by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Newcomer to the Series
I want to be honest up front about this review; I’ve never played any of the other Disciples games before this one. In fact, my experience with turned-based strategy titles is fairly, though not completely, limited as a whole. I don’t dislike them, I’ve just never really been tempted to jump into a genre that, to me, seemed fairly intimidating to learn. That being the case, if you’re looking for more of a direct comparison to how this entry in the franchise stacks up to either the previous games or the original Disciples III and it’s expansion (sub-titled Renaissance and Resurrection respectively instead of Reincarnation) it might be in your best interest to check out another review as well. Why do the review then? Well, I’m guessing there are other people out there like me not invested into either this particular series or genre. Or, some people might just want a different opinion coming in without any preconceptions or franchise biases. I’ve broken in and put quite a few hours into Disciples III: Resurrection, and while it took me quite awhile to get the hang of things, once I did I found a very fun, if not groundbreaking, fantasy adventure.
Six is a Crowd
The core elements of Disciples III: Reincarnation, like most games of the kind revolve around buying, training, and upgrading units, and strategically moving them around the map one turn at a time. Of course there’s a lot more to it than that. Players choose a leader to use, each of which come with distinct gameplay bonuses ranging from combat and recovery boosts to economic gain. Add in five more party members with the leader to fill out a squad, and you’re ready to go lay waste to those that stand before you. Of course choosing which squadmates you take with you can be the difference between victory and defeat, as tons of different specializations from warriors to ranged combatants to wizards and clerics and much, much more all play specialized and crucial roles in battles. Luckily, besides the 6-person crew you can keep active, you’re also allowed a reserve of four additional units. These units stay out of battle and safe from harm, but can be swapped into the active squad and receive a small amount of XP even if they stay benched. I found myself largely depending on my reserves, almost always making at least one shift before battles. Every squad is going to have its weaknesses and strengths, and it’s a nice option to be able to tweak those that adds a lot more strategic possibilities.
The only downside, and I’m not sure it’s a downside as much as just me depending on my reserves too much, is that it’s incredibly difficult to keep both a squad and reserves leveled high enough to be effective. It often times takes a REALLY long time to level up a unit (though each level is split into a few sub-levels that grant small stat boosts). I know this is a long-form game and not a quick in-and-out type thing, but I can’t help but feel expediting the unit upgrade rate just a little bit couldn't have hurt.
Factions and Fallen Angels
The campaigns of Disciples III: Reincarnation, split into four narratives (one for each faction, which we’ll talk about in a minute here) are a mix of a cool atmosphere/environments and a lackluster story. The maps and “tone” of the game are pretty cool. The environments are detailed enough that, between the over-land and over-water traversal, I did feel like I’d hopped into another full-fledged world that’s bigger than just me and the events of this game. Unfortunately the events that you do play through here just aren’t that remarkable. To summarize the story in an extremely truncated version: an Angel named Inoel falls from the sky into the land of Nevendaar. Each race wants to figure out what her deal is, and use her power for good or bad. There’s obviously more to it than that, but, to be blunt, I just never cared. There’s a lot of just getting from point A to point B, and it all felt largely inconsequential.
Like I said before, however, despite a lackluster story, the game does retain an enticing tone and it’s largely because of a fantastic visual style. The game didn’t blow me away with raw graphics power – some of the animations are pretty clunky, the textures in the environment are often so-so, and the zoomed-in models during fights leave much to be desired – but character and building designs were a treat. The Elven units are graceful and serene, the demons are truly tough and intimidating, and the undead are voraciously vile. The humans are the least interesting of the bunch, but even they have some models that impress. Just as each leaders and unit type comes with distinct advantages, all of the four factions are completely different animals, and in a game like this their balance is incredibly important. If one faction is distinctly better than the rest it makes for a pretty irritating experience, but the factions felt fairly, though not completely balanced. In my time, and again, I’m not an expert with thousands of hours poured in, the Undead Hordes seemed to be objectively the best faction. They’ve got both great perks and fantastic units, and I struggled to find a reason any of the other three factions could be considered, on the whole, a better package. They aren’t whole-other-level better though, and the other three all came across as comparable, so overall I’ll chalk it up as a could-have-been-better, could-have-been-worse deal.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Disciples III: Reincarnation. I’m still far from an expert in the genre, and I probably won’t ever be, but I’m glad I played it. The game suffers from some pacing issues, both with a mostly unexciting and forgettable campaign tale and some very high XP requirements for unit progression, but it’s also got redeeming qualities in a great visual style, distinct faction playstyles, and a plethora of strategic unit options. All in all Reincarnation may not be a shooting star, but it isn’t a fallen angel either.
Pleasing visual style, deep strategic options, and a plethora of content to play
A largely dull story, some balance issues, and some ugly textures/animations