1 October 2014

PC Game Review: Strength And Honour 2

How close does Strength and Honour 2 come to beating Rome: Total War?

Published on 12 JAN 2010 12:40pm by Scott Parrino
  1. great civilizations / ancients, turn-based, real-time, strategic, online or multi-player, single-player, trading and commerce, empire building, europe, asia

Strength & Honour 2 review (version 1.08)

Strength & Honour 1 (background)

 Author:  Pascal Giovaninni

Strength & Honour was first released in 2004. It had a turn-based strategy similar to the one you can find in Rome: Total War. The gameís big difference was the important use of individuals at all levels (armies and cities) whose characteristics changed over time (ambition, loyalty etcÖ). The game had a whooping 112 cities/ provinces making it probably the most detailed map of the ancient world ever released in any game. You can find almost every settlement of that time. This was a great feature but the downside is that it is unlikely that many people ever finished a campaign as it could take months to complete. The other major challenge was to manage a balanced economy, which was extremely difficult as the game had a very complex management system, and your populationís migrations.  Iíve seen many AI empires surrender due to bankruptcy (this is fortunately not a problem in Strength & Honour 2). I have myself not finished a full campaign of the original Strength & Honour, though I am a good way into it with the Maurya Empire.

Introduction

Did you ever dream of surpassing the conquests of Alexander the Great, conquering China by leading the Huns/Mongols, or recreate the Roman Empire? Now all of this is possible in Strength & Honour 2. The game places the player at the head of one of the multiple Kingdoms that existed in 232 BC. Strength & Honour 2 has a turn-based strategic campaign (called World Mode and Palace Mode) and a real-time tactical mode (called Battle Mode). The map extends from Europe to China and is therefore the largest game map covering the Ancient World.

 

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The Spartan Hoplites are ready for the battle.

 

1. Installation & Technical Issues

The installation of Strength & Honour 2 went without problems. As with the previous games by Magitech, the game runs without the DVD in the drive and has an autosave function. Some people report some display problems (see requirements), so it may be recommended to try the demo or the video compatibility test program.

2. Interface / Music/ Graphics

Now, if you are looking for Rome: Total War 2, this is not the game youíre looking for, at least from a graphical point of view. For instance, the world map isnít nearly as attractive or detailed as Total Warís. It seems that the main problem is that, contrary to the maps in Takeda 3 and Sango 2 (the two previous games by Magitech), the map wasnít intended to be zoomed in so much. The result is a fuzzy map which is not so pleasant to look at. The animations in battles have been worked on with lots of care but the graphic engine is not the newest either. This shows especially when you zoom in very closely. Still, when zoomed out, watching armies facing each other can be quiet impressive as there are a lot of units and the battlefields have been created with a lot of care.

Otherwise the interface is largely unchanged from the previous game Takeda 3 but the Palace Mode has some new screens for the new features (political parties and national info). Diplomatic actions and the management of personnel are done in the Palace Mode where you will spend a lot of time analysing your relations, the trade routes or position of the enemy armies. The use of drag and drop is very common in the game (selecting the picture of a character and drop it in another slot) and makes the management fairly easy. However, with the addition of new aspects like happiness, trade or finance, I miss a more detailed overview of all my cities than the one I can find on the governorís page in the Palace Mode. Some direct links would have been nice too (for example going from the Palace Mode to a specific city or the option to choose a governor in the city panel). These options were available in the first game though, so they may be added later on. This is however not a major problem as all information can be accessed from either the World Mode or the Palace Mode but a more ergonomic interface would have made it easier.

Clicking on a city in the World Mode brings up screens of information. Players can manage the infrastructures of their cities, build armies, recruit mercenaries or check the happiness of their citizens via the city view of their cities. This is also the Mode where you will move your armies.

As usual with Magitechís games, a lot of care has been put also in the drawings and the artwork, showing a lot of attention to details and historical accuracy. A very large number of portraits are in the game (donít fall in love with these extremely lovely ladies).

The tactical gameís interface is very similar to the one of the previous games. Special abilities for some individuals and the formations/orders of your divisions are controlled in a series of buttons at the top right corner of the screen. You can select units and move them with a right-click as in most games.  

If you have played Sango 2 and Takeda 3, you will recognise some of the music. They picked the best music from these games and added some new, very epic scores. The music of Strength & Honour 2 is absolutely great and gives the right mood to such a game.

Finally, the option to record battles which can then be viewed again from the main menu is a nice touch. This allows you to record your most epic sieges and also see the mistakes you have made.

Generally, you have access to all the information you need to play and, while not perfect, the interface is logical and easy to use.

3. World Mode

The players view their territories which are presented with a correct, though lifeless, topography of the world from Spain to China. Each turn represents a month. You manage the cities of your kingdom/empire and add new infrastructures as soon as youíve got enough money. The number of cities has been reduced to 48 in order to allow reasonable campaigns. While I would have enjoyed a larger number of cities, the decision makes sense and allows reasonable campaigns. The cities are represented by nicely done miniatures.

You can access the info screens of the cities from the World Mode. Each city has a different amount of buildings slots. The Huns have cities with the least number of slots but compensate by being difficult to reach and being able to have armies with a large number of horse divisions. The more buildings you have, the more expensive the new buildings will be, so you have to think carefully before buying the first buildings.  The basic buildings are farms, barracks, schools, stables, markets, libraries and court houses. Some special buildings/wonders, like the Oracle in Sparta or the Great Temple in Seleucia, have a fixed cost but are often already available at the beginning of the game.

Every city is unique but there are some very special cities in the game where the wonders can exist and are therefore of strategic importance: Sparta with the Oracle, Seleucia with the Great Temple and the Hanging Gardens, Alexandria with the Great Library and the Great Pyramid, Xianyang with the Great Wall and Rome with the Senate. Each of these wonders have a great impact and are extremely valuable. This is nice addition.

Now, if you decide to focus on warfare, you will want to build barracks, stables, and farms (to supply your armies). If you want to focus on peace, you will want to build schools, libraries, and court houses. The miniatures representing the cities show their culture (Greco-Roman, Persian etc.). Schools gradually change the culture of cities and once the culture has changed significantly, the miniature will change to reflect it - which is a feature I really enjoyed. Do you want to change all the conquered nations to your own culture or use the special abilities of the other cultures to get a variety of armies? The choice is yours.

An important aspect you will have to take into consideration is the happiness of your population. Building too many barracks, farms, and markets will make them unhappy and they may start to riot. On the other hand, schools, libraries, and court houses will make them happy. Other aspects come into play like taxes, trade goods, or whether the city is self-governing. An interesting aspect is that populations are xenophobic...a Greco-Roman city will be unhappy if the governor you chose is Egyptian for instance. I donít think Iíve seen this in another game.

Some cities have a huge valor as they can host a large number of troops and therefore allow you to create large armies. The different infrastructures of the cities are displayed on the main strategy map and they can also be raided by armies.

Strength & Honour 2 has a huge strategic map and as your campaign progresses, youíll have to transfer good generals to cities on the borders of your empire. As the units are bonded to their home cities, they will suffer as distance increases from their home: their morale will fall and the farther an army will get the more difficult it will be to supply it. This is actually one of the most interesting aspects of the game, as you will face the same problems as Alexander. My Greek army (Spartan) is having a lot of trouble reaching the Hindu Kush and I have to recruit armies on the way to support my main army (which is lead by my King). As soon as India is mine, Iíll have to recruit new armies, most likely from Bactria or Taxila. The problem is that these armies will be less experienced and will have a very difficult time against the troops of the Huns or the largest Chinese faction.

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The Seleucid Empire is caught between the Spartans and the Mauryas.

After a battle, your armyís loses will be replaced from the home city. However this will only happen as long as the supply line is unbroken and the speed the reinforcements will reach their army will depend on the distance.

When you create an army, you will have to chose a marshal for your army and also the officers (with their specific abilities) leading the divisions of the army. Experienced division leaders can turn a defeat into a victory so itís very important to take good care of them. When you create an army, you get to choose between spearmen, swordsmen, archers, and cavalry. Each nation has four types of units which makes a total of 32 types of troops.  There are two additional units, the Spartans (extremely heavy infantry) and the Immortals. Spartans can be only recruited in Sparta while the Immortals will be recruited in Seleucia (Babylon). A unit which is missing are the Elephants. Unfortunately, due to their financial situation and the size of the team, Magitech were not able to include them in the game. This is a regrettable decision as Elephants were used a lot by the Carthaginians and the Mauryas. This is however not game breaking as battles are challenging and having units of trained Spartans defeat a large number of enemies is really an epic experience which compensates for the lack of elephants.

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THIS IS...SPARTA!

A new feature allows you to buy mercenaries or supplies by selecting the merchant in the city panel. This allows merchant cities or civilizations that focus on trade to have decent troops when needed instead of having to slowly recruit them themselves. This option expands the ways a player can achieve victory by allowing him not to focus heavily on military buildings/strategy.

The strategic game in Strength & Honour 2, despite its drab graphics, is extremely well done. It is not only well constructed and highly effective, but also a major challenge. As the map is huge and the AI empires challenging, you will spend a very long time on a single campaign (if you survive long enough that is). Infrastructure investment, army building, trade of special items, good care of your characters, and diplomacy all play a large part in determining a playerís success.

As your Empire grows, you may decide to give control over certain cities to your governors and they will take care of their city and send armies to defend or attack enemy armies/cities. This is an excellent way to reduce the micromanagement.

Finally, some nice touches have been added showing the care for details. For example, armies crossing deserts will often be hit by sandstorms thus slowing them down.