Nor is the game difficult to enjoy. After playing untold numbers of derivative real time strategy games, offering nothing but basic tweaks to the genre that was molded by Westwood and Blizzard, it's an amazingly refreshing change of pace to play an RTS that doesn't really play like much else out there. While it takes its cues from a number of games in the genre, Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns
proves that sometimes the whole can truly be greater than the sum of its parts.
The single-player campaign, which is perhaps the weakest link in the experience, is a story about an immortal (Kohan) named Darius Javidan, and his quest to rid the land of the Shadow that's encroaching. The Kohan used to rule the world peacefully, but of course things went Horribly Wrong, and most of them ended up dying. Kohan reside in amulets, and throughout the course of the campaign you will both find other amulets whose masters you can awaken and fight other immortals. The various immortals never die -- they simply get cast back into their amulets and lose their experience.
The core conceit of the game is something of a bridge between real-time strategy games and the more deliberate turn-based strategy of Warlords and Heroes of Might and Magic. Perhaps the biggest shock to most RTSers is the fact that you cannot command single units around the map. Instead, you form Companies. Each company consists of a leader (who can be a Kohan or a stock Captain), four front-line troops, and up to two support units. Creating a company is painless, but creating good companies takes some thought. Should you make a straight-up combat group, who mixes it up like crazy? That's useful for some enemies, but the spellcasters can eat through straight combatants with ease. Similarly, footsoldiers can maul ranged units. A careful combination of the various types is necessary for proper utilization of your resources. And your formations affect your speed of movement, the damage you do, and how easy it is for you to detect the enemy presence.
Speaking of resources, there are quite a few in Kohan, but only one is actually 'spent' -- gold. Everything in the game costs some amount of gold, from buildings to upgrade your cities with to companies. However, you also have to keep track of your wood, stone, iron, and mana production. Instead of having some amount of these things, the game simply keeps a 'balance' -- for example, a +5 in iron means every minute you make 5 more units of iron than you need. Most high-level structures cost varying amounts of these resources as upkeep, as do all of the units that you create. Any negative amount you have is deducted from your bankroll, which can make you slide into a negative cashflow if you're not careful.
Because the game is structured around companies instead of separate units, there are always far fewer numbers of 'groups' running around on the map. Grunt rushes are a thing of the past, especially since every city has a built-in militia that helps defend it. This leads to a much more deliberate style of play, as you simply can't afford to make a unit to throw away. And the number of companies that you have is directly related to the number and size of cities you control -- a single village can't support anywhere near as much as a sprawling empire.
Aside from the single-player campaign, there are a number of skirmish missions available and even the ability to generate random missions to keep you interested. These are quite fun, and often moreso than the heavily-scripted single-player missions. You can also play against your friends over the 'Net, which is a nice feature. The new patch fixes some issues with the Gamespy Arcade support, and there's really nothing as fun as beating up on some hu-mans.