Kohan : Immortal Sovereigns

Preview - we take a hands-on look at this role-playing strategy hybrid with a difference

American readers will no doubt be suffering a certain degree of deja vu at this point. Hasn't Kohan already been released? The answer is yes .. and no. Available since way back in March over in America, UbiSoft will finally be bringing the game to Europe in September, having signed a distribution deal with publisher Strategy First.

The question for European gamers is, was it worth the wait? We took a preview version of the game for a spin to find out...

Urban Blight

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The militia rushes out to defend a town

Kohan is the latest in a long line of games to try to meld real-time strategy with role-playing style character development. But instead of simply taking your bog standard Warcraft gameplay and throwing in a few hero characters for good measure, developers TimeGate have crafted something genuinely different with Kohan.

Indeed, the game has as much in common with the turn-based Heroes of Might & Magic series as it does with more traditional real-time strategy games. Much of the game is spent fighting over cities, which can then be upgraded with a range of additional buildings such as blacksmiths, sawmills, barracks, city walls and temples. These buildings may provide extra resources, allow you to build new unit types, improve the city's defences or bolster its garrison.

Because rather than relying on your free-roaming armies to defend them, cities each have their own garrison of troops which will emerge to fight off any attackers that stray within range. To capture a city you must defeat its garrison and then cause enough damage to convince the citizens to throw in the towel before relief arrives, making the whole process something of a war of attrition in later missions.

Military Manoeuvres

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Utter chaos

Even more unusual is the way in which your troops are organised, with each army made up of four front-line units and two support groups (such as mages, clerics or rangers), led by either a human captain or an immortal hero, one of the eponymous Kohan.

When you first create an army in one of your cities you emerge with just the captain, and the rest of your force gradually builds up around you so long as you remain within the supply radius of a friendly city or outpost. Your army can also heal wounded troops and slowly replace lost units while you are in friendly territory and not under attack. Because the stats of your troops steadily increase as they gain combat experience, it often makes sense to withdraw a battered army rather than to leave it to get annihilated.

Individual armies can also be massed together into larger formations, with up to six armies in a single hot-key selectable group. These tend to get a bit unwieldy though, making large battles rather chaotic at times. Armies seem to simply attack the first enemy unit they run into, and there is no obvious way to force them to attack a specific enemy without stopping to fight everyone else they meet along the way.

Conclusion

Kohan is a novel take on the role-playing strategy genre, mixing elements more commonly found in turn-based titles with the fast-paced gameplay of a real-time offering. And although the result is far from perfect, there's certainly a lot here to like.

It's been a long wait for European gamers, but Kohan should finally arrive in stores on this side of the Atlantic by Friday 14th September. Look for a full review of the game closer to that date.

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