Disciples II: Dark Prophecy Review

When combat occurs, the battle takes place on another screen with the units involved, up to six per side.  Combat is turn-based, with each unit acting in turn based on an initiative rating.  Units can attack, defend, or attempt to retreat from battle.  Once a side has withdrawn or been eliminated, the victorious units are awarded experience points based on the quality of foe defeated.  When enough points have been earned, a unit is automatically upgraded to the next higher unit class, provided the appropriate structure has been built in the capital.  Units that have reached the end of the upgrade path continue to accrue experience, and are rewarded with bonus statistics upon reaching the next level.

The graphics in Disciples II are very well done.  The unit portraits have a very unique look to them, and help to give the game its own special atmosphere.  Character animations on the map and on the battle screen are excellent, bringing the game's many interesting units to life.  The spell effects are particularly imaginative - you'll find yourself researching and casting some spells just to get to see what they look like.

Players who enjoyed the first Disciples game will not find an evolutionary leap forward in Disciples II.  However, they will enjoy Disciples II for many of the same reasons they played the first game and should almost all be quite happy with the game's latest incarnation.  Gamers who played any of the Heroes of Might and Magic games will notice a strong similarity between those games and Disciples II.  If they write off Disciples II as merely a derivative knock-off, though, they will be missing out on a good game.  Disciples II has stronger story and roleplaying elements than was present in the Heroes games, and any fans of those games are certain to really enjoy Disciples II.

One thing that Disciples II is not is easy.  The AI plays a tough game and players will often find themselves in battle with equal or superior foes.  In battle, the AI makes good tactical choices, singling out powerful but vulnerable units and concentrating fire on important foes.  

One of the best features of the game is the advancement of units.  Careful management of a leader and his army can result in a very formidable fighting force.  However, the loss of this force is usually absolutely devastating, and will almost always require a reload or restart of the scenario.  It takes time and a careful selection of battles to build a high level army.  Since there are a fixed number of wandering monster groups on a map, the weaker enemies can only be used to build up a single group.  New armies created later in a scenario will find themselves almost constantly overmatched, making their survival quite perilous.

A nice feature of the campaign game is the ability to select a leader to take into the next scenario.  This prevents the player from the need to groom a new leader from scratch with each new level.  Unfortunately, the leader does not bring along his army, requiring the player to groom a new batch of units.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 88%. A fascinating game that provides a tremendous amount of gameplay.  Players will find hours of fun melting away as they keep telling themselves, "just one more turn..."  It might not be entirely original, but it is a good enough game that it does not really matter.  It's difficulty may prove to be an obstacle to some players, though.

System Requirements:  233 MHz Pentium II CPU; 32 MB RAM; 8 MB Video RAM; 4x CD-ROM; 400 MB Hard Drive Space; Mouse.

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