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.
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"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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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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