Fantasy General 2: Onslaught Review

Fantasy General II – Invasion is a veritable blast from the past. It’s one of the few sequels to cross the gulf of decades and arrive intact. The quality of the game surprised me, as I never held much love for Panzer General and its’ sequels, imitators and clones. Somehow, transporting those game mechanics into a fantasy world made the game feel both fresh and even possessing verisimilitude. Unsurprisingly, Fantasy General II hits the mark again with the Onslaught DLC.

Unfortunately, the first expansion does not bring a new faction like we all would have wanted… although it is not hard to understand why. Seeing how the real beauty of FGII is in the story campaign – a real, scripted and branching one, not a Risk-like travesty – a new faction would be hard to implement. This isn’t Total War where you can just jam them into the grand campaign and be done! Instead, we get the Onslaught campaign. In it, you take control of one of the three heroes of the main FG II campaign and strike out for the lands of the war-torn Empire, guided by your mysterious dreams.

However, ‘Onslaught’ is closer to a game mode rather than a campaign. It is a series of linked missions on procedurally generated maps. The campaign map will always be the same, but the battlefields will change every time you run it. And if you play on Iron Man, you will have to re-run it time and time again.

In this situation, the procedurally generated maps help. Sure, your mission may often be to simply get across from one end of the map to the other with your hero, but having freshly generated challenges and treasures keeps it entertaining. It also helps that you’ll almost always have at least two different missions to choose from, with a very topline idea of what rewards you’ll get at the end (on top of what you can find and loot along the way).

The hero you choose will only minimally impact the story of the campaign. The real treat is in how they’ll impact the way you fight. Falirson, the Barbarian chieftain protagonist of the main campaign, offers gameplay that is the closest to vanilla FGII experience. You’ll be able to use him as a slightly-magical vanguard and battering ram while also having access to hiring Barbarian units. Be careful with your troops and don’t be careless with their lives.

His sister Alisa the Blind is a shaman and a seer, having traded her sight for a closer connection to nature. Her army will be made up of trolls as well as animals ranging from ravens to bears and spiders. The way animals can get upgraded into higher forms just like your regular troops makes little sense – how do you turn a bear into an owl bear? – but they offer interesting options.

Trolls make up your beefy, reliable bulwark, with each upgrade making them even more deadly. Meanwhile, spiders and their all-terrain ability meshes well with the fact that Alisa already knows the layout of every map. The fog of war will still hide the enemies, but knowing where the ruins, burial grounds and altars are helps to loot the most locations along the way. Odds are, you may get not gold or artefacts, but permanent units!

Relkar comes from the Clan Misneach – the same ones you beat up in the campaign. He has slipped out to follow the dreams without Falirson’s knowledge. Thus he only has a handful of loyal followers. Moreover, he can only hire mercenaries, who don’t stay with you after the mission. The only way to replenish your army is by end-of-mission reward units (and hoping for volunteers instead of treasure), so be careful and let the mercs die for you.

The Onslaught campaign can branch in major ways and take you to wild places. The opponents you face will change constantly. If the stars align, you’ll be able to sit out the battle and let, say, invading lizardmen duke it out with the local barbarians while you slip past. This and the fact that neutral monsters are a hazard to your foes as well as you makes the game very, very fun.

Granted, you’ll still have to be very careful when playing Onslaught on Iron Man. This setting also prevents you from turning on army scaling. Combine the two together and you’ll have an army that takes permanent losses very seriously while the challenge set against you will not take your current forces into account.

Now, the other big thing that the Onslaught DLC introduces is a variety of flying units. Not that they didn’t exist before, but both Barbarians and the Empire get some serious reinforcements. They can be roughly separated into air superiority, ground attack and bomber types. That seems very fitting to a fantasy reimagining of a World War II game! It doesn’t matter if it’s the giant eagles of Barbarians, or the variety of ways the Empire employs pegasi and pegasi-based cavalry, the categories hold. Air superiority-types are probably the best air units to go for in the campaign, as they’ll protect your forces from other unpleasantness, sparing your rare ranged soldiers.

Overall, I’d say that the flying units are a bit underwhelming in effect, even if they are visually impressive and possess generally imaginative designs. Now, as for the campaign, probably the worst thing about it is a magical tome you find who speaks in a very contemporary tongue. This joke – a quirky magic thing using contemporary language in a medieval fantasy setting – is old, bad, and should be put to bed.

Overall, Fantasy General II‘s Onslaught DLC is a good addition to the game. The flying units may be a bit hit-and-miss, but the new game mode that gave DLC the title is a lot of fun. It strikes a good balance between a real campaign and the need for replayability. Now, to get a DLC that makes lizardmen a full player faction but without any anachronistic modern lingo.