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Kings of Destruction - Battles of the Khans
Posted on 03/08/17 @ 04:38 AM (updated 04/30/18
||Age of Kings HD: The Forgotten
|Required Modpack (if not included with the download):
||Build and Destroy
|Number of scenarios:
~ Scenario I: The Conquest of Mongolia: Join Khabul Khan's horde and conquer the steppe of Mongolia.
~ Scenario II: The Siege of Delhi: Follow Tamerlane, the merciless warrior prince, on his campaign against India.
~ Scenario III: The Sack of Baghdad: Genghis Khan's grandson Hulagu rides west to fight the Assassins and the Caliphate of Baghdad.
~ Scenario IV: The Resurgence of the Golden Horde: Help the Russian-Mongolian Khan Tokhtamysh to reunite the Golden Horde.
~ Scenario V: Blood Brothers: Assist Jamukha Gurkhan and his blood brother Temujin with breaking the rebellion of the Naimans and Merkits.
~ Five stand-alone-scenarios (like Battles of the Forgotten and Battles of the Conquerors)
~ Classical Build&Destroy Gameplay: tough sieges and epic material battles
~ Detailed Map Design
~ 30 Artificial Intelligence Scripts
~ More than 1280 Triggers
NOTE: To play this campaign you need Age of Empires II HD and the Add-Ons "The Forgotten" and "The African Kingdoms".
NOTE ALSO: This campaign is intended for experienced players! Unskilled players could easily be overwhelmed.
You can also subscribe to the campaign on steam, making the installation more comfortable:
Update: 30 March 2017: Fixed a critical bug in scenario IV.
|Author||Reviews ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )|
"Kings of Destruction - Battles of the Khans" is a classic style B&D which quickly reminded the reviewer of Mark Stoker's Tamerlane, as he had written a review for the latter a week earlier. This is an intense campaign with a good difficulty that can be highly recommended;for those worried about the high difficulty, I suggest at least trying out mission Four to test the water.
An immensely enjoyable experience awaits those who don't fear the warnings of high difficulty, with the AI putting up a great fight throughout the entire campaign. Thanks to the AI putting early pressure on, the game is never lacking in excitement as you build up villagers, getting a strong economy while fending off enemy raids;sometimes you have to find a good strategy to make it through tough starts, by cleverly using the limited resources. Eventually you arrive at the mid-game, and can expect to command huge swarms of the fearsome Mangudai, which are quite an enjoyable unit to utilize in their own right. The simple exhilaration gained from sweeping into large cities made the game quite memorable here, as during these conquests you could easily lose yourself in the revelry of pillage. Simply watching the carnage unfold as my massive armies smashed the defenders was easily worth the admission price.
A mention needs to be made about lag;a number of users including myself, but certainly not every user, reported some lag. For me it was some stuttering later in the games that detracted a tiny bit from the enjoyment, but i decided to give the campaign the benefit of the doubt here and blame it on the HD Ready engine. It was never so serious as to cripple the game, but just a little bur in the saddle if you will.
As alluded to above, the campaign presents a good challenge to the player throughout. The enemies are strong and aggressive, putting a great deal of pressure upon the player in the early stages of the game, making the build up stage not boring at all. Even late in the game the AI can continue fighting, however the difficulty certainly falls off in the last half of every scenario here;even mission 1 and 5 i wouldn't consider difficult to finish off by any means. Part of this fall off in difficulty can be blamed on the games core mechanics, as massed Mangudai and castles are difficult for the AI to cope with under any circumstances, though the slight overabundance of resources contributes its part.
When it comes to balancing, the author is certainly caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you have players complaining its too hard in early missions, then the more experienced players complaining the challenge has been lost in later ones. Even after intending to make a really difficult campaign, then along comes the experts saying its too easy after all. Bassi cannot win this one! Part of the problem is that the difficulty is not even uniform across the campaign;the opening is very hard, the second is somewhat difficult, while the next two are very easy, with the finale going back to being difficult again. The campaign says its for experts, but doesn't fully meet this expectation, while less experienced players think its too hard to play, and wont get to the easier missions they might be able to handle near the end of the campaign.
