S.S.I. has a long history of producing excellent RPGs and wargames, but their latest title in the Five-Star Series, Fantasy General, is a strange hybrid that combines the most unsavory elements of both. Backed by some sharp, if lifeless, visuals and a soundtrack that's designed to keep em rockin' in the cathedrals with out-of-place pipe-organ and sopranic arias, Fantasy General seems aimed at a bizarre and very unlikely audience.
Fantasy General is little more than Panzer General in a new box with some Dungeons and Drag... err fantasy units in place of the tanks (I could almost hear the game's producer ordering his art director, Quick, paint some fangs on that infantryman!). The story is almost as original, painting the timeless tale of a beautiful land held captive by a powerful, shadowy overlord (so shadowy, in fact, he's called the Shadowlord). After choosing one of four different leadersa knight, a barbarian, a wizard, or a sorceressyou head to the hexagon-celled map in an all-out battle to the finish. Before each conflict, you're given a chance to purchase units from a list that your scientists give you. Next, you use the map to select the battle you wish to enter, pushing ever closer to the enemy's headquarters. Incongruously, no matter how much land you gain, if you fail in even one battle, the Shadowlord's minions overrun the entire planet. To put it mildly, this can be frustrating. The rest of the game follows standard wargame policy, and your turns are matched by those of the computer or a human opponent. If you fight hard and conquer an entire continent, you'll be treated to a disappointing single image of your character standing still.
In the end, Fantasy General is a game without an audience. Wargamers will find it abhorrently unrealistic, even for a fantasy title, and RPG fans will realize that its poor plot and character development don't make up for the hours spent watching small tiles run into each other. Recommended only for die-hard wargamers who don't care about realism, and for those who want to listen to funeral home tunes for hours on end.