It's hard to categorize King of Dragon Pass, from publisher A
Sharp. On one hand, it has the makings of a strategy title with a
blend of resource management, battles, and social interaction. On
the other hand, it has a mixture of quests, tribe creation and magic
that give it a sort of RPG feel. The outcome is a unique gaming
experience that, despite it's shortcoming, is sure to capture the
attention of serious strategy gamers.
King of Dragon Pass (KoDP) uses the background of Glorantha, the
setting from the game Rune Quest. The object of the game is to
become King of Dragon Pass, uniting all the various tribes through
diplomacy, magic and battle. You begin the game by creating and
defining your tribe or clan. The selection process allows you to
characterize and interpret strategic aspects of your tribe. Once
you've constructed your tribe, you than enter a tutorial session, an
essential process that'll give you a grasp of the game's mechanics.
Gameplay in KoDP revolves around managing your tribe through
seasonal turns, over a period of several years. A single year cycle
consists of seasons of Sea, Fire, Earth, Storm, and Sacred. In each
season, with the exception of Sacred, your tribe is allowed to
perform two separate actions. Some examples of these actions
include performing a quest, attacking another tula (land), sending
out an emissary for trade / politics, building fortifications,
exploring the map, building shrines and temples to your gods, and
much more. The seasons play a big role in the actions you take,
for if you decide to attack another clan during harvesting seasons,
your food supply will decrease. On top of the normal seasonal
actions available, random events also occur, each requiring a
decision on the gamers' part. Events can range from personal
disputes with neighbouring clans, to more global problems.
Managing relationships with your neighbouring clans is key to
succeeding in KoDP. As mentioned earlier, the goal is to be
crowned King of Dragon Pass. This isn't going to happen with poor
leadership skills. Whether you show generosity, mercy, or loyalty
to other tribes is important in creating trust in order to trade goods
with them, another important factor in KoDP. It's almost impossible
to survive without trade. You can loose livestock or fall short on
harvest, but developing trade routes can help you survive these
hardships. Normal management areas include farming, relations,
war, clan, magic and exploration.
Obviously there's a lot to handle as tribe leader. Luckily, ring
members are readily available to counsel you on various matters.
Each member is rated from fair to heroic in several categories, but
picking the best available person isn't necessarily a good thing, as
they may worship a god that conflicts with your ideals.
Aside from the numerous elements that require your management,
you'll also have to deal with combat. Unfortunately, you're very
much removed from combat, with no direct control of the battle
itself. Pre-battle choices, such as using a magical item, may
impact the result, but the outcome is very much random. Magic is
centered on learning individual mysteries that offer advantages to
specific aspects (farming, combat, etc.).
Despite the lack of control in combat, the gameplay in KoDP is
quite rich and detailed. Balancing economics, trade, religion and
war is a challenge. There are two modes of play in KoDP, a short
game or a long game. Short games take a few hours to complete,
while longer games can take much more time.
The biggest drawback of KoDP is in the presentation, the audio
and the visual. Most of the graphics are hand drawn, which
certainly requires a taste. If you've treated yourself to some of the
more recent strategy games, you might find the graphics lacking in
almost all areas. They lack interaction and depth, dare I say it
looks old school. In terms of audio, the music is quite nice. Outside
of the tunes, there's really very little else. There are some sound
effects thrown in here and there, but the bulk of development was
clearly focused on gameplay. Expect to do a lot of reading, there's
no voice effects either.
There's no bark, but King of Dragon Pass has some bite. The
learning curve is steep and the depth of play is superb, so make
sure you've got some time on your hands before you begin playing
KoDP. Unfortunately, there exists no multiplayer in this title, single
player is all you're going to get. When all is said and done, King of
Dragon Pass is a challenging fantasy game that is worthy of a
serious strategy gamers' time.