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Fantasy General II revisits a classic title, over 20 years old, and hurls the series into the 21st century. How does the style and set...

Fantasy General II - Invasion Fantasy General II - Invasion

Fantasy General II - Invasion

Fantasy General II - Invasion





Fantasy General II revisits a classic title, over 20 years old, and hurls the series into the 21st century. How does the style and setting hold up, and how have the advancements in game design over the past couple of decades been used to improve over the original? 


The original Fantasy General, as the name implies, and as you may already know, is direct re-theming of Panzer General, the game that launched a thousand spiritual sequels. The core gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played Panzer Corps, Order of Battle, Warhammer 40k: Armageddon, or any number of other games featuring turn-based combat on a hex grid, in which the player carries over units from mission to mission in a lengthy campaign. Sound familiar? I'm sure you've played something like it before. While Fantasy General II does not break any innovative new ground overall, it does offer a very satisfying rendition of this gameplay style.


Fantasy General II picks up 300 years after the events of the first game, which focused on the "Shadow Wars" which ravaged the land, leaving a shattered world fought over by numerous factions. This is especially true for the various barbarian clans of the west, who have been set against themselves by the powerful Empire of the east. No one has been able to unite the clans for many years, and they instead squabble among themselves. As the player, you take on the role of Falirson, son of Falir One-Eye, who is the chief of your barbarian clan. While the game opens with some simple missions where you fight and raid other clans, before long you are swept up in a high fantasy story of mysterious wizards, forest dwelling witches, and trolls galore. 


One aspect I love about the game is how it gives you plenty of chances for some light role-playing via choose-your-own-adventure style choices. These pop up both in and out of battle, and almost always have some kind of tangible effect. Choices that benefit you in the immediate moment can sometimes have consequences down the road in a different mission. What would be a simple, meaningless dialogue choice in most games, can sway the morale of your entire army in Fantasy General II. 


The writing and story are well done overall, avoiding the common pitfalls of such games by skipping on cliche, over the top characters and instead offering a set of characters who are grounded and speak in a realistic tone, given their circumstances. Important characters and even your own troops will speak up to offer valid points about what they think you should do or say when faced with a dilemma, and sometimes choosing what you believe is "right" will be met with sharp consequences.


In addition to hero units like the protagonist, your army is yours to create and customize as you see fit. Units you recruit are retained from mission to mission and gain experience in battle, allowing them to level up and become more powerful over time. You begin with just two unit choices, young barbarian warriors that are either male or female. These raw recruits then proceed up one of the two class trees as you scrape together the resources and cash needed to make the promotions. These can be tough choices, as you only get a very limited number of these resources (weapons, armor, and mana) and you have a need for just about every type of unit. 


The various unit types you can field all have advantages and disadvantages, special traits, and distinct roles in combat. There are shock troops, skirmishers, soldiers with shields for stopping ranged attacks, mounted warriors and ranged attackers of your own. Units can pick up special items over the course of battles, and use these to further specialize themselves. For example, an early item you get is a magic ring that makes the unit holding it fight better in forest terrain. While that might sound like a minor thing, there are numerous small tweaks like this which make all of your units feel unique. Your various individually named squads can also pick up permanent perks from one-time events hidden away here and there in the campaign, making them feel like they have a bit of history to them. It can really hurt to lose a unit that has been with you since the beginning, and has accumulated multiple boons. I'll be honest, I've reloaded more than once in order to save such a unit.



The campaign is a sprawling 30+ mission affair that will take quite a while to work your way through. Though I have not finished it entirely, I can say that so far the missions offer a good amount of variety. Some have you escorting a character through hostile territory, others task you with defending against invading hordes, and of course many involved you attacking enemy positions and defeating their army. Many areas of the map are covered in fog, and hide secrets well worth seeking out. Ancient ruins, caves, and more can be explored by your troops in order to find treasure and items. Temples give your entire army a buff as long as you hold them, and mana pools offer a steady supply of mana points for your magic users. There are also usually villages scattered around the map that can replenish your losses mid mission. 


One neat thing is this game is how casualties work. Every unit has a health bar. This starts off filled with green, but after combat sections will turn red. These are "wounded" soldiers which can be restored by having the unit spend its entire turn resting. Sometimes though, the red sections will be lost as well, these units are "killed" and cannot be restored except by visiting a village or replenishing them between missions. I really liked this mechanic, as it forces you to choose between pushing your forces hard, or slowing down to let them rest and be replenished. There is another mechanic which puts pressure on you to complete missions as quickly as possible, essentially the longer the battle goes on, the more civilians who flee the area, leaving no one around to tax after the battle. Without funds, you can't upgrade your units or buy new ones.



So, what about complaints with the game? This is one of those games where there really aren't any glaring flaws to discuss, but the experience overall probably won't blow you away. It's a fun, satisfying game, but not unlike games you have played before. With at least two expansion packs promised in the future, I suspect we will see even more variety in units and perspectives in terms of the story in due time. The core game will certainly please anyone who likes this sort of gameplay and wants a fantasy version of it. It's one of those games you can load up in under a minute and find yourself having a fun time just like that.  I look forward to seeing where they take this series in the future. 

Fantasy General II is available directly from Slitherine as well as on Steam and GoG.

- Joe Beard




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