Fantasy General



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In its long tradition of developing strategy and role-playing games, S.S.I. acquired a formidable experience throughout the years, which translated into the creation of the Five-Star Series. "Panzer General" and "Allied General", the first two titles to be published in this series, both show perfectly what S.S.I. meant by their new label, synonym of quality and excellence.

"Fantasy General", announced only late last year, is the third in the series, but unlike its two predecessors, the game's background isn't based on World War II or on any of the numerous conflicts in which humanity took part. After experiencing the commands of both sides during the conflict that shook the 20th century, "Fantasy General" brings the player into a world of fantasy where magic and evil forces face each other in a deadly struggle.

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After over a century of peace, prosperity and technological breakthroughs, the World of Aer has been taken over by the diabolical entity called Shadowlord. From its stronghold on Fire Isle, he quickly spread terror over the four continents, bringing the most infernal creatures from darkness to help him in his will to conquer the entire World of Aer. For several years, the people of Aer had no other choice than a complete submission to preserve the few they had left since the invasion. There were some among the population however, not willing to spend the rest of their lives as slaves of the Shadowlord, but their resistance was disorganized and only made of ambushes and skirmishes, that in the end were not a serious threat to the Shadowlord's authority. Without a leader to conduct the armies, the chances of victory against the Shadowlord were nearly nonexistent. For this objective, the Council of Five was formed with the ultimate goal to find a true leader. While they were actively training troops for the upcoming battles, they nourished the secret hope to some day have an authentic warlord. It did not take long for their expectations to be fulfilled, with the discovery of four champions ready for the battle. However, only one was chosen by the Council to reconquer the World of Aer and bring life and joy back again into this promised land.

In "Fantasy General", you can therefore incarnate one of the four champions that were presented to the Council. You will choose between Knight Marshall Calis, Lord Marcas, Archmage Krell and Sorceress Mordra. The characters have special abilities you must take in consideration before going into the heart of the battle. Knight Marshall Calis can heal all wounds once per battle, purchase cavalry units at a discount rate, and under his command, units have 20 additional points to their morale. With Lord Marcas, purchased and recruited units will start with one level of experience, and heroes will be more likely to join your army. You will also be allowed to have a larger army and have discounts for infantry units. Archmage Krell who is versed for magic, can cast one of four spells on any enemy unit, once per turn, and like the two above, he buys magical and spellcaster units at a cheaper price. In addition to one of the two spells Sorceress Mordra can cast once per battle, she will summon two magical units before every battle, and has the ability to recruit beasts.

Once you have selected your character, you can either start playing with a scenario, enter the arena, or try the complete campaign. If it's possible to play by email with the first two modes, it is not with the campaign, but the excitement of playing against another human player is then replaced by the challenge of reconquering the World of Aer through dozens of epic battles. The five scenarios recall some of the historical battles that happened during the Shadowlord's conquest of Aer. You can set up the level of difficulty to easy, medium or difficult, or instead choose to customize it through AI level and gold amount. You will start with predefined units, each with a certain level of experience, and eventually equipped with magical items. The scenarios offer a progressive challenge to the player, making use of a large variety of units to learn their specificities, and several types of landscapes.

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The arena, unlike the scenarios, is a mode in which you can nearly customize your game from A to Z. With over 60 existent maps and a random map generator, you can conceive any imaginable battle from a little ambush to a wide scale confrontation. The generator will let you choose among the five continents of Aer with their distinctive landscapes (plains, ice, jungle, desert and volcanos) and then, select which type of terrain is predominant (clear, rough, mountain, swamps and woods). The character selection will not only offer the four characters mentioned above, but will also add the four lieutenants of the Shadowlord known as Ssazikar the Snake, Aelcar the Shadow Wizard, Orc King Dragga and Lieutenant General. These characters are the evil versions of the four champions with similar abilities for spells and recruiting skills. However in the arena mode, you can change the advantages of your character or add new ones that none of them had initially, such as Mech Master, Engineer, Ranger and Dwarven. Overall, there is a total of eleven innate abilities you can choose for your customized character, but curiously nothing will keep you from selecting all of them. If you do so, you'll have the perfect leader, but unless your opponent is at the same level, I doubt you will find any interest in a game where you know from the beginning what will be the issue of the battle.

The other available options concern the AI level, amount of gold received by the computer opponent each turn, number of turns, maximum experience level for units, whether or not heroes are allowed in the battle, maximum number of units allowed in an army, etc. As you see, you can configure the game so that a battle never plays the same which is undeniably great news for players.

