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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: October 18, 1999
Strategy gaming and the players that make up the genre have been on a journey with no clear destination the last few years. The Uprising of real-time contestants like Command & Conquer and Warcraft have all but knocked-out what used to be the undisputed king of strategic warfare — the turn-based strategy game. Faster and more powerful processors have allowed developers to incorporate real-time calculations and their effects into a style of play that until now was recently restricted to action-based first person shooters. Thankfully there are a few publishers not willing to throw in the towel just yet. 3DO’s Heroes of Might and Magic series are perennial favorites amongst Avault staff members each year and Red Orb’s Warlords series has been a mainstay in turn-based strategists’ diets for almost a decade.
Old timers and pursuits, say hello to the newest kid on this very old block — Strategy First’s Disciples: Sacred Lands. Taking queues from the aforementioned Heroes of Might and Magic series, Disciples brings together a wonderful blend of ancient folklore, religiously delicious storylines and a deeply blended mix of turn-based strategy and role-playing. Things begin with a divinely inspired introduction sequence, one which offers a glimpse of the four unique storylines present, one for each of the four races vying for power over one another. Living in peace for over a millenia, the people have grown restless and prideful, forgetting the sins of their fathers, destined to repeat them. The four races that inhabit this realm are the Empire, the Legions of the Damned, the Undead Hordes, and the Mountain Clans. Each race is decidedly different, a strength that binds this title together during some of it’s weaker moments. Dwarves comprise the Mountain Clans and worship Wotan, while the Legions of the Damned follow Bethrezen — the Prince of Hell. The units of the Legion consist of gargoyles, fiends, demons, sorcerers, and witches to name a few. Humans make up the Empire; they look up to the High Father for guidance. Last but not least are the Undead Hordes, consisting of ghosts, zombies, werewolves, vampires, and liches — these ghouly bunch worship the goddess Mortis. While all four races are pitted against the other, the all for one philosophy does not negate the presence of rivalry.
The Undead Hordes who worship Mortis seek revenge against the Mountain Clans and Wotan; he killed Gallean, husband of Mortis. The Mountain Clans are seeking to regain their knowledge of runes. Over the years they’ve lost that knowledge due to laziness and the accumulation of slothful pride. The human followers of the High Father only want to secure the future of their people. The Legions of the Damned have a goal befitting their name. They want to resurrect Bethrezen, their fallen angel who was banished by the High Father. Thus the battles for this world begin, this is Ragnarock.
As stated earlier the religious overtones are quite apparent, and run consistent through the four single player sagas. All four are like novels that tell the story of one race that overcomes great obstacles to take their place amongst the gods. Sagas are broken up into quests, or missions. These transpire from one to another through video chapters which tell the people’s story and setup the upcoming quest parameters. Using still-framed animation and very well done narration, the intermission sequences are something to look forward to each time you finish a quest. Before getting started, players will need to select their lord type — warrior, mage or guildmaster (thief). Style of play as well as available units and spells are all determined by the chosen Lord type. With four unique races and three lord types a piece, there is a lot of good variety in the gameplay.
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