Disciples II: Dark Prophecy A First Look

Disciples II: Dark Prophecy is the sequel to Disciples: Sacred Lands, a turn-based strategy game that went largely unnoticed despite earning good reviews and a loyal following of fans.  Sequels to critically acclaimed games usually generate high expectations, but don't always deliver on them.  We were able to get a hold of a preview copy of Disciples II and from what we've seen so far, it just might be a worthy successor to Sacred Lands.

Disciples II features the same four races as its predecessor, but each race is now in a state of turmoil.  The game takes place ten years after the Great Wars, at a time when the Chosen One has emerged to bring both salvation and destruction to the Sacred Lands.  The Empire is in chaos since the loss of the heir to its throne, and there is no sign of relief from the devastation wrought on the land by the Great Wars.  The Mountain Clans lost their High King in the Great Wars, their tribes scattered and their lands in ruin.  The Undead Hordes are consumed with the search for divine blood so that their mistress may revive her departed soulmate.  Finally, the Legions of the Damned have begun to plot their vengeance on their enemies now that they are close to releasing their god from his earthly prison.  Players will be able to follow the story of the new war between these races from the perspective of each individual race by playing the game's four campaigns.  Once the player finishes the campaigns, he/she will be able to continue to enjoy the game through stand alone campaigns and multiplayer action over the internet.  Disciples II will also come with a campaign editor, so players can create and share their own unique campaigns.

The two major assets of players are heroes and cities.  Heroes are used to create armies which can be moved around the map.  There are different classes of heroes, from warriors to mages, and each has its own special attacks and maximum number of units that it can command.  Cities act as a source of recruitment for new heroes and for the 200+ units available in the game.  The player's starting city acts as their capital, which is a special city that can be expanded to provide the player with unit and spell upgrades.  Cities also exert an area of influence over the map and any resource sites which fall under this influence generate a fixed amount of resources for the player each turn.

Players can also expand their influence through the use of rods.  Rods are special magical items that can only be placed by certain heroes.  Once placed, they slowly convert the land around them to the player's control.  This is the only way to capture resource sites that are distant from the player's cities.  Rods can even be placed in enemy territory, stealing resource sites away for your exploitation.  Should an enemy player place a rod in your lands, the same heroes that can place rods can also be used to remove enemy rods.

During a turn, players move their armies across the map to explore new regions, conquer additional cities, and investigate mysterious ruins or treasure troves.  In addition to other players, the map is populated with armies of thugs and monsters.  Some of these remain stationary, guarding a treasure that will be awarded to the player that can defeat them.  Others wander the map seeking to raise havoc and attack the player's armies.