Many centuries ago the world was ruled by a race of immortals called the Kohan. Their rule was fair and just. Rocked by a series of cataclysms that decimated their race, the Kohan were destroyed and their souls stored in amulets. Essentially trapped, they awaited the day when they could be reawakened to begin their assent to leadership all over again. Finally an age has come where this is possible. The mortal races have discovered a way to raise the Kohan and free them from their amulets. The long sleep did not come without its price, however. They remember little from their previous lives.
Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns Special Awards Edition is the newly released Game of the Year Edition of Immortal Sovereigns. Although it does not include anything from the expansion pack, it does include 12 new maps, 13 new heroes and several A.I. enhancements.
Kohan is a real time strategy game following the story of Darius, an immortal trying to discover his own past. You command armies of infantry, cavalry, wizards and priests in a bid for power over the mortal factions that survived the fall of your race. Other Kohan have been awakened, and you will meet them on your journey. Not all of the meetings will be pleasant.
The story line of Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns is complete and well thought out. With a fairly even mix of diplomatic and conquest missions, it makes for an excellent and well-balanced experience.
The interface is nice and clear. Starting with the standard (for the genre) mini-map, the task bar gives easy access to town management, army management and resource management. Gone are the days of trying to click on a small moving unit, as well. The game designers have placed a small icon that selects all units in an army. The icon highlights when you are over top of it, making it easy to grab the correct group out of a cluster.
The graphics are pretty tight. Timegate Studios has chosen not to follow the current trend of 3D real time strategy. The units are sprites and the map is flat. This can be a blessing. Needing a less powerful machine than many games that are coming out, there were no slowdowns or chugging. Even with many different units and armies on the screen and running a decent resolution, the units moved fast enough at times that I had a hard time clicking on them. I was oddly happy about the 2d isometric view. Maybe I miss the days of Starcraft and Warcraft more than I realize. The drawback is that this game does not actually add to the genre. Its graphics, though good, may seem a bit dated.
Sound / Music
The game's music was not intrusive. It can be repetitive at times, but didn't stand out for the better or worse. It was just “there” and that’s all. The sounds, however, are rich and colorful. They give a good feeling of the chaotic nature of battle. Spell noises are loud and full, matched by the fairly decent spell visual effects. I did have a minor glitch. Dialogs would often start in mid sentence. This was only noticeable between campaigns, but got to be annoying at times.
Multiplayer was fairly straightforward to set up. The in-game browser uses the Gamespy engine, which always does well. Lag was acceptable on my cable connection. You are limited to TCP/IP, which probably won't affect too many people.
One feature of the game stands out. You have the ability to increase or decrease game speed on the fly with a couple of the function keys. This allows a tighter level of control than most RTS games. Using this feature, you can slow the game down and better prepare yourself for impending combat. You can take the time to plan your city upgrades, or just take longer making a decision. You can also speed the game up drastically. This allows you to finally get rid of the long waits associated with the genre. No more waiting for your troops to make a long march. No more waiting for that upgrade to be built. But this is a double-edged sword. By speeding the game up, you can get yourself into quite a mess if you aren't paying attention. Leave that speed cranked and you will quickly be surrounded by computer controlled armies. Trust me on this one; I learned this by getting my ass beaten.
Thanks to the speed keys, combat can be as fast as you want it. Once combat between armies has been joined, there's really nothing to do but watch. In fact, unless there is a lull in combat, you cannot even retreat. Most of the time if your army is being decimated, it will automatically "rout" - basically run in panic - from combat when reduced to 1 or 2 units. You can then grab it and send it back to a city for repair. Combat is a mixed bag. Due to the size of the units, there isn't that much to see besides spell effects.
Armies are made of 4 frontline slots and 2 support slots. Frontline troops can consist of standard foot soldiers or mounted cavalry, while the more powerful and highly trained units are moved to the support slots. This makes it impossible to create an army that overbalances the game in any team's favor. This is a much more realistic model than many other games provide. Come on, would you really have an entire army made of expensive units like Paladins and Battle Clerics or Wizards? No. These expensive units would be providing support for the larger force, breaking enemy formations instead of destroying them utterly. This gives a pleasant "Field Marshal" feel to your role. It also allows for some variance on tactics that have been lacking from the standard RTS game model. Probably my only issue is that the screen used to recruit an army does not automatically pause the game, but covers the entire screen. Just a minor detail as I rarely found it to be a real issue. Army recruiting is straightforward and quick enough to offset this problem. When an army is within a certain distance of a friendly city, it will automatically replace lost units and heal damaged ones.
Cities are no longer just a place to build more units. You have many decisions to make while building your cities. Each building can have up to 4 upgrades that you can choose from. Once you have made your choice, the only way to change your mind is to sell the building and start over. Since not only your economy, but your military as well, need clear decisions on this matter, you can spend much of your time searching for a good balance of buildings. The different buildings and upgrades can provide more resources by automatically buying the resource. They can provide gold by automatically selling resources. They can provide extra defenses, as well. This system also controls what units a building will produce. All cities have a militia that will attack any enemy that comes within the city's zone of control.
Other than the minor sound bug, the game ran flawlessly. I did have one issue with it, though. There was an odd difficulty ramp at one point. On one mission, I annihilated the computer. I easily won the level in 20 minutes. But the next mission required such a drastic rethink of my strategy that it took several frustrating tries. This was a serious hiccup for me, and my experience was jaded from that point on. I found myself no longer enjoying the game. It was never that difficult again, but it was too late for me. Even with that issue, I felt the level design was quite good - even imaginative at times.
It is difficult for game designers these days. Everything has been done. All FPS games are derived from Quake. All RTS are derived from Warcraft / Starcraft. It’s good to see a design company come up with some interesting and imaginative improvements. Kohan is an excellent example of this.
Buy it on sale. With original features and a decent story, it brings a bit of fun back to the RTS genre.