Onslaught brings the means to conquer the skies, and a campaign that mostly takes place on land.
Type: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Developer: Owned by Gravity
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.
Release date: 12 Mar, 2020
Review of Base Game
The first DLC for Fantasy General II, Onslaught, brings two very different things that are not closely connected. 13 new flying units are introduced, which brings the means for both the Barbarians and Empire to duke it out in the skies, with many of the new units being significantly more powerful than anything they had access to previously
The other component is a brand new campaign that’s very different from what was in the core game. Instead of a series of pre-made levels that are set in a somewhat linear fashion, with some branching paths along the way, the new campaign has randomly generated levels, and paths that branch out more.
The new units
13 new units in total is really nothing to sneeze at. These work like most units in the core game, in that you have a “base” unit and then you upgrade them through branching paths, and these are similar, but not identical, between the two sides. The barbarians use eagles, which have three different main branches, one of which acts as aerial skirmishers, the other are magical beasts, and the third are bombers. The bombers give up their ability to attack other flying units, but don’t receive any retaliation damage and they’re siege units (so fortifications don’t give any protection). In the bomber branch, you’ve also got the only ranged flying unit for the barbarians. On the empire side, with their pegasus riders, things are similar, but not identical. Their bombers are not siege units, but that can instead be found on a melee unit, and their ranged unit also deals magical damage. These are just some of the differences, but in general you find units that fill similar roles on both sides.
The inclusion of these flying units really shake things up. Where previously flying units (barring the dragons) were mostly just a threat to weaker or very damaged units, now even strong units at full health need to watch out, and units that retreat in order to rest and regain their health are at a far greater risk of getting picked off than they were before.
The new campaign
The onslaught campaign takes place some time after that of the main game, and follows one out of three possible characters, Falirson who’s the strongest fighter, Ailsa the Blind who’s a mage and who can see the entire map from the start, and Relkar of Misneach, who leads a band of mercenaries and thus gets a discount on hiring mercenaries, but can’t hire new permanent troops. Which hero you pick won’t change the overarching story much, although each one has some unique dialogue, as well as different units they can recruit.
Your chosen hero finds themselves having strange dreams. Something is calling them, and that prompts them to set out on a journey, bringing a small band of soldiers along with them. They quickly find a very chatty book, who claims to have once served under Krell, the canonical hero of the first game.
You usually have 2-4 different levels to choose from at any given time, and some of these results in branching paths, while others will lead you down the same route. Different levels also usually have different rewards, some might give you more gold, others more units or artifacts and so on, and you’re usually told beforehand what kind of reward you’ll get for beating a level, even if the game won’t tell you exactly what that reward will be.
The levels are also randomly generated this time around, and the results are usually very good. While a skilled level designer can design something better, the levels were not far from what a human would make. The main drawbacks with the randomly generated levels is that there are no story segments during the levels, only between them, and the level objectives tend to be a bit simpler.
Between the 3 different characters, the branching paths and the randomly generated levels, there’s a lot of replay value here, and that’s a good thing, as the campaign is designed with what they call “Iron maiden mode” in mind. This is a mode where you only have one save file, and if your main character dies, you have to start over. You can turn this off if you don’t want to play with perma-death, but this is the mode the game seems to be balanced around. This is quite the departure from the main game, where save-scumming was not only possible, but it even seemed encouraged, as losses were costly and the enemy could have a large force hidden somewhere. In the DLC losses are more manageable, and the enemy usually has fewer troops to begin with.
Fantasy General II: Onslaught is an excellent expansion to an already very good game. Some people might not like the fact that the levels in the campaign are randomly generated, but personally I thought this bit was handled very well. For this review, I mainly played in iron maiden mode, and despite failing 3 times before I finally reached the end of the campaign, things did not start to feel repetitive. It is a bit weird how little the new flying units feature in the campaign though. They’re there, but they’re never given any special status, and I’m glad that the developers chose to just treat them like any other unit for the campaign.
The new units are also fun to play with, although it felt like they were, at the time of writing, a bit too strong, at least against the AI. The AI does not really know how to deal with stronger flying units, unless it has strong flying units of its own, and in skirmish you can make short work of any AI opponent by spamming flying units.