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Fantasy Wars (PC) artwork

Fantasy Wars (PC) review


"When it comes to difficulty in videogames, my feelings often appear contradictory. I frequently grow impatient or bored with oppressively difficult action titles like Contra, but when I play games that actually require me to think, I revel in the challenge. I suppose itís a matter of interest and ability. I enjoy strategy because I know Iím smart and so seek to prove that against anyone daring enough to try me. Thatís why Iím so addicted to Fantasy Wars. It leaves very little room ..."



When it comes to difficulty in videogames, my feelings often appear contradictory. I frequently grow impatient or bored with oppressively difficult action titles like Contra, but when I play games that actually require me to think, I revel in the challenge. I suppose itís a matter of interest and ability. I enjoy strategy because I know Iím smart and so seek to prove that against anyone daring enough to try me. Thatís why Iím so addicted to Fantasy Wars. It leaves very little room for error. One mistake can lead to devastating consequences.

Things start out easily enough. Mercenary commander Derrick Pfeil has been ordered to defend human lands from a sudden and seemingly organized orc invasion. The forces under his control arenít very sturdy, but there isnít a whole lot to stand in his way, either. With only a few orc and goblin troops holed up in the handful of scattered towns, Pfeilís army can cross through the level and rout the enemy from those settlements relatively quickly.

But that first mission is just an illusion to keep the player from running before getting a handle on the gameís mechanics. Every scenario thereafter escalates in intensity until you find yourself analyzing every move you make and comparing them with those of the computer. It may be true that you can upgrade units between missions, turning measly peasants into stronger fighters like cavalry-resistant halberdiers, or changing simple bowmen into superior huntsman. But the orcs also incorporate upgrades into their armies, and they have numbers on their side. For every one of your troops, theyíll have three. Whether they serve only as a distraction to absorb an archerís supporting attack or actually stand blow-for-blow with Derrick himself, youíll always be outnumbered.

Soon youíll be facing hardy trolls that can regenerate their wounds. Their thick hides ensure that even your strongest troops like swordsmen or knights wonít do much damage. Instead youíll have to rely on your heroes and modified ballistae that cause them greater harm. Youíll face pterodactyl-riding goblins that can only be shot down with arrows, magic, or aerially engaged by your own flyers. Theyíll send frenzied berserks capable of slaying your strongest heroes with just a few swats. So, while you may enjoy the seeming invulnerability of your heavily armored foot knights or the invisibility of your improved scouts, know that the enemy will match you stride for stride.

By the time youíve got a firm understanding of all the features, your only advantages lie in troop experience and your ability to strategize. Units gain experience every time they attack, receive damage or activate an ability. Accumulate enough points and soldiers not only gain stat bonuses, but also new skills. These can do anything from increasing defense against archers to enhancing their ability to move across rough terrain.

However, there are limits attached that require you to consider which perks you choose. Basic units have a maximum level of five (heroes ten), and because you can only pick one bonus per level, you really need to think about your options. This is especially true if a skill you want only appears once. Do you teach your hero mage a powerful new spell or do you give him the ability to walk across water without penalty? Do you sharpen your rangerís ability to kill in forests or do you arm him with poisoned blades to kill off any enemy wounded, thus dramatically decreasing their ability to recover?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. To win, you must exploit every advantage granted to you. If you donít, you risk losing your best men, or even the mission altogether. Properly utilizing terrain will help tremendously. Getting your horsemen stuck in woods or rivers is never good because they not only move at a quarter of their regular speed, but they also take a significant blow to their attack and defense just for standing there. Itís a situation that can lead to a lot of trouble, like during one mission where I had to lead a group of knights out of their besieged camp. Goblins, adept at fighting in the underbrush, mercilessly chased and struck at them until my warriors reached open ground where they could outrun their pursuers. By then, many knights had been wounded or slain.

Use the environment against the enemy, however, and youíll knock out their strongest units with remarkable ease. Water is everyoneís worst enemy, exacting larger movement and combat penalties than any other traversable surface. The only way to pass over water safely without the necessary skill is to cross a bridge. But these are few and usually located around major cities and forts, meaning youíll have to fight hard just to get to the other side. Unless youíre clever. Placing your stronger forces along the shoreline and luring your opponent into coming after you often leads to orc-flavored bloodbaths. Once I slew a healthy stack of war trolls with one ballista bolt in this manner.

This trick doesnít always work, however, especially when youíre laying siege to a thoroughly fortified city where they prefer to dig in rather than chase after you. In that case, your only hope lies in hitting the entrenched forces hard enough so they retreat, allowing you to pick up the respectable defense bonus and finish them off. This is more easily done if you strike them so hard that they break: a condition that automatically makes them flee, significantly reduces their combat effectiveness, and can only be healed through resting.

But donít think youíre safe from the worst the game has to throw out you just because youíve mastered a few handy tricks; you need a thorough understanding of everything around you to gain the upper hand. That means more than just accounting for terrain, unit experience and siege tactics. It also accounts for every possible facet of maneuvering an army, including time limits!

At the start of every mission, youíre given a set number of turns in which to complete the main objective. The faster your time, the better reward youíll receive afterwards. Take too long to finish, and youíll have to restart. This extra element adds even more stress on an already-difficult task. Ideally your army should move as one unit, but that's not always possible when some troops move much faster than others. The need for urgency (especially if youíre a perfectionist) also means you canít always slow down for others to catch up. As a result, you might struggle to properly defend your lines. If your bowmen and war machines are too far back, they canít kill anything up front. Furthermore, if these precious units are left unprotected, enemy scouts and infantry will waste no time in flanking and destroying them.

Adding to the challenge, youíre frequently tasked with multiple objectives. Splitting your forces is the quickest way to capture several towns at once, but itís also risky. Leave too many soldiers with one group and the other may find itself in trouble. Like if you forget to bring enough archers or eagles, only for several pterodactyls and zeppelin bombers to suddenly attack you at once.

Stick with the game long enough to get through the human campaign and even more trials await you as you take control of the very beasts youíve been fighting. Encouraged by a delusional hexer, Orc chief Ugraum decides to unite the clans in an attempt to conquer human lands. His story overlaps Derrickís in several places, filling in holes left blatantly open in the previous campaign. But thatís not the key attraction here. Now that youíre playing as the enemy, youíll have to reverse everything you learned as the humans in order to succeed. And because itís the second campaign, the missions are even more mentally taxing. Youíll find that to win, you need be as cunning and manipulative as the goblins themselves. Poison and stealth will be your greatest allies. Fully camouflaged, goblin shock troops, hyena scouts and even war machines can sit in safety, waiting to ambush armor-clad paladins as they try to attack your more conspicuous units.

After this, thereís a third and final campaign involving an elf-dwarf alliance, but I donít want to give too much else away. Just know that some of its missions are so tough that even I couldnít beat them with a gold rating, regardless of difficulty setting.

If you still canít tell just how intricate and complicated Fantasy Wars can be, then I strongly urge you to try it out for yourself. If youíre like me, youíll eagerly anticipate the chance to prove yourself against one of the most challenging strategy games on the market.

Rating: 9/10

wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (July 21, 2010)

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Feedback

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True posted July 21, 2010:

Nice work this week, Furry Face. I suppose I will have to write something new to combat it. I have something in mind, though, so don't worry.

And though this is probably unethical or at the very least poor strategy for me, I did want to point out a few things I noticed:

I frequently grow impatient or bored with oppressively difficult action titles like Contra, but when I play games that actually require you to think,

I would go with "actually require me to think". That shift is sort of jarring.

Therefore, by the time youíve got...

Maybe one of my weird quirks, but lead-ins like therefore and anyways stand out in a negative way. The sentence, I think, would be just as strong if you just started with "By".

The only way to pass over water safely without the necessary skill, is to cross a bridge.

You could go without the comma on this one, or you could put another one after safely. It just depends on how you want to say it, but I would recommend removing them altogether.

Now that youíre playing as the enemy, youíll have to reverse everything you learned as the humans in order to succeed. And because itís the second campaign, the missions are even more mentally taxing. Youíll find that to succeed

I really like the description but I would be wary about putting succeed twice, at least so close together.

One more thing I wanted to mention, and I hope you don't think me rude for saying this but I would have liked to see a little more emotion in the third and fourth paragraphs. You do a great job of describing what a gamer would face in Fantasy Wars but how did they make you feel? Was it frustrating or captivating when you battled the pterodactyls and could only use certain methods to take them down? Did you lost heart when your strongest warriors were killed so quickly and easily?

