Rage of Mages II: Necromancer
More mission pack than proper sequel.
For those of you who’ve played the first Rage of Mages, those two words pretty much sum up the sequel. While there have been minor changes to the engine, for the most part this is merely a level pack. Monolith’s Rage of Mages II is a curious hybrid: part role-playing, part real-time strategy. You start the game by creating a character (mage or fighter) and start adventuring. You hit towns to shop and chat at the Inn where you’ll learn of quests that need attending to. Upon leaving you’ll find yourself looking at a map of the land with flags stuck in it representing the various quests – click on them and suddenly you’re in an RTS game.
However, some role-playing aspects remain. Each character has an inventory and can change their weapons. Your mages have spell books to flip through in battle, at least in theory. In practice the interface makes combat spells extremely cumbersome. Early in the game when you have just a few units the RPG influence is pretty strong, but as your party grows you’ll depend more and more on your RTS skills – there simply won’t be enough time to give individual orders to each unit. A simple function to pause the game while letting you issue orders would have fixed this.
You do have some tools to deal with this issue, though. You can set up parameters such as when a unit should retreat from a fight, how many spells mages should cast automatically, and whether units should stay in formation. Sadly, each of these parameters apply to all your units, so you can’t (for example) assign one mage to cast full “buffs” while another saves mana for battle. The AI of your units is also a mixed bag. While it’s great that a mage will heal a fighter without you prompting him too, it isn’t so great that he’ll fixate on one fighter, leaving another to die unaided.
Complaints aside, the game can be entertaining, in a “Monty Haul” kind of way. When you start out, a weapon that costs 2000 gp seems incredibly expensive, but wealth starts to skyrocket almost immediately. Before very long, you’re wondering whether or not to buy that 70000 gold-piece mithril chainmail, or save up for the 120000 gp adamantine version. And that’s just the inflationary beginning.
The game is also fairly non-linear. You almost always have a choice of several quests available, so if one is giving you trouble, you can leave it until you’re stronger. You can add mercenaries to your party at the Inn, but their availability isn’t consistent, so party numbers also affect which quest you choose next. Sadly, there’s no indication of the difficulty of a given quest until you actually attempt it. There are occasions when you spend a lot of time exploring only to find an insurmountable obstacle. Reload time. Rage of Mages II is a lot of fun for a little while, but all the niggling annoyances start to pile up over time, and the gameplay isn’t compelling enough to overcome them in the long run.
System Requirements: Pentium 100 Mhz, 16 MB RAM, Windows 95