When Trevor Chan?s Seven Kingdoms came out in 1997, it took a lot of people by surprise, and was touted by many as the ?thinking man?s Warcraft.? The game features a great mix of activities that relied on building up towns, attracting new subjects, spying on neighbors and searching out enemy spies in your own ranks, and engaging in combat when necessary.
Seven Kingdoms II: The Fryhtan War basically takes the original concepts and fine tunes them, adding a few nice touches here and there. Although more evolutionary than revolutionary, SK2 makes a great game even better, so much so that it more than deserves a spot in our hallowed Hall of Belated Fame.
SK2 lets you control one of 12 human kingdoms in a campaign to eliminate the threat of the evil Fryhtans. You can also choose to lead one of the 7 Fryhtan races in their quest to destroy the human race. Your job is to successfully complete each mission until the different Fryhtan races (or human race as the case may be) have been eliminated from the map. Every campaign is randomly generated, making the game infinitely replayable. Each kingdom has unique units and also features a different Greater Being, which can be called upon for assistance during the game. However, unlike other titles such as Age of Empires and its sequel, the different kingdoms in SK2 don't have special strengths and weaknesses that make them truly different from one another. You gain power by controlling villages and the people who live there. The key to growing your kingdom is attracting villagers to your settlements, which can be done most effectively by growing your economy.
SK2 places a much stronger emphasis on the economics of an empire than other games of its ilk. This should come as no surprise for anyone who is familiar with Capitalism Plus, Trevor Chan?s earlier business sim masterpiece. Collecting raw materials, turning them into products, and then selling or trading them is the main method to building a strong economy. Structures you can build include inns to recruit villagers with specialized skills like spying or manufacturing, or a tower of science to conduct research. Trade is achieved by creating markets that are linked either to your villages or other villages. Espionage, one of the more intriguing aspects of SK, has been enhanced even further in SK2. You can use spies to create conflicts between two other empires. Even more appealing is the ability to steal technological advances from other kingdoms, although technology is not one of the crucial factors of success. To differentiate between the 12 human kingdoms, each kingdom has at least one special unit to use in combat, and you can also obtain heroes to help your cause. In keeping with the growing trend in recent RTS titles to include RPG elements, SK2 allows you to take some units, with their abilities and experience intact, with you from one mission to the next. This, however, does not make later missions easier, because the computer opponents will also have stronger units to prepare for your veterans.
Playing as a Fryhtan is a nice twist, and offers very different objectives (such as kill civilians) than the human campaigns. Your success depends on bringing towns under your control, whereby they pay you a fee to stay alive. The Fryhtan campaigns are easier than human ones, simply because there aren't as many options to consider (e.g. espionage and diplomacy). The different types of Fryhtans are interesting and range from the Kharshuf, who can plant big, man-eating plants on the map that reproduce, to the Kerassos, which control animals that do the fighting for them.
Numerous other features in SK1 have been enhanced for this sequel. The graphics are much improved over the original, and the AI is much stronger than before. Computer player play a strong balancing act, splitting their time between enhancing their existing villages, making inroads at taking over nearby villages, setting up trade, spying and so forth. If you are not careful, you will find the game over before long. There are also more multiplayer options, although the stand-alone missions and campaigns are involving enough to last you at least a few dozen hours. Newcomers can learn the ropes relatively quickly, thanks to excellent tutorial missions and a clear, concise manual.
Overall, I find SK2 to be one of the best real-time strategy games ever made. If you like Warcraft and Ages of Empire but wish that they games were deeper and have stronger AI, SK2 more than fits the bill. The depth of play and different ways to win will keep strategy fans entertained for hours, if not days. A true classic in every respect.
Note: If you want to patch the game, you need to download separate cracks from GameCopyWorld.