Accessibility is key to TimeGate Studios' fully 3D sequel to its innovative and highly acclaimed fantasy-themed real-time strategy game.
Back in early 2001, a little-known developer called TimeGate studios released Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns in partnership with publisher Strategy First, and the game turned out to be one of the year's most pleasant surprises. At a time when the real-time strategy genre was still popular but starting to feel like it was stuck in a rut, along came Kohan, a fantasy-themed RTS game that completely redefined and streamlined a lot of the genre's most annoying conventions. Specifically, Kohan succeeded at letting the player concentrate on pure strategy, since the game automated a lot of the micromanagement-type tasks commonly associated with RTS gaming. That same year, TimeGate and Strategy First rereleased the game as Kohan: Ahriman's Gift, which tweaked the gameplay to near-perfection. Years later, many hardcore RTS fans continue to play that game zealously. Meanwhile, TimeGate has been working on a full-fledged sequel, and Kohan II: Kings of War is finally nearing the finishing line. The game is currently undergoing multiplayer beta testing and is slated for release early this fall. We recently had a chance to take a close look at the work in progress and are here with all the details.
The design motives behind Kohan II are fairly apparent. The 2001 Kohan games earned widespread critical acclaim and were beloved by the game's audience--but they didn't reach nearly the same number of gamers as the genre's best-known franchises, like Warcraft and Command & Conquer. The developers at TimeGate Studios have partly attributed this to the Kohan games' unremarkable (though clean and utilitarian) 2D graphics, as well as to the overall complexity of the game's design and interface. As such, Kohan II is focused on bringing a more contemporary look to the series (it's a fully 3D game whose graphics are quite reminiscent of Ensemble Studios' Age of Mythology), and the game will also feature an even more streamlined interface than its predecessors. Judging by some of the reactions from longtime series fans on TimeGate's message boards, this new direction for the series hasn't been entirely well received, but from what we've seen of the game, it still looks faithful to the spirit of the series. More importantly, it looks like it could be a complex, deep, and interesting real-time strategy game.
Kohan II will be a fully featured real-time strategy game, with an extensive story-driven single-player campaign, a complete versus-CPU skirmish mode (with a random scenario generator and multiple difficulty settings for computer opponents), an online multiplayer mode for up to eight players per match, and a map editor for making custom battles. The game will feature six different playable races as well as five different factions--the latter of which will affect some of the races' particular bonuses and strategic inclinations. Battles will be waged in the context of the Kohan series' unique fantasy world, which has telltale swords and sorcery but isn't muddled down with tired conventions like elves and dragons. One of the issues that probably limited the previous Kohan games' appeal was that, despite their having extensively detailed stories, they didn't succeed at immediately connecting players with their fiction. Simply put, the Kohan setting and characters lacked personality.
TimeGate Studios is hoping to address this in the sequel by introducing a number of fantastical, new races to the series, as well as by transitioning to a more detailed, fully 3D engine. In Kohan II, each unit will have multiple attacks (and attack animations) as well as unique idle animations. The various races and race/faction combinations are all expected to play quite differently, and during the course of the game's campaign, players will get a chance to take command of them all--if only to prepare themselves for skirmish and multiplayer battles. From what we saw of the 3D graphics, they did indeed look quite good. The game's units are detailed but appear fairly small onscreen, making Kohan II appear much more similar to a larger-scale 3D RTS like Age of Mythology rather than, say, the closer perspective of Blizzard's Warcraft III. We weren't immediately struck by the different units' respective personalities or anything like that, but we were readily able to discern one type of unit from another, and some of them--such as the massive undead bone golems we saw tearing through enemy settlements--looked quite cool.
But Kohan never distinguished itself by being flashy. It distinguished itself with truly great gameplay. Read on to learn how Kohan II is seeking to combine the greatest aspects of its predecessors with some significant, new twists.