A Seventh of its Potential
When I first saw Seven Kingdoms, I was excited by its potential. Here was a real-time strategy game that reminded me both of Warcraft II and Civilization. It promised the ability to control research, diplomacy, espionage, production, racial tension, and trade, while providing an exciting and diverse real- time battle. All the ingredients for an excellent game were there, the only thing that was yet to be seen was if the designers could pull it all together into something fun to play.
It seems that in trying to make all the elements of a game likeSeven Kingdoms fit together, some compromises had to be made. The first thing I noticed was that although there were trees, they had no bearing on the game at all. There is no sending lumberjacks to the forests to get wood for construction; the trees just were for decoration, nothing else. I next noticed that there are only 9 types of buildings. A town generally consists of a town center, which is little more than a repository for peasants, a fort, a mine, factory, and marketplace.
The fort, which is the most important type of building in a real- time strategy game, can produce only one type of soldier. If you want to have any sort of combined-arms, you'll need to build a war-factory, which can produce up to five types of war machines. One problem with the war factory is that it takes far too long to construct a war machine, which is not overwhelmingly superior to a well-trained soldier. I'd estimate that it takes several times as long to build a cannon as it takes to build a war-factory in the first place.
By now, you might be wondering what assets does Seven Kingdoms have. The answer, dear reader, is supernatural beings and espionage. Unlike Warcraft II, in which supernatural beings were summoned by the player after constructing a wizard's keep, Seven Kingdoms takes a different view. The first step to summoning a supernatural being is to obtain the proper scroll. To do that, you must battle a lair of Frythans (about 50), the boogie men of Seven Kingdoms. Next, you must construct a temple using that scroll. Each scroll has a specific ethnicity, and can only construct a temple of that ethnicity (no integration in this game). You must then staff that temple with worshipers of the correct ethnicity. After what seems like an eternity of prayer, you are able to summon a god-like figure of that particular culture to do your bidding for a limited time. The gods are very powerful and add to the fun of Seven Kingdoms, but they are a very scarce resource.
The espionage model of Seven Kingdoms is very well designed. You can train a spy and send him to settle in an enemy village. He can then wait and gain experience, or begin to decrease the loyalty of the townspeople. Your spy may also be drafted into the enemy's military. Once inside a fort, he can try to bribe other soldiers, who then become spies. Your spy may even bribe the fort's general, or, failing that, assassinate him. The computer makes good use of spies as well. There is little worse than finding out that a general in an important fort has been bribed, so it becomes important to keep your troops' loyalty high by giving them periodic 'honors' (cash bonuses).
Seven Kingdoms is very similar to Warcraft II. Unfortunately, in the 'borrowing', the designers forgot to add a good variety of units, or interaction with the environment, such as trees and animals. Despite some comparisons to Civilization on the box, Seven Kingdoms is nowhere near as complex. As if to compensate for the dearth of unit choices, the supernatural being/god component helps spice up the battles from time to time. The excellent espionage system makes Seven Kingdoms very entertaining for multiplayer, but for a single player game, I'd recommend either Warcraft II or Age of Empires.