Released in September by not too long ago based developer Owned by Gravity, Fantasy General II is equal components sequel and homage to the unique 1996 game from the since defunct Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI). It’s a distinctive, narrative-driven modern spin on the turn-based strategy game style, the place each selection you make has consequential knock-on results all through the rest of the game’s marketing campaign.

Much like its predecessor, Fantasy General II is a hex-based game in a fantasy setting. This time round, you play because the Viking Falirson, on a mission to unite — by pressure, if vital — the varied tribes and assault an assertive, distant Empire. It improves upon the traditional conflict game expertise from Fantasy General, layering it with new mechanics and extra advanced determination making alternatives, however largely staying respectful of the franchise’s profitable roots.

The unique Fantasy General was moderately nicely reviewed in its day, scoring 78% on PC Gamer, however incomes 5 (of 5) stars from Computer Gaming World. In a 1997 interview with GameSpot, SSI claimed Fantasy General (and all of its different Panzer General video games) offered not less than 50,000 copies – not an infinite quantity, even for its day, however nonetheless sizable.

Publisher Slitherine Software supported this venture, largely as a result of it’s an apparent match for their particular portfolio. Slitherine has revealed over 200 strategy and conflict video games throughout PC, console, and cellular platforms alike. Historically, they’re greatest recognized for a few of their early 2000s PC entrants within the style, like Spartan and Legion Arena.

To be taught extra about Fantasy General II and its future, I talked with Owned by Gravity managing director Jan Wagner, whose almost 30-year tenure within the video games trade has spanned every little thing from design to manufacturing, together with involvement on tasks starting from Diablo II and Warcraft III to SpellForce 2 and Gothic 3. In addition to answering my questions concerning the borderline necromancy they carried out to revive the Fantasy General franchise, Wagner additionally opened up about some beforehand unrevealed plans for Fantasy General II’s future.

A very long time in the past …

Fantasy General II: Reviving a strategy game for a modern audience

Above: Get your geese … err, orcs … in a row.

Image Credit: Slitherine

In specific, I needed to know what it was about Fantasy General that drew Wagner and his workforce in – why this long-dormant franchise? What is Fantasy General II, given how distant it’s from the primary Fantasy General?

To reply the straightforward query of what Fantasy General II is, Wagner says they meant it to be a successor to the unique Fantasy General. “When [Fantasy General] hit its 20th anniversary, a bunch of us got together and played it, and it held up well,” says Wagner. “But there were things we imagined would be in the game — narrative, story, etc. — that weren’t there the way we remembered. So we sat down and said, what would a modern version of this look like?”

What that modern model would find yourself changing into, in Wagner’s opinion, is one thing extra accessible, however that takes each component of the unique to the subsequent stage.

I discovered that to be probably the most attention-grabbing factor about our complete dialog — the query of resurrecting the Fantasy General franchise 23 years later stored developing. Wagner’s place on releasing a sequel was attention-grabbing: “I’m of the generation that played the original (Fantasy General), and I find myself increasingly … I wouldn’t say ‘bored’, but there isn’t a word for ‘under-challenged’.” His rivalry, essentially, is that the majority up to date video games don’t present significant challenges for gamers. “You can’t challenge the player above their ability,” Wagner explains. “Games have gotten a little scared of challenging players. I remember those challenges fondly.”

The option to follow-up Fantasy General particularly, although? Almost pure coincidence. “There aren’t a lot of turn-based games around! They have been undervalued for a long time; 3D and real-time made them seem obsolete,” Wagner contends. He additionally goes on to say that turn-based video games have some inherent benefits: “The time it takes me to get into a real-time game and learn everything to be competitive takes a lot of work. Mastery involves a lot of time spent. They challenge me on the keyboard, not in my brain.” For Fantasy General II, particularly, Wagner additionally acknowledges that its turn-based nature permits the narrative to thrive, because the participant isn’t all the time “glued to the immediate action.”

