And while the setting of Fate of the Dragon
is intriguing, and it offers a few new touches to the world of real time strategy games, it really doesn't do enough
. Combining a number of different entries into the genre, Fate
shows that sometimes the sum of all parts is more than the end result.
The single-player campaigns are seen from the viewpoint of the three 'main heroes' of the Three Kingdoms time period. Indeed, much of the game's charm comes from the integration of the game with the tumultuous history of China during that period. It's a shame, therefore, that the main exposure you get to this history is from voiceless scrolling text before each battle, each throwing a large number of names and locations that never show up inside the game. Only fans will bother to really keep track of this, and the fact that the missions are terribly monotonous (stop the siege, siege, stop the siege) does nothing to ameliorate the problem.
The obligatory resource-gathering infrastructure in Fate of the Dragon is quite complex, reminding me more of the Settlers series of games than any other RTS. You've got wood and metal, but then you can grow corn and raise pigs for meat, then convert that into food and wine for the troops. Different things cost different amounts of resources, and balancing them all is a careful undertaking. This is made a little more difficult than it should be, as certain costs -- the amount it takes to build a plot of farm or a pig sty, for example -- are nowhere to be found. (It's forty, in case you're curious.)
There is also a higher level to the game than your standard city-building and unit-crunching. You can exit from your city to an overland map, where local villages await your liberation. Liberating them nets you more gold as you play -- the only resource you're unable to harvest. However, any combat units that leave your city start to weaken as they go without food. It is therefore necessary to build a supply line by constructing camps on the overmap. Switching between the various maps is painless, and it's quite a cool feature.
But combat is strictly grunt-rushing fare. There's no way to make formations of your units, so the basic tactic is to swarm your enemy and hope your folk are strong enough to fight them off. You can build siege engines to penetrate the walls that every town sports, or you can bash through the front gate. There are also the requisite research facilities and so on.
The game sports a multiplayer mode as well, which can be considerably more entertaining than the single-player game. Why? Because the AI in single-player is moronic. They simply throw units at your walls and hope they break through. There's no real sense of tactics. It's a shame, really. The completely idiotic pathfinding algorithms don't help.