Fantasy Wars - PC Review

This is a strategy medieval fantasy game with a very generic title, but beneath the title and the often bland visuals and music, there is a good but tough game to be had here. There are a lot of standard strategy game trappings here: turn-based play, ranged and melee attacks, overly powerful magic attacks and unit progression.

I've seen this particular title pretty inexpensively several places such as Amazon, Good Old Games and Steam. The question is, is this game from 2007 worth your time?


Graphics - 6:

The graphics are pretty bland, and there really isn't any way to sugarcoat that. They are not necessarily bad. Just lots of shades of green, with a smattering of brown and blue in places. You can zoom in and out on units, but really getting closer does not do the engine any favors as it begins to show its age very quickly when you do so. Animations are simple and magic - usually the visual high point of a game like this - really doesn't wow even on the level of particle effects. The walking and combat animations actually have a tendency to slow down the gameplay quite a bit, but fortunately you can skip through these.


Sound & Music - 6:

Much like the graphics, the sound and music for Fantasy Wars gets the job done, but fail to impress. The sound effects lack variation, but thankfully are not so overused as to be annoying. The music is what you would expect from a fantasy game, and is nearly as bland as the title of the game itself. Still, it mercifully never got on my nerves either.


Gameplay - 7:

This game can be tough. The reasons for that are two-fold. One is due to the nature of the combat itself. Units are mobile, there are a lot of ranged attacks - including very powerful magic, and there are flying units as well which add a layer of strategy but also help to open a single target up to a one-turn beating that you sometimes have trouble preparing for. It was not unusual at all to have a fully healthy unit destroyed in a round. When you start to take damage, your units sometimes flee and lose effectiveness. So if you were in a good defensive sector like a city or forest and take too much damage, your unit may find itself fleeing into an open field or worse - onto a water/swamp sector where your defense takes a huge hit.

The other reason the game can be a challenge is every level has a timer of sorts. Each new level starts with an objective and a set number of turns to complete it in. In doing so, you get a gold completion status. Fail to meet the criteria in that time frame, and they give you a set number of turns to reach silver status. Fail to do that, and you get all the time you need to win the map, and you get bronze status.

The better your finishing status, the better your rewards between levels. The problem is, when you rush to complete a level, you open yourself up to the problems noted in the first examination of difficulty.

There are some pretty good aspects to the gameplay too. The menus are a bit tricky to work around at first but make perfect sense and flow pretty well once you know your way around. All units, not just the 'hero' ones gain experience and every time you level you can pick from one of three new perks. This gives you the option to customize your units and make them different from one another - though I generally found one upgrade path I liked best and stuck to that.

There are often hidden items and events throughout the maps, which of course will make you want to explore, but then stands in stark contrast to the timed nature of the gold/silver/bronze system.


Intangibles - 7:

There is some pretty decent strategy to be had here, though the learning curve can be a bit steep right at first. Maps can be played at 3 difficulty levels, and the story mode can be approached from different perspectives as you play with one of three races, which adds a bit of replay value to the game. For those who like such things, there are some cheat modes out there too for things like healing, experience and gold.


Overall - 6.5:

Once you get past some of the more generic features, there is actually a pretty decent strategy game to be found if you take the time to dig into it. The story is fairly forgettable as are the music, sound and graphics, but the strategy itself is both challenging and fairly rewarding. The game can be found fairly cheaply in several places - I picked it up really cheaply at Good Old Games and it was certainly worth that price, but the game shows its age and may only appeal to die-hard strategy fans.
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