Disciples: Sacred Lands

Warlords of Might and Magic

When counting the great turn-based fantasy giants – Warlords, Heroes, Age of Wonders, etc. – one cannot help notice deep-rooted genre conventions that span entire series. So is the case with Disciples, a turn-based affair that blends elements from past games while adding a few new features.

Snap24_1You will have the chance to play one of four races; each race is vastly different and comes with its own set of heroes, spells (there are over 100 in the game), and items. Disciples also adds a few twists with things like the concept of owning land instead of just resources and towns. It should be noted that unlike HOMM, the heroes are the ones that do the fighting in Disciples. In fact, they do the vast majority of it. You will not be marching with hordes of units in Disciples; rather, you will have small armies that consist mostly of heroes and specialty units lending hands in a heated battle.

Combat is an obvious blend of HOMM and Warlords. Combat is not tactical in the sense that your units do not move about the map. Instead, you position your units into two tiers (putting your fighter-types up front with your mages and archers in the rear). A wide variety of spells and combat options are available—the only thing that separates this from the combat in HOMM is that the units do not move, and the fact that you are not going to have armies with 300 goblins.

The actual battlefield is depicted in the center of your screen, complete with attractive and sometimes amusing animations for all the attacks. The problem lies in that all of your control and feedback come from static character portraits outside that area. Even after many hours of play, you may still find yourself trying to click on that archer to get him to start his attack. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the setup, it just feels off, and detracts from immersion into the battle itself. Once engaged with the enemy, it’s a simple matter of pointing your guy at a foe and hoping for the best, but after the first few times of defeating the same enemies the same way a wish for an autocombat option creeps in.

Proper planning wins the war, and Disciples takes that principle to an extreme. With a bit of useful info provided by your spies, you know just what you’re up against. The concept of preparation before battle is what truly distinguishes Disciples from the ancestral games it draws upon. By the time you enter the actual combat phase, you should have a good idea of the outcome. It’s a breath of fresh air to rely upon knowledge, strategy and planning rather than desperately trying to build the killer stack against which no enemy can stand.

Snap11_1The heroes in Disciples are very different to those found in other fantasy games in that they evolve into new advanced classes over time. Each hero type has a branching tree of class types that they may choose as they earn more and more experience. This is a sure-fire way to help keep the heroes dynamic and should also spice up gameplay quite a bit. Overall, Disciples is a standard turn-based strategy game set in a fantasy world. That in itself is a good thing. As an added bonus, the game brings enough freshness to the genre to be worthy of a spot on your hard drive.

System Requirements: Pentium 120 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 250 MB HDD, Windows 95/98

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