Seven Kingdoms II (PC)

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Have you ever heard hard-core history nerds start debating which civilizations could have kicked which civilization’s butt? It starts with military technology and tactics but inevitably spills into what someone saw on Deadliest Warrior that one time. This game is the end all be all of which civilizations could have kicked with civilizations’ butt. Complete with war machines certain civs never discovered and playable monstrous races. I’m certain this game will put all those arguments to rest!

History

Seven Kingdoms II was developed by Enlight Software, designed by Trevor Chan, and published by Ubisoft. Trevor Chan was a programming consultant for an airline sales system when he started his game development career with Capitalism and Seven Kingdoms. Chan and Enlight are still making games today, with a new Seven Kingdoms being planned and a new Capitalism game in development right now.

Seven Kingdoms II: The Fryhtan Wars was released on July 31st, 1999. It’s competition was Dungeon Keeper 2 (PC), System Shock 2 (PC), and Croc 2 (PS1).

Experiences

It’s difficult to imagine a world before commercialized sequels. Where sequels were meant to represent the success of a good product instead of an inevitability of the industry. I adored the first Seven Kingdoms when it came out and the idea that there would be another game that was bigger and better blew my mind. The only sequel series I had experienced was through Super Mario All-Stars pack, I didn’t even know that Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros looked that different. In short, I was completely unprepared and surprised by the graphical update between Seven Kingdoms games and the idea that games could be refined and improved for generations to come… yaaaay…

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What is this sequel wizardry!?

Gameplay

Seven Kingdoms II is a real time strategy game in the vein of Ages and Empires. Your goal is to vanquish your enemies via conquest, diplomacy, and/or cloak and dagger spying. To this end you manage resources such as food, gold, people, and reputation — and hoo boy, is reputation important. If you run out of any of those then you’re gonna have your bad time. Human civilizations can also discover new technologies to improve soldier stats, create war machines that take less time to train than soldiers, espionage abilities, and industrial capabilities. Your goal is to be the last kingdom standing, in most circumstances.

The big innovation for this game over the previous installment is that the monstrous Fryhtans are no longer simply marauding creatures, they’re now playable kingdoms or Kwyzans. If all that diplomacy and spying junk didn’t interest you then you can Conan this shit and crush everyone. In ways including but not limited to, sapping natural resources, killing civilians, and enslaving towns — I did mention they were literal monsters right.

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With giant spooky lairs, and bizarre structures the Fryhtans offer a completely different way to play.

Shockingly, the latest editions being offered by Steam and Good Old Games still have functioning multiplayer so it’s totally possible to comp stomp with your friends or go toe to toe with them.

The Gush

The learning curve in this game is pretty steep — it’s not Dwarf Fortress or anything — but the tutorials, hints, and scenario editor give the player enough room to experiment and learn. It takes some time but you’ll get the hang of it.

You can actually deploy your spies now! In the original Seven Kingdoms if you tried to infiltrate an enemy kingdom with spies they’d typically get apprehended and executed before they even took their first step… somehow. Now they’ll get as far as the gates of the enemy fort before there’s even a chance of them being discovered. So have fun bribing and backstabbing your way to victory.

The bizarre Fryhtan tech might seem unwieldy at first but once you learn how it works you can unleash your inner monster. Fryhtans don’t engage in diplomacy they only extort and destroy. Playing them is a total rush.

The Kvetch

The campaign for this game is overall unenjoyable. Every campaign is randomly generated with randomly generated scenarios. You have to face down a bunch of Fryhtan Kwyzans and a rival human empire. The effect of randomness can change things immensely and it makes the campaign feel arbitrary. I just wish my actions could snowball my empire and give me mounting power. It certainly doesn’t help that it’s super freaking hard.

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Some Fryhtan missions can begin and end with getting completely overpowered and crushed.

I don’t know what’s wrong with the Fryhtan pathing but it’s a huge problem. Your monstrous armies will generally meet defeat because half of them were back at the lair picking their nose or just bumping harmlessly into each other.

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These pathing problems are alleviated by ranged attacks but not all Fryhtan species can attack from a distance.

A minor quibble but why do my counterspies dying count against my reputation? It makes sense to be disreputable for infiltrating an enemy kingdom but having some secret police-men keeping an eye out for enemy spies dying in an earthquake should not mar my good name — I mean, I do have 11 assassins ready to kill the enemy’s king but no one needs to know that.

The Verdict

It’s an older game but it was state of the art for 1999 and it’s cheap now. You can get it on Steam or from Good old Games for $10 — GOG even offers a bundle for both Seven Kingdoms games. I started playing this game around 2004 and I’m still playing it today so I would say that it’s worth a look-see if you’re into this sort of thing.

Next Week: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth/Afterbirth.

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