opens up the ability to fight tougher monsters. We didn't find out about any sort of cap on the number of units fighting on-screen at once, but some battles that flashed by featured over a dozen combatants.
The last point of note about Disciples III: Renaissance is that it's looking quite visually impressive, and the folks at Akella are very proud of the game they've created. While the title is currently only confirmed for the PC, a company representative told us that they are confident the game could run well on any console, so a PS3 or Xbox 360 version might not be quite the pipe dream it once was. Disciples III has been a long time coming, but the care and caution seems to be paying off, and those who have waited this long will likely have their patience rewarded very soon.
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