As it is, i feel the campaign is just a bit too easy and erratic to justify the full balance rating, but make no mistake that the AI brings a strong performance and the player must pay good attention to overcome the challenges offered.
Although each map consists of B&D gameplay, the situation is well varied so each mission plays out with its own character. Missions tend to have a goodly amount of side quests and optional objectives, and something that leaves a good impression is the fact you can complete the objectives out of order without breaking the game;you can sack Delhi first in mission two or attack purple first in mission one, and the triggers are designed to accommodate this in the end. The mapping work has a good deal of effort put into creating interesting locations for the gameplay, but the highlight of the creativity section is the good AI;its responsive to attacks on its bases, keeps the fight continuing for long periods of time without breaking down, and is well tailored to each map to bring out the utmost of its strength. I didn't really see any sign of the typical AI stupidities at any point, so very well done here. The custom campaign map setup is a nice touch to round things out as well.
Map Design 5
"Kings of Destruction" is a beautiful mapping effort with the steppes style, making good use of the new dirt4 terrain along with good detailing, frugal and effective use of gaia objects, and quite pleasant cities. There is a good range of nice urban landscapes from the massive, sprawling capitol of India, to the nomad huts your Mongolian counterparts are living within;these nomads have plausible looking fortifications which is a nice plus as well. The terrain detailing for its part is very well done, with a good mix of dirt, grass and desert to make even flat, open areas look appealing to the eye. Mountains were very well utilized, with their bases sufficiently covered up with forests, rocks and other details;the ones that were in the open in the Baghdad mission were used to create a nice canyon, that was quite good looking. Forests on the whole are great, having rough edges with good elevation use, while still remaining useful for B&D harvesting purposes. Waterways are well done, with detailed shorelines although i could make some quibbles about some of the waterfall type stuff, like in mission4 with the water flowing through and on elevations, but its fairly minor. Even gold and stone mines had little details to make them more appealing than normal. There is a plethora of detailing work with little touches across the entirety of all 5 maps;in short its a superb effort.
The game presents clear, understandable objectives with good hints and a well written scouts report, detailing the situation at length and giving the player insight into the troops and tactics of the various enemies. There is a good amount of ingame dialogue of course, though it often felt a bit rushed;no sooner than one objective was done, then some hastily injected text would launch into the next segment. The discussions between various cities and individuals at times lacked in plausibility with their delivery, while former allies all too reliably simply decided to betray the player and attack;understandable for gameplay difficulty reasons, but a bit exasperating.
The scenarios also bring a goodly amount of historical information describing the situation at hand, though its somewhat difficult for this form of storytelling to be truly effective due to the difficulty of reading the history tabs in the pregame windows. The scouts reports are very well filled out, giving the player a goodly deal of information of the location of enemies and potential friends, and also what type of units they might be expected to field. The victory conclusion messages gave a nice summary of historical events, though I would have also liked to see some defeat messages.
The main knock on the story for me primarily boils down to a lack of a coherent storyline linking the five scenario together;they are only loosely connected, and besides all five being Mongolian related the biggest connection is simply that the author created all five. What happened in between the scenarios and how one lead in any way to the events in another is not clear to me. There doesn't seem to be any big reason they couldn't be released as single scenarios while not impacting their individual quality at all. This is stated up front by the description, but isn't it a good opportunity to do something a single scenario cannot? It feels a bit thin in comparison to those campaigns which did link a cohesive storyline over half a dozen missions.
Final Thoughts: "Kings of Destruction" is a superb, top notch campaign that should be a must play for just about any player;for those who are worried about the high difficulty warning, i encourage you to try the game starting with Mission Four to test the waters;it would be a real shame to miss out on this campaign just because the opener is tough.
[Edited on 08/10/17 @ 11:36 AM]
"Kings of Destruction" is a collection of thematically-connected, stand-alone scenarios featuring various Mongol leaders at some of the high-points of the Mongol expansion across Eurasia.
