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Strategiespiele mit orientalischem Hintergrund werden langsam Mode: Nach "Day of the Pharaoh" präsentiert Rainbow Arts jetzt ein weiteres Game, dessen Handlung im Reich von 1001 Nacht nicht angesiedelt ist.

Im Lände Khalaan streiten sich vier Kalifen um die Vorherrschaft. Ihre Blutsfehden und militärischen Auseinandersetzungen machen der Bevölkerung das Leben zur Qual. Dazu kündigt ein weiser Prophet das Eintreffen eines kriegerischen Eindringlings an, der das geschundene Volk noch mehr unterjochen will. Schlechte Papiere für die Einheimischen...

Als einer der Kalifen muß der Spieler zunächst den Eindringling in die Flucht schlagen; anschließend kann er darangehen, durch gezielten Aufbau militärischer und wirtschaftlicher Stärke zum mächtigsten Fürsten im Land zu avancieren. Im wesentlichen bedient man sich dazu seiner Armeen; es gilt, Paläste und Festungen zu erobern und möglichst viel Land in seinen Besitz zu bringen.

Außer Landschlachten gibt es des öfteren auch kleine Ausflüge mit dem Schiff, um die Soldaten an ihren Einsatzort zu bringen. Wer es zu einem schlagkräftigen Heer gebracht hat, sollte jeden Monat eine Menge Taler auf die Seite legen: Die Arme verschlingt nämlich unheimlich viel Geld! Und wenn die Soldaten nicht regelmäßig Sold, Wasser und Lebensmittel bekommen, gibt es sehr schnell Meutereien.

Damit immer genügend Geld in der Kasse klingelt, muß man von seinen Untertanen Steuern kassieren. Mit der Kohle lassen sich dann auch gemeine Dinge anstellen: Beispielsweise kann man einen Spion anheuern, der Attentate verübt, die Stärke des Feindes auskundschaftet oder Vorräte des Gegners stibitzt. Gold und Geld sind auch sehr nützlich, um gegnerische Truppen abzuwerben, einen Waffenstillstand zu erwirken und um Handel zu treiben.

Aber Geld ist schließlich nicht alles - wer gar Aladdins Wunderlampe in seinen Besitz gebracht hat, hat jeden Monat einen Wunsch frei! Wünschen darf man sich etwas Unbesiegbarkeit, Reichtum oder die Gabe der Weitsicht. Leider währt die Freude meist nicht lange, denn andere Kalifen haben schließlich auch Spione...

Khalaan überzeugt durch eine interessante Handlung (die zusätzlich durch Actionsequenzen aufgelockert wird), ansprechende Präsentation, leichte Handhabung (einfache Maussteuerung) und einen vielfach variierbaren Schwierigkeitsgrad. Die Grafik ist überwiegend digitalisiert und teilweise hübsch anzusehen; wenn man mal von dem ruckeligen Scrolling der Landkarte absieht, könnte man sie sogar als gelungen bezeichnen.

Auf den rauschenden Digi-Sound kann man hingegen getrost verzichten. Ansonsten handelt es sich bei Khalaan um ein ganz brauchbares Strategiespiel, das sich zwar nicht mit den Klassikern wie "Lords of the Rising Sun" vergleichen läßt, aber durchaus einen gewissen Unterhaltungswert hat. Fans, die Gefallen an "Day of the Pharaoh" fanden, werden sich sicher auch für den Nachfolger erwärmen können. (C. Borgmeier)



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RAINBOW ARTS
£24.99

Khalaan is set in the mythical past of North Africa (though not assigned to any specific country or period) and concerns the power struggle between a group of warlike caliphs. You take on the role of one of these leaders and attempt to gain power by fighting, trading and making alliances.

One look at Khalaan is enough to call to mind two major points of reference: Lords Of The Rising Sun and Populous. The comparison is not simply graphical, although the game map and characters could have been designed by Bullfrog, but also in gameplay. Yet it succeeds in combing none of the best elements either.

Khalaan was programmed by Chip Software, the development team responsible for Joan Of Arc and Mystery Of The Mummy. Like the former games, Khalaan mixes animation with digitised graphics, but it is not very convincing.

The game begins with you selecting a caliph from four variables, each of which act as a difficulty factor. Once you have donned some curly slippers the game begins with you installed inside your caliphate, a fortress that acts as a home base. From here you connive, negotiate and fight your way through the game.

