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Lead a band of mercenaries to ultimate domination of the realm...

Protector 5 (or as it is officially known Protector IV.V) is essentially a strategy game with mild RPG influences. You start out in the game by building your character. Character generation is done through a series of multiple-choice questions, where the choices decide your character characteristics, class, strengths, weaknesses and elemental abilities. Once this character is formed, you are introduced to the game basics through a conversation within the game. You are chosen as the new leader for a band of mercenaries. Your objective is to become a great mercenary company and accomplish various missions on behalf of your employers.

The world of Protector 5 is divided in several factions. Some of them are at peace with each other whilst others are not. You start out as a neutral entity. By choosing missions put forward by these factions, you choose to show your solidarity with them. Depending on the missions, you will wind up with some enemies and some friends from amongst the various factions. Now let's look at the main elements of the game.

Skills and Stats:

As the leader, your skills and stats will determine how your units will fare in battle. So you should level up accordingly. One stat that you have to keep on the high side is 'Leadership'. This helps you attract more 'Heroes' for your company. As you level up your skills, it will affect your units. So if you are upgrading your 'magic use', it will make your magic using units stronger. Similarly physical skill, fire skill, toxic skill etc., strengthen units that use those skills. Some other skills like wisdom, charm, tactics, affect other aspects of the game like increased payouts (charm), more gold from quests (tactics) and more experience from each quest (wisdom).

Units:

You are the leader and you do not go to battle. You are the person who manages everything. So you are like the 'Mayor' in SimCity or the Manager in Football Manager. The main units under you are heroes. Each hero commands two types of units - basic and advanced. Heroes are also non-playing characters i.e. they are never seen in action. When you employ a hero, you employ the units that they command. These units are what you command during actual battles. There are various types of combat unit ranging from mage, ranger, archmage, knight, archwizard, footman and more. All magic attacks are ranged and only ranged attacks can hit levitating/flying enemies. Each unit also uses a specific element to attack like ice, fire and energy. So if an enemy is immune to fire, then units of the fire element will have no effect on them.

Enemies:

Enemies in Protector IV are quite varied. You have everything from big bats, small bats, giant rats, lizardmen, orcs, goblins, floating skulls, small bugs, giant bugs to spiders, mutated spiders, bullfrogs, hellfrogs and more. Each enemy has stronger defenses to certain attacks and weakness for others. For example, bats can fly and they are less susceptible to cold attacks but they are weak towards physical attacks and take more damage that way.

Mission:

Your home view is a map of the land and several flags mark the location of missions. There are two types of missions you can participate in - normal quest and storyline quest. Normal quests are standalone missions that you can take on to gather experience, gold and items. Storyline quests advance the over all story progression of the game. The storyline will progress depending on the choices you make and the factions you become friendly with.

Combat:

Once you have chosen your heroes, you are dropped in to a small map with an isometric view. If you are familiar with Ragnarok Online; that is what it will remind you off because of its 2D on 3D plane feeling. It has a grid division and each map has a maze type formation. There's a path on each map where the enemy will be marching through. Around that path are strategically placed squares where you can set your units for combat. The trick here is to look at the entry and exit points on the map (marked clearly by red arrows) and decide on your strategy. Your aim is to not let anyone pass through the map and make an exit. Every time you let an enemy through, you receive a -1 health point penalty. And you only have a few (10 on average) points to spend. Once you have set your units down, you can press the 'Start Wave' button and the round will kick in to action. You will have to press that button to start each round. Typical battles range from 10 to 20 rounds. Once you run out of tiles to set your units on, you can choose to 'pave' some of the unusable tiles to use them. Not all squares are open to paving. Click around to find out which part can be paved.

Strategy:

You will have to choose your units based on the enemy. If you notice that most of the enemies have lower defenses against the element 'Fire', hire heroes who have units with fire based attacks. Also, melee units can't attack flying/levitating, so you will need magic or ranged units for them.

Each unit has a fixed cost for fighting. However, this is not deducted from your main game currency. Instead, at the beginning of the battle you have a small amount of points to spend on hiring these units. Then as you kill enemies, you gather more points and you can buy more units inside the fight. As the rounds progress, this becomes necessary.

Whilst within the battle (more like a prolonged skirmish), each unit will gain experience points and begin leveling up. You can choose which skills each unit will specialize in. This allows them to become more effective in battle. And since you cannot replace a unit once you have placed it there, making it stronger is the best way to increase your defenses. Upgrading and learning skills will cost you money in the battle. It saves you space because usable squares are usually limited in number by design.

Each unit has a limited attack range. This is marked by a translucent square around the unit when you are placing it. As usual, magical and ranged units have more attack area than others. Also, only ranged and magical units can hit flying enemies.

Over all, you will have to spend a lot of time in the game to understand the system fully. This is not a casual game that you can easily get in to and start winning. Similar to the board and dice role-playing and strategy games, you will have to understand every aspect of every unit and enemy in order to succeed.

Storytelling:

The developers have made an effort at storytelling and it shows. The story attempts to create a grand world with all manner of creatures, magic and warring factions. In all its complexities, the story lacks the gripping feel of a well-told story. The individual stories behind each mission feel fragmented, even in the storyline quests where there should be a connection to the overarching storyline. Even though it is clear that the developer worked more on creating a multi-layered, complex gameplay; a strong storyline would've made it much more interesting.

Artwork, Sound and Other Features:

The artwork is on the average side. The hero portraits are nicely done but the actual unit designs are very basic. The item artwork is also very simplistic and not in a good way. However, there are no jarring elements and everything sits well together. The style of the artwork is slightly dated though.

There is background music and it is nice and ambient. It preserves the ancient and grand feel of the story. During battles you have a hanging button that you can click to pull down the sound options to mute music/sfx and choose a track. There are 5 tracks in total to choose from.

The character and special effects animations are very basic and could do with some improvement. Like when a Archwizard casts a teleportation spell or a boss monster appears, the sprites and visual effects could've been better.

In conclusion, Protector 5 is a tough game to get in to and demands to be taken seriously. So if you are looking to learn about an entirely new game world with complex rules and systems - Protector IV.V is challenging enough to satisfy your needs. Casual gamers have to be prepared to lose a lot of battles in the beginning and start over a few times. You will learn from experience and slowly start winning battles.