I finally picked up Kohan 2 after playing through the demo a bit and deciding that while the game is really “almost Kohan”, it’s still fairly fun and at LEAST has a sizable SP campaign (I’m looking at you, Dawn of War, and your 11 short-ass missions). Funny, that, because I never played the campaign in KAG (KIS’ dry campaign was enough for me) – I was strictly MP.
So I put about five hours into it over the past two days – beat the first three campaign maps and watched its WC3-inspired talking heads yammer their forgettable lines, and then jumped into a pair of multiplayer games. I whooped up on some Kohan newb, and then got steamrolled by a pair of pros in a 2v2 game.
It’s fun, but I’m really, REALLY starting to loathe the interface. It has none of the elegance or game-specific functionality of the original Kohan interface, which would work just as well and most likely BETTER than this painfully awkward take on the bog-standard RTS interface.
Let’s face it: just because people have been using it since CnC doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for every RTS, especially ones like Kohan that purport to rethink the conventions of the genre. The WBC series has rethought this interface with great results, to the point that hotkeys are no longer a necessity. (Requiring the use of hotkeys is pretty much a tacit admission that your interface has serious long-term usability issues.) Hell, I’d argue that this interface style, with its right Clump O’ Buttons ™, intrusive map, and ridiculously large unit stats display, is simply cumbersome and archaic. Most pr players rely entirely on hotkeys, so why take up valuable screen real estate with it? Kohan 2’s is uglier and more obtrusive than most, made tenable ONLY by the fact that most of the non-building hotkeys are the same as they were in KAG.
The whole K2 interface experience is RoN, Awkward Edition. The unit build buttons are ugly, pixellated messes, and it’s hard to discern which unit graphic is which without waiting for the tooltip to pop up. The right hand panel becomes a contextual mess after one level when building, and it’s difficult to quickly tell what can/can’t be built at a glance. The message to me, the player, is thus: “use the hotkeys, jerk!” Why Timegate went from the unobtrusive, perfectly tailored interface of the original to this clumsy beast is beyond me. Having now memorized every hot key I need for a Royalist Human build, I’d love the ability to simply turn it off and scale the map down to a smaller and less offensive size/layout.
There seems to have been a very concerted effort at Timegate to mimic the presentation aspects of WC3, which is kinda disturbing. The opening menu, the talking polyheads, the Clump O’ Buttons interface – it’s all superficially WC3, and it’s not good, because it lacks a lot of what REALLY made WC3’s interface work. It’s even odder given that the traditional RTS interface (big status screen, cluster of unit-specific buttons) works much better for micro intensive games that require manual spellcasting and individual unit maintenance, but seems pointlessly intrusive and ugly in a more macro-oriented game like Kohan (and even RoN).
Again, I’ll repeat it: there’s a fun game in there. I still loathe the “settlement spot” idea, since it’s obviously a concession to the game’s 3D engine, and I miss the deep terrain game of KAG enormously – ambushes with archers/goats from dense forest/jungle was part of tactical game and worked well against econ monsters like EviLore and Hitokage from GA. However, I do like the town sieges and the unit diversity of KoW, and the campaign is more interesting than the one in KIS, even though, as Geryk and Chick have remarked, Kohan seems like a game much better suited for a WBC2- or RoN-style dynamic campaign than a Warcraft-style romp through Fantasy Clicheland.
At any rate, it would be nice to see competent and creative developers like Timegate stand behind interfaces that are specifically tailored to the mechanics of the games they create, rather than opting for a inferior and wholly inappropriate “more familiar” style. I’m sure that the Timegate folks will insist that this was a nuanced decision and that the interface perfectly meshes with their vision for the game, but I ain’t buying: the results speak for themselves.