The first action you should take is to raise a couple of armies and send them in opposite directions. Recruit about a hundred foot soldiers and a hundred archers and make sure they have enough food, money and water to last them otherwise they will desert. As it is there is always the chance they might turn on you anyway.

You increase your power, logically enough, by taking over land and other fortresses. These contain riches that extend your wealth and men who will strengthen your armies. Like Lords Of The Rising Sun the fighting can be played in arcade sequences, though Khalaan's action is substandard by comparison.

For example, the battle sequences consist of a head to head fight, with an admittedly lifelike Arab, which simply involves a lot of random keyboard tapping, much of which is pointless since the respective strengths of the two armies usually determines the outcome. It can be even more frustrating when storming a castle. Do not expect pitched battles here, simply a tedious round of bribing guards and labourers to join you. The result frequently though, no matter what your respective strength, is that you die. On one occasion ten guards finished off about three hundred of my troops.

There are flaws too with the map design of Khalaan. Its shape does not suggest a massive country, and the way the screen restricts movement (you cannot scroll simply over the whole landscape) is annoying. You will find that boats and armies simply come to halt because they cannot negotiate an awkward piece of land.

Khalaan may be worth persevering if you are a hopeless addict as far as these sort of titles go. It has an interesting plot and looks historically authentic. However, it never approaches the scale or user friendliness of any of Cinemaware's products.



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Ever since he misread an Ann Summers catalogue, Paul Lakin has always wanted to be an Eastern potentate. Fortunately Khalaan has very little to do with sexual prowess (cough), so we sent him along to take a closer look...

The problem with power is that a little is never enough. Make a man a Lord and he wants to be king. Make a man a Caliph, and he wants to be the Caliph. The first obstacle between you and the title of Great Caliph are three rival (little?) Calphs. However, these Caliphs are like candyfloss compared with the intruder who is out to juice up everyone in sight. If you're not prepared for him when he turns up then you're likely to be caught with your trousers down.

To keep them up, you'll need not only a stout belt but all the economic, military and diplomatic skills you can lay your hands on. Khalaan presents you with the sort of logistic problems that would make the current Middle Eastern situation look like a picnic with Aunt Jemima (before her unfortunate accident that is).

Scheming your way to the top ultimately depends on your ability to raise armies and then use them to dominate the cities and fortresses in your Caliphate. The size of your armies depends on the size of your sleevies... sorry, couldn't resist it... actually it depends on the availability of money and supplies. No supplies means no storming of castles.

To storm a castle you first have to use a bit of bow 'n' arrow on the defenders as they rush out of their gates. If you can outshoot them then it's into the castle for a bit of cut 'n' thrust. If you find that all this joystick waggling is not for you then you can switch the combat to automatic and let the computer do it for you.

As you empire spreads, so do the options open to you. A game might start simply with the raising of a couple of small armies. However, before you know where you are, the first army has deserted and the second is haggling with a camel trader in a nearby city.

Not many moons later, you may have burgled a rival Caliphate, raised another army, besieged a fortress and watched the pride of your armed forces sink to the bottom in a fierce naval encounter... and the game's barely started yet.

Amiga reviewPaul: Some games take about twenty seconds to get the measure of; you can have them played, reviewed and screenshot in less time than it takes to get bored with Wimbledon. Other games take a little longer. I've been playing Khalaan pretty well non stop for three or four days now and still don't really feel I've fully done it justice.

Hailing from the Joan Of Arc team, Khalaan is a testing strategy game but there's more to it than that... There's enough joystick waggling to satisfy most action buffs and some really attractive digitised screens.

The screens have something of a feel to them but since no one's seen that yet it's a fairly pointless comparison.

All the action, from supplying armies to embarking camel trains on ships, is done by fairly simple icon-clicking. Occasionally you'll find that you have to click on an icon more than a few times to get it to respond and some of the scrolling is less than perfect but this has little effect on the gameplay.

The depth is so great that even a confirmed old shoot 'em up fa like me soon switched off the combat sequences because they distracted from the main action. Before long my Caliphate was a mass of camel trains, armies and footloose assassins.

Not long after that the office was a mass of empty boxes and split coffee as I searched for a formatted disk to save the game Khalaan is certainly not the sort of game which can be polished off in one sesh.

An engrossing adventure that's actually fun to play, Khalaan is by no means a flawless strategy game but it is one of the few I've been drawn back to for a second helping...Stop