I’ve to confess that I wasn’t aware of the unique Fantasy General or the Five Star sequence previous to Fantasy General II — however Wagner says lots of their gamers got here to them by the use of franchise recognition. “More than we thought,” he says. One of his attention-grabbing beliefs, nonetheless, is that the high quality of the gamers which might be drawn to their video games outweighs the amount. The prolonged hiatus of the franchise additionally helped them, after a trend. “Lots of gamers had the identical problem we did — they fondly remembered, however they didn’t precisely keep in mind,” Wagner says. “If we were the successors to a game from two or three years ago, more direct comparisons would get drawn.” He says the passage of time ‘mellowed’ these recollections, however that engaged gamers have been nonetheless very vocal about retaining sure notable options.

Sticking with the Fantasy General model got here with execs and cons. “We really tried to be true to what we thought the original game was,” Wagner says. “That allowed us to identify core concepts to keep, but also things we specifically wanted to improve.” One of the challenges, nonetheless, was merely scope. “There were over 250 units in Fantasy General, because they were all 2D sprites without intense animation. In 3D, that’s really expensive. We had to cut down,” he says. Overall, although, he appears like they’re left with a nice “recipe” to enhance on.

PC strategy video games in an age of cellular

For gamers like myself who weren’t aware of the sequence, I requested Wagner what he’d examine Fantasy General II to — and who ought to strive enjoying it. “People that like complex games like Civilization, Banner Saga, or Darkest Dungeon,” he says. “It’s a little different because of the perspective, but the main elements — having a challenge, optimizing — are similar.” He acknowledges that the workforce thought they could appeal to an older audience — individuals who knew the unique game, conflict game gamers, and so forth. — however their demographics are trending youthful.

The motive? Mobile avid gamers.

“We have a relatively high number of younger players who came up on mobile games, but are now looking for something that has a little more depth,” Wagner says. “They’re used to the concepts of turn-based games, and they don’t necessarily expect immediate reactions from systems.” His major rivalry is that numerous nice tactical video games exist within the cellular area, and people gamers are changing over time. “I’d never imagined this angle,” he says. “Some people are scaling back from more hardcore games; some are scaling ‘up’ from a mobile background.”

Fantasy General II: Reviving a strategy game for a modern audience

Above: The undead make for good troops.

Image Credit: Slitherine

Distinguishing Fantasy General II from comparable titles was straightforward for Wagner. “One thing that’s really important for us is actions and consequences,” he explains. “A tactical game should have decision after decision. We carry those decisions over into the story, so they’re quite consequential – without necessarily being ‘good’ or ‘evil’. You’re playing as Barbarians raiding villages – that’s not the nicest thing to do, or very heroic, but it’s a part of the culture you’re in!”

The future

After a few classes with the game, considered one of my first takeaway notes was that it felt like it will play nicely on cellular or console. My ever-prescient pocket book didn’t disappoint:

We do have a console version planned,” Wagner confirmed to me. “There are a lot of traditional JRPGs on console that are doing quite well. Players are used to these types of control schemes. The way we present information to you have multiple layers.” Combined with the fight previews and different in-depth info being accessible, however not always offered on-screen, the UI completely appears like it should work superbly on consoles. The Xbox One and Playstation four variations of Fantasy General II are coming in 2020, and can embody the entire content material from the PC game.

Owned by Gravity and writer Slitherine had additionally beforehand introduced plans for extra expansions to Fantasy General II, which I used to be capable of be taught a little extra about. The Fantasy General world had 5 continents, and everything of the bottom game in Fantasy General II takes place on solely considered one of them. Wagner says that past extra environments, in addition they need to diversify their gameplay experiences with extra factions and increasing the storyline. Their first growth, Onslaught, is due out on PC in early 2020, and can introduce aerial items, a procedurally generated marketing campaign system so as to add replayability.

Lastly, the essential query: Given the 23-year hiatus between Fantasy General and Fantasy General II, I requested Wagner if he was keen to decide to Fantasy General III in 2042.

“Yup, yup,” he laughed. “The current DLC count is 22, then we have to go to part three.”