Sunday, November 23, 2008

Feudalism II

Feudalism II is -- let's be honest -- a mess of a game. It's a strategy game with not enough strategy; it's an action game with too much action; it's an RPG that doesn't matter. Overall, the different elements of the game simply do not fit together well; while the game certainly is ambitious, it fails to produce a challenging or entertaining result.

So, the basic concept in Feudalism II is pretty simple. You start as one of twelve heroes (there are six nations, each with a male and a female hero), with control of one tiny town in your starting nation and a small army to your name. You travel across the overland map from place to place (occasionally encountering random battles along the way); in a given town or city, you can buy or sell equipment, get quests, or attempt to capture the town. Once you've captured a location, you can recruit troops there to add to your army; naturally, the bigger and more powerful towns have better and more powerful troops, so you need to gradually work your way up the ladder. Once you've conquered one nation, though, conquering the other five is pretty much a cakewalk, since you can now use the best troops available.

Battles are, as you might expect, the most important part in the game, and it's here that the game's shortcomings become rapidly apparent. There is a wealth of things for you to do in battle -- you have a melee weapon and a ranged weapon, and can switch between the two as necessary; for each weapon, you can activate one or more skills which give you various powerful attacks, and you can also have passive skills which increase the power of your army and aura skills which can affect all the units on the battlefield. It's easy to see how this could lead to a variety of interesting tactical options. However, unless the enemy only has like two units, you'll never get to use any of them. With 15 or 20 units on the battlefield, the action is simply far too chaotic for you to be able to do anything productively -- the only useful action you can do the vast majority of the time is to sit in the back and fire arrows, which is hardly exciting. This means that the RPG elements of the game are not terribly useful -- as you gain experience, your character becomes more powerful and acquires more skills, but most of these skills you'll never use anyway (although some of the aura skills are very useful).

The game balance is also not great. The gold, for instance, is way out of whack -- after your first few battles, you'll have more than enough money to last you through the rest of the game. While conquering your first nation is not easy, as I mentioned, once you're done with that, there's not much left. Each nation has its own set of weapons and techniques it specializes in, so in theory, you could take this into account when creating your army, but again, because the action is so chaotic, it's impossible to tell what's going on, so you might as well just build a simple army and go with that rather than trouble to do anything more complicated.

The graphics are about average; the overland map is pretty boring, although there is a nice amount of effort put into giving each nation a distinct appearance, so there is at least a nice variety. There's no music (which is a shame; the game probably could have benefited from some), and the sound effects are quite generic. Where the game really shows poor production values is in the text -- I am (sadly) accustomed to a certain level of errors in your typical Flash game, but Feudalism is completely riddled with typos, misspelled or wrong words, and very strange-sounding sentences; I suspect it was written by a non-native English speaker, but really, you'd think he could have at least asked a native English speaker or two to look over it before releasing it.

Overall, Feudalism II shows flashes of being an interesting game, but the vast majority of time it is not. Fortunately, it's not terribly difficult; since the outcome of battles seems often determined by luck as much as anything else, a couple of retries is usually all you need to get through the tougher battles. So, if you want the badge, it's not too bad, but it's still not a great experience.

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