I’ve been playing for a few days now. So far so fun. The strategic map and UI still feel bare (I’m looking forward to the promised features), but they’ve done great work with the tactical battles. So absorbing and so deceptively complex. I love how diversifying your mercs (tanks, axemen, archers, spearmen, bludgeoners) and having them play their roles becomes a tactical necessity. And I also love the mini-RPG elements as well as how specializing and kitting out your dudes involves so many separate tradeoffs – speed vs. armor, offense vs. defense, quality vs. frugality. The fatigue system is ingenious, a great way to make you pay attention to the tempo of battle (beware of tiring your troops out right before the climactic action). And there’s enough variety in the tactical maps to keep things interesting. I was just perfecting my flat ground, battle line tactics when I found my dudes scattered in a barely navigable swamp, surrounded on all sides by Beserker Orcs. (Everyone, sadly, died).
That brings me to my only real problem so far. As a number of people have mentioned, the game is pretty difficult and even a little capricious right now. And the enemy descriptions (puny, weak, average, strong) are pretty inexact. For example, a “puny” group of werewolves can chew through a low level, twelve man squad without breaking a sweat. And “average” seems to encompass everything from a cakewalk over a handful of bandits to that swamp Orc murder trap I described above. The game’s a little like Mount and Blade not just in the design, but in the fact that geography determines difficulty to some extent. You learn the hard way the areas of the map you need to stay away from until you’ve built up your band a little more. Early on, it’s unwise to stray anywhere outside the well-guarded main roads, particularly at night. I do like the decision to err on the difficult side overall though. As the devs repeatedly warn, casualties are not just possible, they’re inevitable. I have found myself affected by the endless character deaths, fretting over my old favorites, not wanting to get too connected to new guys until they’d survived a few battles. Very funny.
I have to disagree a little with a few earlier posters about the art style. (Personal taste here, of course). Yes, it’s a little hard to root for soldiers who look like Toby mugs, but I really admire how much information and variety there is in the character art. I love how you can tell visually what kind of condition a given combatant is in. I also like how personality traits register visually – that bloodthirsty farmhand actually looks bloodthirsty, etc.
Thumbs up here. I’m impressed with what they’ve done, by the innovations and the shrewd borrowings from other games. I’ve got a feeling that if this stays on track, it’s going to turn into one of my favorites.