24 October 2014

PC Game Review: Sango 2

Find out what makes Sango 2 such a "brilliant and detailed game" set after the fall of the Han Dynasty.

Published on 23 JUL 2009 10:14am by Scott Parrino
  1. great civilizations / ancients, ground combat, strategic, tactical, empire building, asia

Sango 2 review (version 1.6)

Introduction

A couple of months ago I wrote a review on Takeda 3. Today I am writing a review on Sango 2, the previous game by Magitech released in 2008 (but just now on gamersgate), and I will focus specially on the differences between the two games as they are based on the same engine (please read Takeda 3’s review for more details on the gameplay. Sango 2 centers on China during the Sango period (184-280), a period of intricacies, wars, and treasons. Your task is to unify China and establish a new dynasty after the fall of the Han’s. In Sango 2, you take command of one of the leading Empires/Provinces of the period (number vary depending on the starting period). As in Takeda 3, you will be engaging in diplomacy, managing your cities and commanding your armies in combat (if so you wish). There are 3 time periods to choose from: 194 (the last days of the Han Dynasty), 201 (the rise of Cao Cao) or 210 (creation of the Three Kingdoms).

Click for full image

Historical Background

So what does Sango mean? It comes from the Chinese language and means the Three Kingdoms Period. This period has been romanced in the book Romance of the Three Kingdoms which is hugely popular in China and apparently the second most read book after the bible. The game is heavily influenced by the book and contains magical aspects as described in it (see the chapter “Your officers”).

What happened to the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AC)? The Han Dynasty had 19 emperors and brought a lot of progress into the life of Chinese people (paper, laws, the magnetic compass, various medical breakthroughs, the first seismometer and more). Three events however led to the end of the Han Dynasty. The revolt of the Yellow Turban (184 AC) was the result of the unhappiness of the population due to the corruption and inefficiency of the administration of the court. Then came the rise of Dong Zhou (189 AC) who attacked the capital to stop the power and intricacies of the corrupted Eunuchs (10) who actually ruled the country in place of the Emperor. However, after taking control of Luoyang (the capital city), he became himself a ruthless dictator. The result was a revolt of the nobles (190 AC) led by Yuan Chao in order to re-establish the Han Dynasty and they created a confederacy. They managed to defeat the Dong Zhou various times, forcing him to withdraw. The war ended with the murder of Dong Zhou by his adoptive son, Lu Bu. The final result was however that each member of the Confederacy ended up taking what he could and China was more than ever divided in many states. The generals of Dong Zhou on the other side, kidnapped the Emperor Xian who still managed to send a message to Cao Cao, the initiator of the Confederacy, asking him to come to his aid. Cao Cao rescued him but at the same time made him a prisoner and took control of the court and what was left from the Empire (Kingdom of Wei). The wars were far from over…

What are those Three Kingdoms you mention? The Three Kingdoms were founded by the main characters of the period: Cao Cao (155-220), Liu Bei (161-223, main hero of the Romance of the 3 Kingdoms) and Sun Quan (182-223). These Kingdoms were Wei (Cao Cao), Shu (Liu Bei) and Wu (Sun Quan) and were, at different periods, at war or allied with one another. You may choose other factions/empire for your campaign.

As you can see, the period is very complicated…so it’s your task to put some order and reunite China!

Gameplay

As in Takeda 3 there are two games in Sango 2: a turn-based strategic campaign (called World Mode) and a real-time tactical mode (called Battle Mode). The turn-based map is a detailed 2D map of China. The player views his territories which are presented with a correct topography of the territory of China. There are a total 28 cities (Takeda 3 has 37 castles) in the game. Each turn represents a month and you manage the cities of your provinces. It’s very important to continually upgrade your cities with infrastructures. There are 8 different types of upgrades for your cities (barracks, armory, library, farm, inn, lumbermill, market and stable) and contrary to Takeda 3, they may be built in every city. Some infrastructures, like the watch towers, have to be researched before being available. The different infrastructures of the cities are displayed on the main strategy map and can be raided by armies. A good balance between infrastructure investment, army building, trade of special items, good care of your characters and diplomacy all play a large part in determining a player’s success.

