Fantasy Empire is a mix between RPG, turnbased strategy, and small-scale tactical battles where you directly control your warriors/heroes the RTS-way (this can be avoided by seleting "Simulate battles).
The game takes place in the fantasy land of Mystara, where "the dungeon master" (hey - I've heard that one before) has given you a challange (defeat your opponents as usual). Apart from that, the storyline doesn't matter - the "campaign" consists of different maps where you basicly do the same - command & conquer.
The turnbased strategy part is straight foward - you control your Fantasy Empire, build buildings in the kingdoms (regions) you control, create new armies, send heroes on quests, attack other kingdoms, etc. It can be quite confusing in the beginning (if you haven't read the manual), since there's no way to tell what the different buildings do, or why certain things happen. This could have been a serious problem, but is made up for by one of the nicest features in Fantasy Empires: The "tutorial".
Instead of the traditional textboxs popping up and telling you what to do, the old wizard at the top of the screen sometimes opens his mouth. I was shouting at my screen because I couldn't figure out why I kept losing the kingdoms I conquered, and suddenly the old bastard woke up from his snoring (he does that when you've been idle for a little while) and says:
"Build keeps to impose power over your kingdoms - you have lost many warriors because you have not done this...."
Aaah, helpful indeed....
The RPG part of the game is not as important as you would expect, having created your character the same way you do in AdD. All troops can gain exp - though the effect of this is only that they gain a lvl and now are "Veteran troops" (or elite when they gain another level). Your heroes will also improve - with the same result. Futhermore heroes can gain special items on quests, which you don't control - you simply send them away on a quest, and then they either return a couple of turns later, or they die questing. The character that you create at the start of a game gains levels after each completed map in the campaign, which improves your entire empire.
In the tactical part, after you've deployed your army, you control a random unit in the army. You move around the battlefield using the keyboard and battle out until the unit dies - then you gain control of another unit. The fun part here is to control the heroes involved in the battle - you can switch between heroes/units by pressing F1/F10, depending on whether you're the attacker or defender.
The music in the game is of average quality - not Wagner, but it does what it'ssupposed to do. The same goes for the sound effects doing the tactical combat.
The single player part of the game is worth 3,5 of 5 - it is very average, there are very few features that haven't been seen before at that time (93/94), the strategy resembles that of Defender of the Crown, and the RPG-part is very limited. The tactical game-in-the-game isn't very interesting single player, but when you play against your friend (I only have one :D ) in hot-seat mode, the tactical part steps into character - it's great fun killing your friend's lvl 35 hero and watch as his world fall apart.....
So the conclusion is 4/5 to Fantasy Empires for an average single player game and a great multiplayer game if you have the time for it.
Part of the Dungeons & Dragons games Series
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