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Kohan: Ahriman’s Gift

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:

GAME DEVELOPER:Timegate Studios

GAME PUBLISHER:Strategy First

Copyright 2002, Timegate Studios

I really liked the original Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns. It had an original and well-balanced resource system which involved not only paying for your troops with gold, but also building enough resource-structures in your towns and villages to keep producing enough of the four maintenance resources (stone, wood, iron and mana) to keep those troops supported. Shortfalls in resource production could be shored up with gold and resource surplus could be sold off for extra gold production adding a genuinely tactical element to the way you protected each of your towns and always felt much more of a genuine system than protecting the ever-present harvester unit as it made its way around collecting whichever mysterious resource was needed to buy troops. This system makes a return in this game, along with a couple of game-improving tweaks which, while not anything that was ever desperately necessary, are nonetheless very welcome.

Combat too was one of Kohan‘s strengths, in that it almost completely rid you of the tactic of churning out endless numbers of cannon fodder units seen in most other RTS games, which soaked up damage from an AI with limited intelligence while your big nasty of whatever sort stood behind them doing huge amounts of damage but was never targeted by the enemy because it was too far away. By collecting units into a company of six renewable units led by an officer, your fighting forces required you to take a much more tactical approach. For a start, there is the decision of whether your officer fights. A capable melee unit in his own right, the officer is the one who leads the retreat to the support zones around your towns and fortifications, which renew the health of the companies that remain inside them. With him in the fray, you might lose him, have the company’s morale fail and have them run in a uncontrolled rout straight into the teeth of the enemy; Keep him at the back, and the lack of his combat skills may mean that, when faced by a company of superior fighters, your unit loses because of the lack of your commander’s fighting prowess. The tactical balance of trading off speed for power with movement orders ranging from forced march to a slow-moving offensive line and the decision whether to include a healer or ranged unit as support at the expense of frontline force are some of the other decisions involved in one of the most engagingly tactical RTS games you’ll come across. Again, the system makes a return in this game, along with a couple of game-improving tweaks which, while not anything that was ever desperately necessary, are nonetheless very welcome.

While the tactical depth of the Kohan series is undoubtedly enough to warrant purchasing this semi-sequel, especially for anyone who knows they like the series, I’m afraid that I have to say that this game is, while featuring highs that rival and even supersede the original game, also has lows that, while they match up exactly to the same lows in the original, also crop up far, far more often.

The final level of the original Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns was nigh-on impossible, featuring wave upon wave upon wave of immensely powerful, well-trained units to the point of being nigh-on impossible. It was a massive change of pace from the whole of the rest of the game and left me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth, if I’m honest. Kohan: Battles of Ahriman features these missions by the bucketload, often leaving out the inherent tactical subtleties of the game altogether for frantic settlement defense and all-out victory-by-numbers play, otherwise known as the tank rush. An almost unforgivable example of this comes during levels featuring two incredibly powerful single units from the first game which were both found at the end of levels at points from which they could not significantly wander. Even crippled as they were, they would usually manage to take out half or more of your troops, but this only encouraged you to think of more effective ways of beating them. Here, these units are given free roam of the levels, specifically targeting and chasing down your units and settlements, always ignoring your enemies, enemies who ignore them just as much, even though they are on opposite sides and, while not each others’ main targets, would certainly not ignore each other in the manner they do. While these missions are not impossible, they are both tiresome and difficult and force you to waste troops and resources on holding actions and frantic routs rather than giving you options or tactics.

Though this stand-alone expansion builds on one of the finest, most refined RTS games ever made, it manages to be much less than its predecessor. A worthy game in its own right it substitutes tactics and tension for rushing and routing, leaving it bogged down in a crowd of similar games. Worth it for the expansion to the storylines in the first game, given the choice between the two, Kohan: Battles of Ahriman fails to match up to the original and should be put at a much lower priority.



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