At the beginning of a battle, you can choose among many formations and placements for your troops (defensive, offensive, strike, etc). A big difference with Takeda 3, is the fact cities are defended by high walls. Each infantry division will have ladders which they will put on the walls, unless you attack directly a city gate, and your soldiers will try to climb the ladders and take control of the walls. The ultimate goal of a battle is to break the enemies’ troop’s morale. At the end of the battle, you are shown your results and you can reward your best generals, thus boosting their experience.

Your Officers

As in Takeda 3, taking care of your valuable generals and governors is one of the most  important aspects of the game. Here comes however the first biggest difference to Takeda 3. In Sango 2, various characters (as described in Romance of the Three Kingdoms) are gifted with special abilities, whose radius varies, which are crucial to win battles: Wind (changes wind direction and strength), Fire (enables friendly units to set trees on fire), Morale (raises morale of nearby friendly units), Fear (decreases morale of nearby enemy units), False Command (forces a targeted enemy division to regroup and stops them from receiving new orders), Lure (forces an enemy division to follow you), Heal (raises the health of nearby friendly units), Paralyze (stops nearby enemy division from receiving new orders and makes it Hold in its current position). The ones I use the most are False Command and Paralyse as they allow me to concentrate my attacks on fewer enemies. Fire can be very useful too but if there are no woods on the battlefield it’s fairly useless. Finally, Heal is a welcome addition in between two fights during the same battle. I am not saying that the other abilities are useless, far from it, but they just don’t fit my style of game play, that’s all. Once used, the abilities will take some time before they can used again. The generals with special abilities have a round icon on their portrait: a full blue circle means that they can use their special orders while an empty circle means that it’s refilling. The speed of refill depends on the experience of the characters but I would guess that you can use them 3-4 times per character/battle. All in all, those abilities make the battles a lot more dynamic and maybe more exciting than in Takeda 3 (which is more realistic). Your characters become hugely valuable and you’ll make sure not to lose one of your key general. With time, you best generals will become even stronger and you won’t be able to win without them (you’ll actually almost feel naked when you fight without them!). You will also be able to give them special items you can find or buy which give them more powers. You will take more time placing your generals before the beginning of a battle then in Takeda 3. Good timing during a battle will be vital for success.

Click for full image

Research

The second biggest difference with Takeda 3 is the fact that in Sango 2 you can invest in research. You will have to choose between three different tech-trees with six upgrades each: Sky, Earth or People (see below for details). Once you have selected a tech-tree, you will be bound to it for the entire campaign so take your time before making a decision. The choices you make will affect greatly the way you rule your empire and conquer new territories. Depending on the way you play, you may select one of the following 3 tech-trees with the following available technologies.

Sky

Watch Towers (add up to one thousand garrison of Light Infantry Units when a castle is being attacked); Foreign Policy (2000 Cavalry in your capital); Conscription (increases Heavy Infantry recruitment by 50%); Soldier Farmers (improves Farm Production by 50 and each farm can increase Max Units in all types by 100); City Commerce (increases the maximum supply and maximum unit capacities of your cities); Prisoner Soldiers (allows you to convert enemy deserters and add new Light Infantry units when you win battles)

Earth

Supply Wagon (decreases the army supply consumption by 20); Fix Mountain Roads (your armies in World Mode will be able to walk farther); Automatic Bows (the archers will take 30% less time to load their bows); Steel Making (increases the combat skills of your men by 10); Siege Ladders (siege ladders cannot be pushed down); Boiling Oil (when defending a castle, the enemy units on ladders will fall along with the ladders).

People

Battle Formation (your army will be able to use the Morale Drum 3 more times than before); Seven Star Temple (the ruler gains the Wind Caller ability and can change the wind’s direction in battle); Fog Casting (this allows you to cast a fog before a battle begins); Stone Army (gives your ruler the ability to confuse and delay the enemy army); Longevity (the ruler will not die from old age); Battle Healing (the ruler can fully heal his/her army once per battle).

Each technology requires a certain amount of technology points (between two and six). You get an average of one point for each year so it will take many years until you’ve researched everything and you may decide to wait for some specific technology instead of going for the cheapest ones. Finally, building libraries in your cities will speed up the ongoing research.

