reviews\ Feb 20, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Disciples II: Dark Prophecy - PC - Review

Your thief sneaks into the city, poisoning the water supply. On the march are your armies, battle-worn veterans with the experience to destroy all manner of beasts that lie before them.

It will take you a while to get that far along. Disciples II: Dark Prophecy, from Strategy First for the PC, is a strategy game ripe with multiple challenges that provide an experience that is visually delightful and a lot of fun to play.

This product – as you can imagine from the title – is the second in the series, and comes three years after the release of the first game. Not only does it sport depth (and it should be noted that this game borrows liberally from other games – in terms of beasts and missions), but also it manages to provide a freshness that will draw players quickly into the game play.

The setting is Nevendaar, 10 years after the First Great Wars devastated the lands.

“The gates of Hell have been sealed, and the four races have staggered, bloody but victorious to their respective homes. They are greeted by ruins, for the war has savaged the land.” The History of Nevendaar.

The four races are the Empire, the Mountain Clans, the Legions of the Damned and the Undead Horde. The goal is simple: take a devastated people and rebuild the clan to the glory of the previous ages. Of course, you will have to fend off invaders, decide when diplomacy is the best course, or when to send in covert operatives (thieves) to create havoc and mayhem, and when to march your army to confront those who would stand against you.

Like a lot of games in this genre, you have to make advances to your city, build it up with temples, stables, monasteries, and do the magical research to enable your units to move from basic to advanced stature. How you organize your units can make a big difference between victory and defeat. The arch-angel isn’t much in a fight, but if you bring her along behind your units, she can use her move points, and spend a little money, to plant flags and claim areas for your kingdom.

Pegasus knights, on their winged horses, are interesting to watch, yet don’t seem to pack the punch of a ranger. All are examples of Empire units. The other clans have similar units, but are unique to their factions. Rather than archmages, Pegasus knights, arch-angels, or rangers, their leaders are dwarf champions, engineers, king’s guards, loremasters while the Undead Horde is led by banshees, death knights, lich queens and Nosferat. The only leader unit common to all four clans is the thief.

And the thief, as he progresses, is almost invaluable. Not only can he poison cities or opposing units, he can counterfeit orders, steal, assassinate, bribe or infiltrate.

Each unit consists of a limited number of units, arranged in a front and back order. You, obviously, put your weaker units in the rear, and let the tougher ones take the brunt of the attacks. Each unit is limited by the number of moves it can make, and while you may be able to advance rapidly, you do have to have move points left in order to carry out actions.

And should members of your individual parties die, you can revive them at a city you control.

The game uses a point-and-click style of game play, with a player interface that is simple to navigate around, once you put in the time to learn just how it all works. The game has a single player game mode with a series of linked quests. You can also tackle the 15 quests (which include a tutorial) in whatever order you wish. The game also comes with a campaign editor, which will allow gamers to create their own scenarios.

Disciples II is a very visual game. The units are wonderfully animated, and when you go into battle mode, you are treated to a close-up, turn-based view of the action. You can manually target members of the opposing party, or put the game into auto-battle, allowing the AI to determine which units are attacked, which are healed, et cetera.

This is a lush game. The animation may not be the best on the market, but the magical effects are very well done, and environments are a treat.

The sound really does a nice job of supporting the graphical elements. There is nothing that will stand out on its own, and most of the elements are repetitious and stock for the genre, but when you take the game in as a whole, there is a nice mesh between the sights and sounds of Disciples II.

Disciples II: Dark Prophecy is rated Teen for mild violence.

This is a remarkable, well-designed program. It is challenging and entertaining. Perhaps the best compliment that can be given is that this game is so compelling that time flies past while you are engrossed in the adventures of the clans of Nevendaar.

Install: Easy.
The minimum install takes more than 600 megs of hard-drive space and is a two-disk install. The first disk flies on, the second is slower, but overall it is a smooth installation.

Gameplay: 8.5
The game is based on turns, and movement points. Once you use all the points you want, your turn is over. In single player mode, this translates in the end of a day. Once points are expended, you can’t take them back. If you understand that, and consider the moves – much like in chess – you won’t mind this style of play.

Graphics: 9
The environments are lush and the characterizations are terrific. The animations may not be the best seen in this genre, but the effects are very good, and the game is a visual treat.

Sound: 7.8
While a lot of what is heard here is standard for the genre, the audio portion of the game does a nice job of supporting the graphics.

Difficulty: 8
There is a learning curve here, and players should put in the time to understand how the game is set up before tackling the single player saga modes. The game has several difficulty levels, which will challenge most players. The computer AI is very strong.

Concept: 8
There is a lot borrowed here, but it is presented in a fresh manner.

Multiplayer: 8
The game allows up to four players to compete on a single server. The games are turn-based, with each player making his or her moves before other players can move.

Overall: 8.8
This game has excellent graphics, and if you haven’t played a game like this before, this program would be a terrific introduction to the genre. Strategy First has taken a solid foundation, built by the original program, and built upon it very nicely. 


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