The Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns beta preview disk, a real-time strategy game from Strategy First, was rather limited in its scope, but gave a good account of itself. In a nutshell, the game plays like a combination of Civ2 and Age of Kings. It is good enough to hold its own in a crowded RTS field. The full version of the game should be hitting the store shelves today, so lets look and see what we can expect based on our experience with the preview.
This fantasy game is set in the fictitious land of Kohan, during a civil war of some sort. Instead of the traditional races, Kohan has factions, each with specific unit types, strengths and weaknesses. Rather than individual buildings, the player controls cities of various sizes, each of which contributes to the economy.
The most impressive aspect of the game is its economic model. There are five basic resources, gold, iron, wood, stone and mana. Rather than focus on construction cost for units (although they do exist), players must focus on maintaining sufficient income to support units and structures. Every minute, the player’s cities and resource areas produce a quantity of each resource. The total upkeep cost for the player are then subtracted from his production. If there is a deficit, it must be paid for out of gold reserves. The net effect is to focus the player’s attention on building a sustainable society rather than the strip-mine-and-binge-build model favored by many other real-time strategy games.
Kohan also relies heavily on various zones. Each structure has a zone of supply, within which units rebuild and resource areas supply cities. Each city also sports a zone of population, an area surrounding it in which no new cities may be constructed. Cities and outposts also have a zone of control, which defines the area in which they sortie their militia to engage approaching enemies. Each of these zones heavily impacts play; you ignore them at your peril.
Regiments, the basic military, are another reasonably unique feature of Kohan. Each regiment is composed of between five and seven individual units: four of a basic type (such as archer or footman), up to two specialists (sorcerer, necromancer, ranger, etc), and a leader, which may be either a stronger version of the main unit type or a hero. The net result is that each regiment is truly customizable. I suspect that in the full version, this will result in far greater variety of potentially winning unit/strategy combinations.
Overall, Kohan is far more intellectually stimulating than many of its peers, and is likely to appeal to a smaller audience than comparable RTS titles. Strategy First is off to a good start with this title. With a solid campaigns and decent pre-made scenarios, they could have a real winner. We will give it a preliminary grade of 4 GiN Gems, which should go up when the final product ships unless they really mess up, which given their past history with quality games is not likely.