Last March I had the opportunity to review Onslaught on ilvideogioco.com, the first expansion for Fantasy General II. Our feelings have been positive thanks to really well implemented procedural mechanics, but the guys from Owned by Gravity didn’t stop for a second and continued to work on their creation to bring to our screens the next major expansion: Empire Aflame.
Available on Steam since October 21 and published by Slitherine, this DLC aims to increase what’s available with new factions, adventures, and characters. Will it be enough to satisfy the fans? Find out with us, and enjoy reading.
The Story So far
Fantasy General II is a turn-based strategy set in a fantasy world. Directly following the first chapter of the SSI (Strategic Simulation), it tells us the story of the barbarian clans that in both the basic campaign and the first expansion are the protagonists, with the playable faction of the empire being introduced in Onslaught.
While this is a game that sees units and heroes living together, their development follows separate paths. The heroes acquire experience points that will improve their statistics and allow the acquisition of new skills. They are also able to equip items, which together with the choices made during the scenarios brings the product closer to a role-playing game, even if it barely scratches the surface.
Units also gain experience, but are developed in a different way through a tree system that allows you to direct a certain unit towards a particular archetype. We particularly liked this mechanic and in Onslaught it was brought back and further improved, though there is a certain repetitiveness for flying units.
But the keystone of “Onslaught” was the introduction of a procedural campaign that succeeded in the not easy task of narrating complex events through a campaign that was always different each playthrough. With Empire Aflame, Owned by Gravity retraces its steps, producing a fixed campaign with some random elements and a series of choices that will have impact on a plot with a number of variables.
The Magnificence of the Empire
The quality of the product by Owned by Gravity is indisputable and has been maintained in this second expansion. But unfortunately, it doesn’t really add anything new to the multi-faceted and overused niche.
Since this is the first content where the protagonist is the Empire, it is right to remember that even if the article deals with a typical fantasy product, the game draws strong inspiration from a classic historical context. We will therefore have recognizable sides, starting from the barbarians who draw inspiration from the northern Germanic tribes that did not leave Scandinavia before the late stage of the Barbarian Invasions. This faction is in contrast to the recognizable Roman Empire that had already occupied the territories north of the Rhine with Augustus as early as 12 BC.
The story told in Empire Aflame revolves around Moira and Filos, two prominent characters who are opposites on a character level, with both being endowed with very special skills. The story will unfold through a series of complex maps and a quest with multiple choices of unexpectedly important weight in the economy of a playthrough.
These, unlike Onslaught, are more linear but also more in-depth and with different twists.
Heroes, Children and Cash
Moira is a sort of necromancer and an eclectic and very powerful character because at the beginning of every battle she is able to summon an army of skeleton archers and infantry. Filos for his part is a spoiled and arrogant nobleman who has the ability to recruit mercenaries from every settlement. The two are in both gameplay and personality. But in our opinion, it is primarily Filos who enjoys a greater depth because he is the perfect “neutral” in a setting where until now he was leading aggressive but loyal heroes.
Don’t expect to replay the events told in the famous film “The Gladiator” because there is no trace of them, though Filos embodies much of Caesar Lucius Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus, for friends simply Commodus. Unlike the historical character, however, he is much braver and decidedly powerful.
Then there are the merchants who, while not enjoying any characterization, play a particularly important role: the purchasing of resources with gold coins. Here enters an interesting new mechanic linked to the taxation of the settlements that we will acquire. Until Onslaught the basic option when capturing a country was to set it on fire and quickly acquire a sum of gold. Now we will be able to keep the conquered peoples under the banner of our flag through a system of taxes that will provide continuous revenue as turns pass.
Finally, we signal the introduction of a handful of new units. Among them the frost trolls. We also find some secondary characters that will join us during the story based on the choices we will make.
With Fantasy General II: Empire Aflame Owned by Gravity closes the trilogy of the return of a series that was a good success in the 90s. If you already own Onslaught and you enjoyed it, the purchase of Empire Aflame will be a fairly obvious choice.
For everyone else, this expansion is the perfect example of “more of the same”. However, it offers an entire campaign on a faction that until now we could not control in its entirety as well as a deep and mature plot.
To this, we add well-characterized main and secondary characters, a fair number of maps, and new units with their development trees. Will Keldonia united under a single flag remain a fantasy or a dream that you will make your own? You certainly won’t fail to find a challenge.
You can find the Italian version of this review on ilvideogioco.com