Reverie World Studios clearly had an ambitious vision when they set out to create their MMORTS Dawn of Fantasy. What that vision has resulted in is a game that redefines its unique genre with grand city design and most importantly, epic castle sieges. With great ambition can come adversity however, and Dawn of Fantasy is no exception.

Playing as Humans, Orcs or Elves, Dawn of Fantasy puts you in the unique role of being your race’s economist, strategist, and war commander. While each of the three races are unique in their strategy and play style, they all fundamentally function the same. They each need a steady supply of resources to construct their buildings, and you’ll need those buildings to train the armies that you require to go to war. Each race has a unique method of extracting resources from the environment. Elves, for instance, use wisp-like spirits to extract lumber from the trees around your outpost, whereas Orcs and Humans will simply just cut the trees to the ground. In combat, Elves will have the most potent ranged attacks whereas the Orcs prove to be overwhelming melee combatants. Each race has its unique characteristics, and this contributes to the overall replayability of the game.

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Makkada, the massive Orc capitol. No-one is taking this without one heck of a fight!

While there’s no shortage of game modes in Dawn of Fantasy, the majority of your time will likely be spent in the Online Kingdom. This persistent massively-multiplayer world is the headlining feature of the game, and is the best starting point for anyone who is new to the game’s mechanics. The player begins by choosing which race they would like to play, as well as their starting region on the world map. From there, you develop your tiny village into a thriving citadel over time, building your army as you amass resources. Within the Online Kingdom mode is also a quest system, which acts as an excellent learning tool for those new to the Dawn of Fantasy franchise. The game is extremely complex, and the learning curve is especially challenging for those who are new to the genre. While there are in-game tutorials, they are somewhat vague and overall not as effective as simply playing the game and completing the quests. The quests do a good job of slowly introducing the player to specific gameplay elements of each race, which is valuable considering that the other game modes simply thrust the player into combat without any detailed guidance or explanation. For this reason, I strongly suggest that you begin your adventure in the Online Kingdom as opposed to any of the singleplayer modes, as you will find the step by step progression beneficial.

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Elven philosophy and industry. Each race’s approach to the environment is very different.

As you complete quests and establish your economy, watching your little village morph into a fortress is very engaging. The villages become teeming with activity, and the artistic design of the buildings, walls, and environments are top notch. The presentation is also entertaining, as each time you log into your kingdom, the camera sweeps and pans its way around your settlement, showing off the new buildings that have been erected and giving you a feeling of accomplishment. The weather effects also add a nice touch to the presentation of the game, but unfortunately some graphical textures and models do look dated. While generally the buildings and terrain look great, individual units lack detail and their animations can also be rather stiff. The relatively simple unit textures are likely a technical limitation due to the sheer number of troops that can be present on the screen at any given point in time. Overall, the graphics are appealing, but the units themselves do leave a little to be desired.

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These sweeping views are awesome. Would you want to assault this Orc stronghold?

Once you have successfully established your settlement and recruited a horde of troops, the real fun begins. The siege battles in Dawn of Fantasy are without a doubt the highlight of the game. They will make you cheer in triumph after a hard fought victory, but they can bring you to tears when your entire army is annihilated. While the vast scope of the sieges is enough to bring your emotions to a peak, the strategic elements of how you use your troops and where you position them can make the difference between being victorious and being defeated. When assaulting an enemy stronghold, simply having a superior army isn’t enough to be victorious.  On more than one occasion, I lost battles simply based on poor decision-making and sub par tactics, even though my forces were more powerful than my opponent’s. While the sieges are incredibly intense, there are a few drawbacks. The unit control and pathfinding can often be problematic, and that lack of control can occasionally result in disaster for your troops, especially frail ranged forces where their positioning is crucial to their survival. Moreover, bugs with regards to unit pathing seem to show themselves every once in a while, occasionally resulting in one faction getting an unfair advantage over another by being able to traverse what should have been impassable terrain.

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Well, that isn’t fair. What’s the point of being build along a cliff if your opponent can just float and knock your gate down?

An element of the Online Kingdom that was somewhat disappointing was that other players’ settlements cannot be seen on the world map, so you cannot simply raid another player’s stronghold. It would be really neat to be able to locate other player’s cities on the world map, trade with them, scout them, or battle them. You can only see and interact with npc-controlled cities on the map, and other players are strangely missing. Its worth noting however that if another player razes a npc city, the persistence of the world make it so that you now see the city in flames and cannot interact with it for a period of time. So while other players seem invisible, their actions and their consequences are not.

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Damnit, who lit Gelmeerim on fire? I needed to trade there!

Player vs player encounters are arranged through in-game matchmaking that tries to pair armies of roughly equal sizes against one another. However, finding an appropriate opponent can take some time, but you do have the option to “be brave” and open up your matchmaking to players with significantly superior forces. You can battle other players at their strongholds and also at your own, and while troops that perish are permanently lost, buildings and walls can be repaired. So rest assured that if you lose a siege on your settlement, you won’t be left with a massive pile of rubble.

While most of this review has focused on the multiplayer element of Dawn of Fantasy, the game also has a lot of compelling single player content as well. Kingdom Wars is essentially a single-player version of the Online Kingdom that focuses more on battles as opposed to city construction. In this mode, you can choose to either have a “Union War” (conquer the other cities of your race), Realm War (conquer the other races’ cities), or an Epic War (conquer everyone and everything). Moreover, if you simply want to set up massive castle sieges against the AI, the Lay Seige and Castle Defense skirmish modes will leave you satisfied. These single player skirmish modes are great for setting up quick and exciting battles if you cannot commit to either the online or single player campaigns.

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My settlement in Online Kingdom. She’s a beaut!

With Dawn of Fantasy, Reverie World Studios set out to create a game with epic action sequences and unique multiplayer content.  While they have ultimately been successful in their goal, a couple bugs and minor issues hold back what otherwise would be an incredibly engaging and entertaining experience. The good news is that Reverie World is dedicated to the continued development of Dawn of Fantasy, and will be releasing a free expansion to the game early in the new year. This expansion, entitled Siegeworks, will improve PVP combat, double the number of NPC cities to raid, as well as add a territorial control element to the game. Today, Dawn of Fantasy provides a unique experience that fans of city building and grand-scale combat will certainly find pleasure in.

Summary

+ Great visual design and presentation
+ Engaging city building
+ Sieges are both fun and epic
+ Good single-player content
- Some graphical elements look dated
- A few bugs and pathing issues
- Other players are undetectable

Final Verdict
Dawn of Fantasy’s sieges are a blast, and there’s a lot to enjoy once you get past the learning curve.

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