The scenarios were originally released as stand-alones on Steam, and were later integrated into a single campaign. The playable order of the scenarios follows their release order, and they are NOT arranged in chronological order. Due to the reviewer's slight OCD regarding chronology, the scenarios were played in the actual chronological order, which is 1-5-3-4-2. This is NOT a complaint towards the designer, but just a bit of info for any other players suffering from the same compulsion.
The entire campaign was played on Moderate difficulty.
This is easy to sum up: the scenarios are FUN. They are all B&D, where the ultimate goal is usually to crush your opponents, unleashing untold destruction from hordes of Mangudai and Mongol siege engines. Getting there requires surviving large enemy hordes as well as exploring the map and achieving various side objectives, that sometimes help you to secure allies, and sometimes provide you with vital technologies. The whole campaign offers hours of tense B&D gameplay.
Balance varies widely across the scenarios. The "chronologically first" scenarios (1 and 5) confine the player to Castle Age. They are unquestionably the most difficult, and require some VERY intense defending in order to secure your starting position before you are able to boom and move out. As a general rule, you face multiple opponents at once with various unit rosters, which prevents the player from relying on only one type of unit to defend. This, of course, does nothing to diminish the value of the ultimate defensive unit- a castle filled with ranged units-but getting to that point under constant enemy harassment of the player's economy can be quite a challenge.
On the other hand, the remaining scenarios have a much less punishing difficulty. The player generally starts off confronted with only one of the multiple opponents that actively tries to beat them, with others joining in as each scenario progresses. The ability to advance to Imperial Age and gain access to fully-upgraded Elite Mangudai, as well as fully-upgraded super-fast Mongol Siege Rams makes destroying ANY enemy position, no matter how well entrenched, and no matter with what units defending it, a simple matter of time.
It would not really be fair to criticize the designer for emphasizing the incredible strengths of the player's civilization. However, I do feel that the difficulty curve is incredible skewed, which upsets the balance. The scenarios where the player is confined to Castle age require near choreographic precision in the opening game to survive early massive enemy waves and reach the point where base defenses are secured by castles, from where the player can expand and begin to claim map control; while the latter scenarios are far more forgiving in terms of early-game execution.
The Mongols don't exactly seem original. Yet the designer is capable of developing some very intricate scenarios out of this old and tried civilization. 3 of the 5 scenarios feature elements of Fixed Force gameplay that precede the actual B&D- especially notable is the "Siege of Delhi" scenario, where the player is first tasked with raiding the Indian countryside, pillaging villages to amass resources for the upcoming invasion. The success of this early raiding directly impacts the players's starting resources in the B&D portion of the scenario.
The variety of historical topics presented throughout this re-telling of important moments of about 250 years of Mongol history is pretty breathtaking. The variety of side objectives in most scenarios that confer different boni or allies at different points of the game provide the possibilities of replayability, simply to try "what would it be like to play without this ally" for extra challenge.
Map Design: 5
The maps are gorgeous. They are varied, reflecting a variety of landscapes where the military actions take place- Mongolian and Russian steppes with forests of the steppe edges, Arabian deserts (with steep mountains protecting Hashashim strongholds), the jungles and river valleys of Northern India. Each map is meticulously designed and layered with eye-candy and they are a pleasure to look at.
Although this is not a "campaign' per se, as there's no true connection between the scenarios other than the overall theme of "Here are some of the greatest Mongol conquerors doing what they did best", the story and instructions of each individual scenario are beyond reproach. The player can quickly find out what they're in for with each scenario by opening the Scouts tab, and spending up to 5 minutes reading on who the factions on each map are. All scenarios feature opening cut-scenes setting up the historical background for the conflict in question, and extensive story elements within the scenario, as well as the Aftermath screens help to bring each historic period to life.
"Kings of Destruction" is simply one of the best pieces of custom content made for the HD version of the game. Any B&D fan owes it to themselves to check it out.