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Disciples: Sacred Lands

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: GT Interactive
Developer: Strategy First
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Disciples: Sacred Lands are typical strategy game fare -- smallish sprites on the world map, rather more detailed graphics when you get into battle. Theyíre perfectly adequate. The city graphics are really nice and animated, which is a pretty touch. The character graphics are absolutely gorgeous, however -- the portraits of the various people really come alive. Itís some of the best artwork Iíve ever seen. The spell effects are passable. Overall, the visual quality of the game is not too shabby, but not too great either.

The sound effects are the same -- not the greatest, but not the worst. Some of the voice acting is superb, but some -- notably the Mountain Clans -- gets on your nerves real quick. You start to tune it out, though. The game music is excellent war game fare, with the requisite gothic choir-esque sound. It all really fits in well to make a good presentation of your typical strategy RPG.


Gameplay:

Disciples is great fun, once you get to the point that you can actually win a mission. The gist of the game is that you take on the persona of the ruler of a kingdom; one of four available. There is the Empire, which is much like a human empire of the past, the Mountain Clans, with their dwarves and not-quite-halflings, the Legions of the Damned, with their demonic beasts, and the Undead Hordes, with the requisite, ah, undead. Each race plays completely differently and requires different strategies to master. Although the unit selection is not huge, the utter variety of battles that youíll get into makes up for it. A group that can completely maul one type of enemy will get its ass kicked by another. This game requires lots of careful planning and thought -- unsurprising, considering that it IS a Turn-Based Strategy game.

As the characters fight in battles and hopefully survive, they gain experience. Enough experience, and they gain levels and become considerably more powerful. This makes for the RPG element -- you can decide just who you want to get to fight and what they learn when they level up. This makes for a varying game even with the same race. Itís great fun to experiment with different groups of units, and Iíve found myself making suicide squads just to see how much damage a group could do.

One of the interesting features of Disciples is that as you take over more and more land, the land itself shifts to match your race. And as your land surrounds certain things on the map -- gold, mana, etc. -- you start to gain whatever that point has. It makes for interesting strategy, as you may go out of your way to take over a city simply because they have lots of nice stuff around it. And certain characters can drop Rods that turn the land around them slowly to your terrain as well -- a quick way to get some mana. Itís hard to describe, but the organic flow of your terrain versus an enemyís is just great to watch.

The battle system isnít the best Iíve ever seen, but it certainly does its job. And you wonít really notice because youíll be sweating out each battle in the hopes that your prized powerful units actually survive. This game is a whole lot of fun, damnably hard though it is, and Iíve found myself playing it a lot in my spare time just to watch myself die and die again. I love it, though.


Difficulty:

Very high. Disciples: Sacred Lands consistently kills me on the first mission, and it just gets harder. Careful, careful planning and a willingness to expend many units is what it takes to win each scenario, and you can do it -- itís just hard. The difficulty is of the type that keeps you coming back for more, though, not the annoying ďscrew this gameĒ type. Every time I died, I came back for more. And the various races all have their strong points... and some serious weak ones. Be very careful as to how you plot out the course of your units, as a misstep can honestly be the difference between winning and losing. In this respect, the game reminds me of the Japanese game Front Mission 3 for the PlayStation -- damned hard, hours per battle, and you enjoy every minute of it. Yeah.

Game Mechanics:

Once you figure out the controls, the game is very intuitive. The battles are, as I said before, not terribly inspired, but the rest of the game flows perfectly fine. The capitol building and city building is easy to do, and hiring units is easy as well. The overall flow of the interface is nice as well. Overall, this game presents a superb picture. Despite the few flaws, Disciples: Sacred Lands is a must-buy for any turn-based strategy fan that enjoys a hard game when they play it and is willing to devote hours to learning the nuances of the game -- not because itís needlessly complex, but because the A.I. will stump you and stump you again. I enjoy that sort of challenge immensely, and I have a feeling a lot of other people will too.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



Win95/98, P166, 32 MB RAM, DirectX 6.0, Sound Card, 70MB HD Space, 4x CD-ROM, Mouse
 

Test System:



AMD K6-III 450 running Windows 98, 256MB RAM, Creative Sound Blaster Live! Sound Card, Creative TNT2 Ultra w/32MB RAM, 6x24 DVD-ROM

Windows Dark Side of the Moon Deluxe Windows Drakan: Order of the Flame

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated