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Kohan: Ahriman's Gift

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Timegate Studios
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Don't let them fool you--despite the lack of the words 'add-on' or 'expansion pack' anywhere on Kohan: Ahriman's Gift's packaging, the game is basically an expansion for the original (and excellent) Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns. As such, the graphics are pretty much identical, other than the new unit types and the like added to the game. That means that you still have to have a computer capable of 1024x768 to run the game. The environments are nicely detailed, as are the various structures in the game, even though the sense of scale is still a little off-putting, albeit understandable. The various animations in the game are solid, although they're sometimes a little hard to discern at the high resolution. The game looks sharp, although it's more on the level of a high-res StarCraft.

The sound in the game is as solid as the first one. This basically means that the music is good, the sound effects cue you into what's going on very well, and the voice acting is quite good. Sure, some of the characters are a wee bit overdramatic, but their roles require that sort of tone, and it works well with the high (dark) fantasy feel of the whole thing. The unit acknowledgements are still supremely annoying, and chances are good that you'll be reaching for the 'Off' button for them in no time flat. Otherwise, the game sounds very nice.


I'm torn with Kohan: Ahriman's Gift. For one, it's an excellent game, adding a few tweaks to the original Kohan formula and keeping the game interesting. This is a Good Thing. But it's being sold as a separate game, and unfortunately I don't think the changes in the game really warrant a full purchase if you already own the first one, unless you're a die-hard fan. I think that Kohan: Ahriman's Gift would have worked much better as an expansion pack. But nonetheless, here it is in its full-form glory.

The storyline is actually rather intriguing, shedding a lot of new light upon the whole world of Khaldun and the Kohan's place in it. You start off the main campaign as Roxanna Javidan, Darius' wife (he was the main character of the original Kohan) and a decidedly more evil sort of person. Indeed, Ahriman's Gift is all about playing as the Ceyah, the inimitable bad guys from the original game. Instead of trying to help save the world, you're trying to subjugate it. The game is actually a prequel, which means that you already know the Ceyah don't win, but it's an entertaining romp nonetheless.

For the most part, the game itself plays identically to the original title. For those who didn't play the first game, some explanation is definitely needed, because the Kohan series doesn't play much like anything else out on the market. While Kohan: Ahriman's Gift is a real-time strategy, don't let that fool you into thinking that it's like most of the other stuff out on the market, which amounts to complicated grunt-rushing. No, Ahriman's Gift really requires strategy. Instead of controlling separate units, you control companies, and even then you don't have unit-by-unit mastery of the groups. You simply tell a company where to go and what to do, and let the AI handle it from there. The number of companies you can control is very limited, keeping the game from becoming a rush, and because your troops gain experience as they battle you'll want to keep them alive as long as possible.

Resource 'gathering' is similarly unique, mainly because you never see any resource other than gold. The rest are simply deficit or surplus, and the amount of gold you get per turn depends on just how deficient you are in various productions. It's wonderful not having to collect resources any more. Your units automatically heal when they're in your realm's zone of supply, which is another nice micromanagement thing that you don't have to deal with. Indeed, a lot of Kohan: Ahriman's Gift's charms come from the fact that you can truly concentrate on the important things, like overall strategies, and keep your mind off of the nitpicky details that consume most other RTSes.

Ahriman's Gift adds a number of improvements, although only the hardcore series fans will really notice them. There are new units for each side, which makes things more interesting, along with unique structure upgrades that can help you as well. There are also new multiplayer modes, like King of the Hill, which will undoubtedly add more time with the game. There are three new campaigns, one large and two other, less central ones.

The real problem is that that's just about all that's new. Yes, the Map Editor has been tweaked and the like, but for the most part this is the sort of thing you expect in an expansion, not in a full-priced new game.


For those who haven't played many turn-based strategy games--a genre that Kohan: Ahriman's Gift gets a number of cues from--the game can get rather hard quite fast. The sort of tactics that traditionally work in RTSes quite simply don't work here, and it takes a good bit of practice to get into the rather unique mindset that Ahriman's Gift affords. Once you understand what's going on, it's time to set the difficulty level higher--the AI can give anyone a good beating on the hardest level, which is a pleasant change from most RTSes.

Game Mechanics:

Kohan: Ahriman's Gift is pretty much solely mouse-controlled, with keyboard hotkeys for when you can't click fast enough. The game runs at a slow enough pace that clicking should never be a problem, though. The core mechanics of the game are solid, which is unsurprising; they're only slightly tweaked from the original game, and that game had rock-solid mechanics. Building your companies is still a treat, and the mixes that you can make really add a lot to the experience, not to mention adding even deeper intricacies to already deep mechanics. The game's load times past the initial startup are minimal, and I never experienced any crashes.

Kohan: Ahriman's Gift is an excellent game--there's no denying it. However, it's an excellent game that should have been marketed differently. As an expansion pack, it would easily rate a 9 or 9.5; the extra campaigns, units and play modes add a great deal of gameplay to an already excellent game. As a stand-alone game, though, Kohan: Ahriman's Gift doesn't quite cut it. If you've never played the original title, this is definitely one to pick up, as any fan of RTSes or turn-based fans who are looking for something new after wearing out Heroes III will enjoy this quite a bit. Those who are hard-core Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns fans should pick it up as well, because it offers a lot of the same deep strategic action. But those who merely enjoyed the original will find that this doesn't offer enough original gameplay to warrant a full-priced purchase, especially since the two games are incompatible when it comes to networking.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

Win9x/Me/2K, P2 233, 64MB RAM, 600MB HD space, mouse, keyboard, 6x CD-ROM, 16-bit video card w/ 2MB VRAM capable of 1024x768, sound card

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns Windows Legend of the North: Konung

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated