Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Epic War 2

more like epic bore 2 amirite? lol

Sorry about that. But after going through the dreary slog that is this game, I suddenly felt disinclined to spend any more time on it. Nevertheless, I suppose I should write something at least a little more literate, so here we go. Anyway, as you can probably deduce from the title, Epic War 2 is a sequel to Epic War (review here), and features very similar action. However, a few cripplingly bad design decisions mean that, instead of being a decent if overly slow and long game like Epic War, Epic War 2 ends up being a terrible and overly slow and long game.

I totally don't understand Kongregate's challenge policies. Epic War 2 got badges and a challenge almost immediately after its release, less than two weeks after Kingdom of the Wind, a very similar game by the same developer, had also gotten a challenge and badges, while seemingly much more deserving games (with functional API, as far as I can tell) continue to languish. I can only guess that this is due to some sponsorship issues -- Epic War 2 is sponsored by Kongregate -- but this seems awfully shortsighted; Kongregate should be promoting the best games, not just the games that they sponsor, if they want people to keep coming back to Kongregate.

The gameplay action in Epic War 2 is not terribly different from the original. You have a castle at one side, and your enemy has a castle at the other side. You accumulate mana over time, which you use to buy units which march toward the enemy castle; your enemy similarly sends out units at you. They meet, and fight, and the object is to destroy your enemy's castle. You're also equipped with a arrow turret which you can use to shoot arrows at the enemy (just use the up and down arrow keys to adjust the angle of the turret). Winning a battle gains you XP, which you can use to research various upgrades between battles. Epic War 2 is also somewhat grander in its scope -- there are three playable races, each with its own set of units and upgrades, and a total of 18 battles, which can be fought with any of the three races (although elves are highly, highly recommended for the final battle). In addition to the race units, there are also six generic units which can be unlocked through various achievements and can be used by any race.

So, why is Epic War 2 so much worse than its predecessor? Well, remember how I mentioned that you can buy upgrades between battles? In Epic War 2, buying these upgrades doesn't actually upgrade your units or castle. Rather, it just gives you the right to spend mana during the battle to upgrade your units or castle -- you always start each battle with nothing except a small pool of mana and your race's most basic unit (and any units you've unlocked through achievements). This means that the beginning of every battle is exactly the same: you use your arrows to hold off the enemy (which they are entirely capable of doing, with only a tiny bit of skill required) while you patiently wait for your mana to accumulate, then buy all of the upgrades that you have. Only then can you actually send out an attack force at the enemy. This means that you're essentially completely wasting 5-10 minutes at the beginning of every battle. This is an annoyance that adds up very, very fast. (It's not helped by the fact that killing enemy units no longer gives you mana, nor can you upgrade your mana total or regeneration rate between battles, so the rate of mana accumulation is even slower than the original, where it was already pretty slow.) Worse, since each of the three races accumulates XP separately, you'll have to replay many of the levels if you want to level them all up, so the game isn't just 18 levels, which is already way too long; it ends up being much, much longer than that if you're trying to get all the badges.

The game is also fundamentally kind of unbalanced. Because you have the arrows, which is a pretty big advantage, and the computer doesn't, the computer has to cheat to make up for it -- it usually has better units available than you do, it can send out units in packs, which you can't do, and when you get the enemy castle half-destroyed, the computer usually sends out a huge wave of units as a counterattack. This has the primary effect of lengthening the battle even more, since then your attack force gets destroyed, you have to destroy the enemy wave, and then you have to build up another attack force, adding more time to what was already a very long mission. (That said, reducing the arrow power would make the game even more terribly long, so that's clearly not a solution, either.)

Epic War 2 is undeniably a pretty game -- there's clearly a lot of effort put into the art; the units, backgrounds, and castles are all very good. However, the price of all this is that the game does bog down terribly when too many units are on screen; this effect can be somewhat alleviated by reducing quality, but it's still pretty slow. The sound effects are pretty average, but the music isn't bad. One nice touch is that the music shifts when the conditions of battle change -- when you're mounting a strong attack, or the enemy is posing a grave threat, the music changes appropriately. This is a very good feature (although occasionally it can get a little silly as the music shifts back and forth several times within the space of a minute or so). However, balancing this out is the writing -- unlike its predecessor, Epic War 2 features a plot (which is, at least, appropriately epic), but the writing is abysmal. It reads like LOTR fanfic written by a 14-year-old with a not very good grasp of English. Frankly, the plot adds nothing to the game.

Anyway, while you may enjoy the first few levels of Epic War 2, it very rapidly becomes a tedious grind, and the more you look at it, the more its design flaws become apparent. It's also true that this is the third game with the same basic format that I've played from this developer, and they all seem to be getting worse; it's really time for him to change the formula. There's clearly talent as far as the art and programming goes, but the design is simply not up to par in Epic War 2.

1 comment:

ToastyKen said...

"This means that you're essentially completely wasting 5-10 minutes at the beginning of every battle. This is an annoyance that adds up very, very fast."

Don't you mean very, very slowly? :P