Slitherine and Owned By Gravity’s excellent turn-based tactical combat game Fantasy General II gets its most intriguing DLC yet in Evolution, scheduled to release tomorrow on 25 February. I’ve had my scaly claws on it for a couple of weeks and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second of the delicious bloodbath that is the Lizardfolk campaign.
Up front: Evolution brings an all-new campaign featuring over 20 missions, a new Lizardfolk hero for this DLC and an alternate hunter version of Falirson for the main campaign, and an entirely new campaign map called the Archipelago. It also brings new items, unit types, and enemies.
Background: Fantasy General II is a modern re-imagining of the classic tactical combat game. And, if you ask me, it’s the best of both worlds. There’s no mistaking the tabletop wargaming vibe when you play FGII, you can practically hear the dice rolling as you attack your enemies. The game stays true to its simple-to-learn-but-hard-to-master roots while simultaneously embracing what’s good about the modern era; 3D animated graphics, music, and computer-resolved rules just to name a few.
If you like chess, or tactics-based map explorers such as Panzer Corps 2 or X-COM, but you’d prefer a more fantasy-themed experience featuring monsters and magic, this is the game for you.
Verdict: The Lizardfolk play quite differently than the Barbarians from the main campaign or the Empire from the Aflame DLC. Where those felt like more traditional player-controlled factions, the Lizardfolk almost feel villain-esque.
Firstly, the Lizardfolk eat their enemies to sustain themselves and earn special evolution points and liquid mana that allow them to level up or evolve, hence the name of the DLC. And secondly, while the group you play as are outcasts, they’re not so much on a quest to right some wrong or bring justice as they are just perpetually hungry. It’s a nice change of pace for a campaign to expect me to make moral decisions based on how hungry I am.
What’s most interesting about the Lizardfolk is that they spit in the face of everything FGII‘s stood for up to their inclusion. Those of us who’ve spent dozens of hours in the previous campaigns building and safeguarding our massive, experienced veteran armies will find it counterintuitive to just pump out units to use as cannon fodder. Losing a precious unit in the main campaign is a tough blow to come back from. In Evolution, sacrificing troops by the dozen is a legitimate strategy.
This is because the Lizardfolk produce liquid mana, a rare resource used to upgrade Lizard heroes and elite units, when they die. Hypothetically, you could turn your army into a liquid mana farm and just keep throwing lizards at all your problems until you’ve built up enough liquid mana to spawn entire armies of elite units.
Playing as the Lizardfolk is a perfectly viable entry point for new players who manage to pick up the base game and the new DLC (you don’t need to know anything about the previous DLCs to enjoy this one). But I think veteran players looking for a fresh challenge will get the most out of this add-on.
There’s a lot to love here and, honestly, I can’t find a single thing the DLC brings in that makes anything worse. I dig the all the new artwork and the writing is fantastic. FGIIEvolution has a great storyline that stays true to the game’s minimalist formula. If you’re like me, you want just enough story to give your battles some nice context, but at the end of the day you’re playing a game not reading a novel. FGII excels at walking the line between narrative and gameplay.
The only complaint I can imagine players having – and it’s not one I share – is that the Lizardfolk feel extremely underpowered unless you commit to an ambush/cannonfodder strategy early on. Individual units, even elite ones, are unlikely to turn the battle on their own and that means you’ll have to pay extra attention to terrain and other tiny details before you execute your strategy. But, arguably, that’s what makes a turn-based tactics game fun: the challenge is in the details.
Fantasy General II: Evolution will be available on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox on 25 February, you can learn more and order your copy here.