Picture 3
Black Dragon
Before entering the battle, you must of course build a solid army, as even with the best strategic skills, an army of paysans can't resist to well trained and equipped troops. You will have the choice of letting the computer automatically select units for you, or instead go through the purchase unit screen and spend your gold. The units in "Fantasy General" are first classified in four races (Mortal, Magic, Beast and Mechanical) then in military-like classes (Heavy & Light Infantry, Skirmisher, Archer, Heavy & Light Cavalry, Sky Hunter, Bombardier, Siege Engine and Spell Caster). Each class contains various types of units whose price increases with their statistics, which means that better units will be more costly. Some of them will only be available if you play the evil side like Goblins, Orcs and Undead. Before buying a unit, you can take a look at its statistics and check the following values: attack, melee, missile (if available), armor, life, movement, magic defense, search, spell (if available) and special abilities. At the same time, you can also increase their level of experience symbolized by a number of shields ranging from one to five, but the cost will be higher. In the same manner to own better units, you can purchase magical items that will improve specific characteristics such as attack, movement, armor, etc... but a unit can only wear one item at a time. Building an army can be a long and often repetitive process. To avoid this, the game allows you to load an army from a previous arena or campaign game which will definitely speed up this phase.

Once you enter the battle, there will nearly be no differences in the game play between the three game modes. In the campaign, you must be victorious in every battle to continue the reconquest of Aer, and you will only have access to basic units in the beginning.

In the campaign mode, you must defeat the four successive lieutenants of the Shadowlord before you can reach Fire Isle, the fifth continent. Your first task will be to free Keldonia, a devastated wasteland, once a flourishing and fertile land. Orc King Dragga won't be a tough adversary, as he is one of the weakest commanders, and after a few battles, you should easily arrive on the Isle of Four Winds, ruled by Aelcar the Shadow Wizard. Next, the Kingdom of Avernion will await you if you are victorious from Aelcar, but beware of the sorcerer Ssazikar the Snake and his bestial humanoids. After the grassy meadows and high mountains of the Isle of Four Winds, and the deep jungle from the Kingdom of Avernion, you will discover the icy plains and snow-capped mountains of Pothia, the largest continent of Aer. If you are triumphant, you will finally reach the Dragonscale Archipelago that surrounds Fire Isle. Inhabited by creatures of darkness, these desolated lands covered with lava streams, volcanos and a dying vegetation, could be the last place you fight on Aer as rumors state that the Shadowlord's army has nightmare creatures and mighty mechanical units.

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Before every battle in the campaign, you can buy new units or upgrade old ones in the Army Management screen, and change how the gold will be invested with the Reward Allocation screen. As you progress in the campaign, you will receive gold from the Council of Five or the villagers, and also discover some in the ruins that are scattered in different areas. Through the Reward Allocation screen, you can decide what part of gold will be destined to research and what will be left to support your army. The percentage of the research funds that is allocated to each of the various classes can be changed so that you can give a preference to specific classes. Don't forget that it will take some time before the new units become available, and if you allocated all the gold to research, you won't have enough money to replace units.

Just before the first turn starts, you will have to place your units on the map. The tactical map screen will only display a part of the battleground with a screen twelve hexes wide by eight hexes high. You can scroll the map by simply moving the mouse to the edge of the screen in the direction you want to go. If you click on the strategic map button, you will have a general view of the terrain to help you plan your attack. On both right and left sides of the screen, there are many option buttons you can select. With the right buttons, you can show or hide computer moves, spot hidden units, display health and wounds, score, hide hex sides, etc. There are two series of left buttons available: the main menu and the unit menu. From the main menu, you can save or load games, turn sound effects, animations and music on or off, cast character spell, purchase and place units. In the Unit menu, you will recruit or disband units, make them rest, examine their current statistics, cast unit spell, etc.

Once you placed your troops on the map within a certain area defined by the game, the battle will finally begin. The lighter zone that surrounds units shows the visible area for your units, and you must not mistake it with the lighter zone that is around a unit when you select one, as it represents the maximum range for this specific unit. For the essential however, the game play is quite similar to "Panzer General". You can rest your units to heal wounds, and recruit new troops in friendly villages to compensate those who were killed. Over 120 units are available in "Fantasy General", each with distinctive skills like the spell casters who can cast a spell each turn to either heal wounds or weaken the enemy troops. Throughout the game, you will discover artifacts and magical items that might give the advantage to your army, and even welcome heroes who will join your army to fight the Shadowlord.

As its two predecessors, "Fantasy General" has brilliant SVGA graphics, very detailed and exquisitely rendered. The numerous maps provide the players with enough variety to make each battle unique. There are mountains, rivers, forests, swamps, towers, villages, ruins, shrines and much more to discover in this irresistible game. But that's not all! The soundtrack of "Fantasy General" is from far one of the best I have heard this year. Just listen to it, and imagine yourself plunged in the fantastic World of Aer. The choir-like music will recall heroic battles using deep sonorities and voices that will ring in the air as songs of marching soldiers.


From the three titles in the Five-Star Series, "Fantasy General" is undeniably the best, although the game plays basically the same. What makes this episode even better is the great soundtrack and the marvelous attention that has been given to the graphics and especially for the drawing of the units. It has a great replay value and a good AI that you can customize at will to match even the best strategy players.

Written by Frederick Claude



System Requirements:

386 DX-40 MHz or higher,
Min 8Mb memory,
MS-DOS 5.0 or later,
Hard drive required with 10Mb free,
Double speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
SVGA video graphic card with 1Mb,
Microsoft mouse (driver version 9.00 or higher) and 100% compatibles,
Logitech mouse (driver version 6.20 or higher).

Most popular sound cards supported.


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