Kosumi: Online Strategy
This review first appeared on GamesFirst!
Kosumi is a turn based strategy game based in a medieval world similar to feudal Japan. In the game, players partake as one of fifteen historical or mythical clans all vying for control of the world of Kosumi, which (according to the mythos of the game and the official website) is a land "created by Hachiman, the God of War, over four hundred years ago. Bored by the peace that blanketed Japan after its hundred year civil war Hachiman craved a realm of excitement where the struggle for glorious honor would never end. Kosumi is that realm." Kosumi is a dynamic world of politics, warfare, intrigue, and subterfuge.
Kosumi is targeted at gamers without a lot of free time on their hands. This is not a game that has any sort of grinding or massive time requirements.
In my experience, Kosumi is as close as you can get to a board game on a computer aside from chess programs. It has turn-based gameplay that you can play in solitaire mode (against yourself if you feel like controlling all clans), but this is not the intent of the game and is really just an exercise for tactics. Ideally you will be involved with numerous other players as you all control different clans in your attempts to dominate Kosumi.
Each clan has different strengths and weaknesses which is not surprising and standard for any multiplayer strategy game. However your basic strategy will be entirely different depending on who you are playing. Among the clans you can play are: the Oni, who are demon samurai that excel in martial combat; the Imperial Family who are skilled diplomats; and the Dragons who can fly across obstacles unencumbered. Most of the other clans have similar specialties, but there is a distinct flavor to each one.
Prior to playing a live game, it is advisable to play through the lessons that are included in the game. These text lessons walk you through game basics so that you can move diplomats around, usurp control of cities, recruit ninjas, attack with armies, and so forth. These tutorials are also available online in Flash movies which are narrated and allow you to follow the button clicking that is involved with unit order giving. There are eight lessons altogether, after which you will be sufficiently equipped to tackle a live opponent.
When you start out, you will control a handful of towns in a province. There are ten provinces in the game and your goal is to control as many of them as possible. You can choose to do this through diplomatic or military means, but you will most likely need to dabble in both. In order to gain control of a province, you need to have a majority of the population, which you can achieve by controlling the three population types in Kosumi: villages, towns, and cities. Villages are the smallest population centers, towns the median, and cities the largest. You can gain control of them with diplomats who can usurp control or armies who conquer through war. After you control a city, you will gain population, food production, and gold production. All of these things will assist you in your attempts to dominate Kosumi.
The way you interact with your units is via orders. You click on one of the cities you control and you will see a list of the units currently there. There might be a diplomat, a ninja, an army, a shogun, or some other unit. When you select one of these units, you will see a list of potential orders on the screen. Each order is numerically identified along with its name (for example, Order 320: Usurp Control). The orders in Kosumi are executed numerically so any order with an order number lower than 320 will be executed before a diplomat can usurp control and likewise any order higher than 320 will occur after. The number of orders you can issue each turn is limited by the amount of influence your clan commands in Kosumi. If you are struggling in the game and do not control many population centers, your ability to issue orders will be less than someone who controls many provinces. When you begin, you normally have about twelve orders to issue.
All your orders are submitted to the server immediately after you issue them and you will see a little green bit of text in the upper right of your screen notifying you that your orders have been submitted. Depending on the game you are playing, you might only do this once or twice a week. However, you are not locked into your turns until midnight of the date posted on your accounts page. You can go back and change any orders you decide are incorrect anytime before this deadline.
When your next turn takes place, you will first be able to review the results of the prior turn. Afterwards, you would input in your set of turns like the previous turn and play until the game finishes – which could take a very long time. It is a very simple process on the surface, but the minimal amount of moves per turn increases the importance of each individual move.
One of the other key points is the ability to start alliances. There is an anonymous email server in-game that allows you to contact as many or as few of the other players as you need. It is anonymous in the sense that only your clan name is given to the other clans so you do not need to worry about revealing any real-world details about yourself. This is how you can plan and coordinate movement and attacks with and against other clans.
These are the basic ingredients to a game of Kosumi, but the overall way each game plays out depends on the players themselves and the strategies they employ. Every game can have a different flavor to it and this adds to the enjoyment.
What I like about Kosumi is that it caters to gamers who do not have the time to dedicate 3-4 hours per day on a game. It offers strategic depth in a minimal gaming package, but this minimalist model does not detract from a fun game. In fact, I found that the turn infrequency actually adds to the overall experience. When I received an email notification about the new turn taking place, I was always excited to see the results and take my next turn. I enjoy the conquest of new cities, the interplay and interaction with other players, and the overall mythos
of the world. It is a lot of fun and really reminds me of some fun board games I played earlier in my life.
Kosumi also has a very active and responsive development team. They are often asking for feedback from players and you will see changes in the game reflecting this feedback. It is nice to know that your input is being utilized to increase the quality of the game.
However, there are some potential problems. Not with the game itself, but rather with some peripheral issues.
First, the price plan is extremely high and I cannot see how anyone would want to pay it. While Kosumi is a great game, I would not be willing to pay $19.95/month to play it, and I think most other gamers are going to feel the same way that I do. I would be willing to pay between $5.95 - $8.95 to play.
If people are not willing to pay this much to play it, then there will be fewer people partaking in the game which would then effect the quality and number of available games. There are lots of online games out there vying for the money of gamers and I think that Kosumi has a niche that it can fill, but not with this price model.
World of Warcraft is only $14.95 per month and while the two games are not comparable, gamers will feel that they are getting their money's worth out of WoW and perhaps not as much from Kosumi. WoW is constant and very social and there is a daily sense of progress. Kosumi is, at the most, a tri-weekly game. I don't see the cost versus enjoyment in $19.95/month. I think that Kosumi should offer various pricing options (similar to those that DOFUS has). Have the whole spectrum from one to twelve month pricing plans to attract the maximum amount of potential participants. The more players there are, the higher the quality of game, the more potential revenue.
Second, this game is aiming for a very specific and difficult to find audience. The passionate gamer with money to spend and little time to play, but who is willing to dedicate a small amount of time over many months to a single game. I do believe that this market exists, but I think it will be extremely difficult to tap into.
The game might be too dependent on its participants as well. When a game first starts out, most people are extremely interested and active. However, after the eighth turn and the fifth week, some players may have dropped out or stopped checking in on on the game. While the active players might not notice this for a while, I can see it as a potential problem. Alas, I have no real idea how this could be taken care of.
I really have enjoyed my experiences in Kosumi and I am currently involved in two concurrent games. I hope to continue playing it as long as the games continue and perhaps even beyond it. It is definitely not a game for everyone, but for those who enjoy complex strategy and don't have a lot of time to play every day, Kosumi could be the game for you.
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