Installation / Technical Issues / Documentation

The installation of Sango 2 went without any problems on my computer. As for each game by Magitech, the game runs without DVD and the autosave function works well. However, some people seem to have some display issues so it is recommend to try the demo first (unless you already run Takeda 3 without problems).

The documentation that comes with Sango 2 comes as a PDF and is very similar to the one from Takeda 3, the manual spans 62 pages. The manual addresses almost all aspects of the game and once in the game, every screen is explained again through some well done help pages (F1).  

Interface / Music / Graphics

The interface is almost identical to the one in Takeda 3. Clicking on a city brings up screens of information. Players can manage/build their infrastructures via the city view of their cities and build armies. A lot of information can be displayed on the main map (treaties, supply lines etc). Diplomatic actions and the management of personnel have to be done through the Palace Mode where you will spend a lot of time.

Click for full imageClick for full image

The music of Sango 2 is really great and varied. It gives a nice Chinese touch to the game. In my opinion, it’s probably the best music in all games by Magitech and could very well be used in a bigger production. The music has been mostly composed by Jade Hong.

The quality of the graphics of Sango 2 is on par to the ones in Takeda 3 and the artwork has a very distinctive Chinese touch. They may not be the most impressive but again, a lot of care has been put into the drawings and the artwork, showing a lot of attention to details and historical accuracy.

AI / Graphics

While I tested Takeda 3 on the hardest difficulty, I decided, for the sake of the review, to launch Sango 2 on the easiest of the three available levels with the biggest faction (Cao Cao in 194 A.C has five cities). I had previously made two attempts with Liu Bei (also in 194 A.C. but with only two cities) on hard and on normal but lost both times fairly quickly. Sango 2 seems to be more difficult then Takeda 3 and even on easy, I found the AI to be fairly aggressive already. On the tactical level, the enemy AI shows the same qualities as in Takeda 3 and I did lose a couple of battles despite my long experience with this specific battle engine (Sang The Fall of the Han Dynasty).

Click for full imageClick for full image

Replay Value

The campaign game allows the player to select one of numerous clans, the biggest difference being the court members, the starting position and the number of cities controlled. Sango 2 provides a long and enjoyable gaming experience. The ability to play so many factions, the numerous research options, the dynamic nature of the battle engine and the big strategic options give Sango 2 a very good replay value. As for Takeda 3, the game will remain on my computer for a long time.

Click for full image

Summary

Sango 2 is a brilliant and very detailed game. It drags the player into the battle for supremacy after the fall of the Han dynasty. The AI is very challenging. The music and the Artwork are very well done. Sango 2 should please those who enjoyed Takeda 3 as well as true wargamers who would like to take a unique look at this period (as far as I know, it’s the only game covering that period that combines a turn-based strategy map and a battle engine). Those who love Chinese history will love it.  The information on the historical characters in the game is very interesting and gives a glimpse into a part of history too often neglected in the Western World. Along with Takeda 3, Sango 2 is one of the finest historical turn-based strategy games available. Highly recommended!

System Requirements

Minimum Specs
• 100% OpenGL 1.3 compatible 64MB video card
• 2.0 GHz Intel Pentium processor or equivalent
• Microsoft Windows XP with SP2
• 512 MB of RAM
• 3.0 GB uncompressed disk space (+ 200 MB for Windows system file)
• CD-ROM and drivers
• Windows compatible mouse, keyboard and drivers
• DirectX 8.1 compatible 16 bit sound card and drivers

Reviewer's Specs
 • 1.7 GHz Pentium IV
 • 2,25  GB RAM
 • NVidia GeForce 4 Ti4600 128 MB
 • Windows XP with SP2
 • AMD Sempron (tm) Processor 3000+

About the Author

Pascal Giovannini has been playing board games since 1985 and computer wargames since 1993. His first games were Master of Orion, Fields of Glory, Caesar II, Lords of the Realm 2 and Civil War: Robert E. Lee. He has played other games by Magitech: S&H, Sango 1, Takeda 2 and Takeda 3.

Recommended Reading