That's just me personally, though.

The rest of it is outstanding, and the pressure is definitely on me now. Though, Team Eye Of The Tiger, don't worry. I will rise to the occasion.
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Ben posted July 22, 2010:

My turn! Feel free to listen or ignore anything I say:

...my feelings often appear contradictory

I see where you're going with the opening paragraph, but I don't think your views contradict all that much. I got the impression that you like slower-paced and more tactical games, which Contra is definitely not.

Stacks gain experience every time they attack

I was a bit confused as to what "stacks" were -- even after I finished reading the paragraph below. Is it the game's lingo for your entire army or individual units? It could be that I don't play enough strategy games.

The only way to pass over water safely without the necessary skill, is to cross a bridge.

I agree with True that the comma should be removed.

Placing your stronger forces at the along the shoreline

Delete "at the".

This is more easily done if you strike them so hard that they break, a condition that automatically makes them flee, significantly reduces their combat effectiveness, and can only be healed through resting.

Run-on sentence.

It means your army needs to move as one unit

Later on, you say that splitting your forces is a viable strategy, which contradicts the need to keep the army together.

---

All in all, though, I really enjoyed this review. I have little intention of playing it because strategy games aren't my thing, but I was still intrigued by what you told me about the game and wouldn't mind watching someone else play it out of curiousity. The review was informative without saying too much and overwhelming me, and it was mostly easy to read.
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Masters posted July 22, 2010:

This is more easily done if you strike them so hard that they break, a condition that automatically makes them flee, significantly reduces their combat effectiveness, and can only be healed through resting.

Run-on sentence.


I don't mind these kinds of run-on sentences. What you're trying to communicate comes across fine. That being said, if you swap the first comma out for a colon or dash, you'll be doing better.
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Ben posted July 22, 2010:

Oh I get it now! It's a three-item list that describes the break condition. /slow

Yeah, a colon or dash would've made reading that sentence a little easier.
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wolfqueen001 posted July 22, 2010:

Thanks guys! Yeah, I agree with a lot of these, so I'll be taking a good look at all of this. Anything that can cause confusion is top priority, so I'll try and fix that first. (Though, really, when I edit it, it'll all be edited at once, haha.)

I will try to elaborate on some of the things that stood out to me here, though. I don't really know why I did it (I guess it was a repetition issue on my part), but I decided to substitute "unit" or any other word for "stack" at certain points in the review as I was writing. In retrospect, the word itself could easily lead to confusion, especially since it's not the most appropriate or accurate way to describe the way things work. I guess I primarily did so to try and differentiate between wounded and killed somehow, and also show that I'm talking about the individual unit, but it doesn't really work. The game itself explains it in a different way, but that's also kind of confusing to explain in a review. (Basically they say that each of your individual troops consists of smaller bodies within it that represent the unit's overall health. Kind of like a platoon/battalion sort of thing. It's not the easiest thing to translate into a review). In any case, I'll definitely change that. if I turn out repetitive, I'd rather have that penalty than confusion.

As for the "splitting forces" vs. the "keeping everyone together" thing, it genuinely is better to keep your army together, but sometimes mission prerogatives and time make splitting a necessary evil. I guess I'll try to get that across better.

As for emotional writing in this review, I struggled with that throughout, so I'm not surprised to see that issue raised. Truth be told, it's hard to express any feelings I had while playing except those dealing with the strain of the thinking process as I tried to determine the next and best course of action. That's not to say I was never really excited while playing the game, just that it's hard to convey that into words since it's not really a game that produces that kind of emotion in volume. It's more of a prolonged kind of feeling, like the sense of satisfaction after success. I'll look into it, but I'm not going to sweat the issue this time if I can't do anything about it. Truth be told, I really don't know that employing a direct emotional touch would genuinely be that appropriate here.

I suppose that's odd to hear coming from me, since I try to be an emotional writer, but sometimes it just isn't always possible.

Anyway, thanks again for the insight. I really appreciate it.
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EmP posted July 22, 2010:

I have never heard of this game, but you do make it sound good. Mayhap I shall try it.
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wolfqueen001 posted July 22, 2010:

XD Yes, perhaps you should. =P

Thanks!

Anyway, I fixed everything that looked genuinely wrong and/or that could be made to sound better (i.e. less awkward / contradictory). It should be stronger now.

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