Battle Realms is a 3d real time strategy (RTS) game that doesn't really break any new ground, but is a very nicely done game that is fun to play. One of the nice things about Battle Realms is that not only is the typical multi player RTS fun included, but a deep single player campaign adds to the fun also. You take the role as Kenji, a young member of the Dragon clan who is being accused of murdering his own father. Kenji's father was the leader of the Dragon clan and now you must prove your innocence while keeping the other groups at bay that want power. You can decide to stay good and fight the good fight, or turn evil and take it out on the enemy with a vengeance.
RTS veterans will have no problems with the premise of resource gathering and management. Rice and water are the basics to gather and build from. You start with peasants who can build other buildings for you, or they can gather resources. These peasants are also the ones you can train into a variety or higher level combatants, depending on your clan. The peasants could become magic firing soldiers, or even pit fighters adept at hand to hand combat. The Japanese variety of clans is a nice change from Humans/Orcs etc.
The graphics are very nice and support up to 1024x768 32 bit. The interface is quite easy to pick up on and not a hindrance at all. Highlight a unit and if he is able to perform another act an icon is lit up, if he cant or resources are too low then the icon will be gray. Click on a peasant, choose a building to build and right click the area you want to build it is how easy it is to build a building if you have the resources. You can upgrade your peasants by sending them into various buildings, if you are the Dragon clan, send a peasant into the Dojo and he becomes a hand to hand fighter. Each clan has its own types of fighters and strengths and makes for a nice blend.
Sound effects are quite nice and the variety of sayings the different warriors say will even make you chuckle from time to time.
Now to my favorite part....multiplayer.
Mulitplayer is what makes or breaks many a game. After you have defeated the single player missions multiplayer is what will keep you coming back. You can play a game over Gamespy, or lan or IP to IP. I played against my sons via LAN as my DSL has been down. As with all the other RTS games you need a good blend of tactics and resource management to win.
There are now four multiplayer game types.
Standard game mode - A player is eliminated when all existing and potential units has been disabled. The player may still have buildings left, but if he has no Peasants or Peasant Huts, the game will end.
A variant of the standard game mode in which the elimination of a player's town will eliminate the player, regardless of his units and building potential.
- Kill the Keep
All players start with a keep. A player is eliminated when this keep is destroyed, regardless of how many other buildings and units he has available.
Each team is given a large pile of resources to start, but cannot harvest additional resources. Players must win by building the most effective town and army with these starting resources.
My favorite type is the famine version. Makes for a quick but yet intense battle and makes you really think hard about what your spending your resources on.
Another nice feature of the multiplayer game is the variance of the AI. When choosing AI's for Skirmish or Multiplayer games, take note of the name of the AI's you select. Each AI, named after a Battle Realms Zen Master, employs different strategies. Some use BattleGear more, others simply prefer to harass the other players. Experiment to learn the strengths and weaknesses of these different AI's - not only will this help you defeat them, it will also help you pick AI allies for multiplayer games that better complement your strategy.
If your a RTS junkie and are looking for some refreshing game play, then Battle Realms is the RTS for you. It is quite immersive in the single player campaign...and the variety of the multiplayer will have you coming back for more.