REVIEW: Fantasy General II: Evolution

REVIEW: Fantasy General II: Evolution

Claw your way to the top of the food chain

Released: Steam, GOG
Type: Singleplayer, Multiplayer
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Owned by Gravity
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.
Release date: 25 Feb, 2021

Before Slitherine announced that they were releasing a sequel to Fantasy General, did anyone think we would ever get to see another game in this series? The original Fantasy General was a spinoff to Panzer General and while the game was good, it was not one of the really big titles of the 5-star General line of games. And yet here we are, Fantasy General 2 proved to be successful enough for a third expansion to be made.

Fantasy General II: Evolution puts you into the swampy boots of the Lizardfolk. Anyone who played the original game will remember them as those jerks who kept ambushing you in the swamp area and were a royal pain to fight. Well, now you get to do the ambushing.

The different units in the lizardfolk army look very distinct from each other

The Campaign & Story

Fantasy General II is no stranger to experimenting with its campaign structure. Where the core game was mostly linear and encouraged a bit of save-scumming, the first expansion had a roguelite-quality to it with permadeath and randomly generated maps.

Evolution has a campaign more similar to that of the base game than Onslaught, though it’s still trying a few new things. The mid game is far more non-linear than past campaigns and you get to chose which order you’ll tackle the missions in, and which missions you’ll prioritize. Depending on what missions you chose to do, you’ll also get access to different things. For an example beating the crab herder gives you access to giant crabs, which are very handy as they can act as your siege or artillery units.

In Evolution you’re controlling Szzlag, a lizard with great ambitions. Your goal is to become the strongest lizard, leading your tribe to success, and finding the best hunting and breeding grounds. But you’re not the only ambitious lizard in the region. And things turn even more complicated when creatures with homes that floats on water start arriving.

I don’t want to spoil more of the store, not because it’s the greatest story ever but because it’s hard to talk about the anything without ruining a few twists. You’ll simply have to play the game yourself to find out what’s going on. the story itself is better than expected though, and the writing is consistently entertaining. The lizardfolk have different priorities than humans do, and they capture this quite well in the dialogue. And as is the norm with Fantasy General II, the writers did not take things too seriously and they’re willing to have some fun with the writing, particularly in the early game.

The small lizards are absolutely adorable!

The New Faction and Units

The Lizardfolk are of course the star of the show in this expansion. They’re a semi-aquatic (unlike most real-world lizards), and excel at ambushing enemies who dare to enter their domain. As such the lizards excel in the exact opposite terrain as humans do. For humans rivers are a big hindrance and slows down their movement, for the lizards rivers act as roads and allow them to travel faster than on land. The lizards also enjoy swampy terrain and can traverse it without getting slowed down.

Because the campaign is set in an archipelago, this ability to traverse watery terrain does come in very handy. In order to even the odds a bit Evolution also introduces ships, which the humans can use. These purely aquatic units, as you would expect, and most of them have powerful ranged attacks. The ships lack the lizardfolks stealthiness and diversity but make up for that in raw power and durability.

Speaking of the lizardfolk and their diversity, there’s not a lot of new units here. Most of what the lizardfolk have access to were already in the base game. But there’s still a good mix of different unit types. From heavily armoured bone guards to the nimble archers and the monsterous devourers. And unlike with the barbarian or empire factions, upgrading a unit always radically alters how it functions, so there’s a point in not upgrading your units to their maximum tiers even if you have the chance. It would still have been nice with a few more unit types being added, maybe take the archer line in some interesting direction, as that one does not have any further upgrades. And fighting alongside the lizards are the tamed crabs, which don’t have as many different unit types, but manage to feel completely different from the lizards, taking on more of an artillery or siege role (though not both at once).

The upgrade tree for the Lizardfolk. Notice how both the starting units can be upgraded into the same units, you’re basically just choosing if you want your basic units to be melee fighters or skirmishers early on

The lizards make use of a new resource, evolution points, which you get from killing certain powerful foes, like enemy generals. These are used to get some of the more unique units like the Siege crab or the devourers, and also upgrading your main character and giving new abilities to existing units, like being able to walk on land unhindered. Out of all resources this one is the toughest to get for most of the game and so you need to be careful with how you spend it. Would a mighty flying unit serve you better than turning Szzlag into even more of a combat monster?

Liquid mana is another important resource for the lizards, and the easiest way to get it is actually to sacrifice your own creatures. Whenever a friendly creature dies you get some liquid mana. So it’s a perfectly valid strategy to get some cheap tier 1 units and throw them at the enemy, their gold cost is so low that you can afford taking some losses. All of this makes the lizardfolk feel very different to play from their human counterparts. You can still get liquid mana from raiding, so you don’t have to throw your cute newts to the wolves, but it’s an option.

Seagulls are, if anything, even more terrifying in FG2: Evolution than in real life (notice their special ability)

The Other Stuff That Got Added

While the Evolution campaign is the main thing in this DLC, it also adds a few other things. For the main campaign you get a new main character, or well a slightly different variant of Falirson at least. It’s not an overhaul of the original campaign, but it might be a nice thing for anyone wanting to replay it.

There’s also two new heroes added to the onslaught campaign, the Falirson variant from the main campaign and Szzlag. The later was tested for this review, as Szzlag had not yet been implemented in the pre-release build, but it’s supposed to be there at launch.

That’s quite the grand army of lizards

Closing Thoughts

So how is the 3rd expansion for Fantasy General 2? It’s really good. The lizardfolk feel refreshingly different to play and the new campaign is very well made, making this a worthy purchase for anyone who wants more Fantasy General 2. My only real gripe with it is that there’s not a whole lot of new units. Most, if not all, of the lizards were already in the base game as enemies, they’ve just been turned into a standalone faction now, though the new crabs makes up for this a bit. But that’s ultimately a small gripe with what’s otherwise an excellent addition to Fantasy General 2.

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February 2021

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