From the smoldering ruins of the great war, four tribes claw and scratch to rebuild and gain control. Afghanistan? No, Nevendaar. This is the basic story behind Disciples 2: Dark Prophecy, the turn -based strategy sequel to Disciples: Sacred Lands from Strategy First.
In Disciples 2: Dark Prophecy, like its predecessor, you control one of four races; the humans, the dwarven mountain clans, the undead, or the legions of the damned. There are full campaigns and one-mission sagas type games for each of the four races. Disciples 2 is completely old school turn- based strategy. During each turn, your squads have a limited amount of movement and/or action they can perform, and, an allocated amount of spells and buildings your tribe can produce.
In order for your race to build facilities and research spells, you must have control of the gold and mana resources necessary to do so. Whoever controls the ground directly underneath the resources gets a bit of that resource added to their inventory each turn. There are two ways to take over the landscape. When you control a city, the ground underneath changes depending on your race.
When the humans control the land, the ground becomes alive with grass and trees, when the mountain clans are in control the ground is covered with snow. The legions of the damned smother the lands with bubbling lava, and, the landscape of the undead is dry, cracked and void of life. Each turn that you hold a city, the ground around it slowly becomes yours until it hits some kind of barrier, like a mountain range or another race’s terrain.
Another way to takeover a piece of property is to drop a rod. Dropping a rod is akin to sticking a flag into the ground and claiming the land as your own. Each of the races has a special unit that can drop rods that can convert a small amount of ground to your advantage, plus, they can destroy adversaries’ rods as well. Using these units to swindle your enemies of their resources, consequently stripping them of the ability to send more squads into battle, is a pretty strong offensive tactic.
Building your army has to be relatively thought out. Each squad, including a leader, can have a maximum of six units. However, most of the leaders at the beginning of each new mission are allowed to fill only three or four of the squad slots. Some of the units take up two slots, so, you have to be cautious how you construct your fighting force. A rookie leader commanding a squad consisting of one large unit and one small unit is not going to last very long out on the field of battle.
While each race is different from the others, they all have the basic fighting characters, in some form or another, in their arsenal. All the races have some form of front line soldier, such as the sword-wielding human squire, and some form of magic conjurer. While the humans have archers, the legion of the damned has a gargoyle, the dwarves have axe throwers, and the undead have ghosts with sort of the same combat duties for example.
The opening cinematic sequence, featuring some peasant wandering about in the snow, was a bit weak, but the game’s graphics picked up from there. The look of Disciples 2 is a very gothic anime. The world map, the main game play screen, is nicely detailed, the waters have a current, lava bubbles, small flocks of birds fly by, and there are even the shadows cast from a demon’s wings flapping. The battle game play screen is pretty good as well, with the background scenery reflecting whose lands you are doing battle on.
The design and artwork of Disciples 2 is particularly strong. Everything from the borders of the in-game menus, to the engravings in a knight’s armor is beautifully detailed.
Recently, I went back and read the review for Disciples: Sacred Lands, the prequel game. In that review, it was mentioned that it was a great title to play on a laptop. This is not the case with Disciples 2. I decided to load it onto a laptop, just to see. It ran so slow that watching my front lawn grow would prove more entertaining.
As for the controls, they are very easy. I had no problem just loading this game onto the computer and playing straight away. The only time that I really needed to peruse the game manual was to understand the dropping of the rods.
I have some complaints about Disciples 2. All the capital cities of each race, on the map board, contain a 900 hit point deity (like the original Disciples) that cannot be defeated. Hence, you cannot destroy an enemy race completely during a mission. The best that you can do is to keep them starved for resources, leaving them without squads on the world map, but still holding control of one city.
My other complaint is that after solving a mission, you are prompted to pick one leader and five items to take with you to the next mission. That is all. At the beginning of each mission you start completely from scratch, except the one leader and the five items you selected. Each new mission, you have to totally rebuild, plus the fact that you are starting off with beginning level fighters all over again. Look, I do not really need the five items all that badly, however, why not let me take two leaders to the next mission?
All in all, Disciples 2: Dark Prophecy is a fantastic follow up to the original game. The artwork of Disciples 2 is stunning and the missions are challenging and entertaining. If you enjoyed the first Disciples or you are just looking for a great turn-based game, I suggest adding Disciples 2: Dark Prophecy to your library.
[ Editors Note: If you like this game, you can pick it up cheap for the next few weeks. If you go to CompUSA between June 21 and July 7, you can get Disciples II: Dark Prophecy for only $14.99 and Disciples II: Dark Prophecy Collector’s Edition for $24.99.]