"Don't judge a book by its cover." This nugget of truth describes Warlords Battlecry II to the tee. Upon inspection of the box, a feeling of "Oh no, not another one" swelled up inside me, for I was expecting another Warcraft/Star Craft clone. However upon playing this game I would come to prove my feelings wrong. With a blend of RPG and RTS gaming this truly is a game for the masses. So with out further a due I give you Warlords Battlecry II (Hey, this even rhymes, I'm a poet!).
Not much to say here. Installed without a hitch and had none of the bloat ware that accompanies the setup after the install. This is a refreshing change of pace, for I do not like to be bombarded with a slew of questions on whether I want to install a new ISP or an extra demo. One thing to note was the launcher, it had this unique water effect to it and when you move the mouse over it, it would create ripples, it looked very cool.
The standard game modes are here, Single Player, Multi player, and Skirmish. I was extremely over joyed when I found the Skirmish mode, for there have been far too many games that lack a skirmish or instant action mode, which I think kills the replay value by 100%. The multi player aspect also has an option I like which again has been removed from so many games, TCP/IP. This is a fantastic option! For you now have the choice of playing your own private game and do not have to contend with the often overloaded, overpopulate public Internet game servers. Also helps if you're the paranoid gamer that is worried of someone cheating. So far so good.
Here is one of the games strong points. I have never seen so many options incorporated into one game. From system configuration to conditions of victory this game has it all. The true shine of the options comes into view when playing Skirmish/Multi player. Besides your standard starting resources and fog of war, the game has a set of game play options governing the rules of war, bonuses, and handicaps. Rather than describe every feature, which there are many. You can see for yourself. With this wealth of options I am sure you can create any form of battle you want.
A blend of Role Playing and Real Time Strategy truly makes this game unique, not only must you think of your units, you must think of your hero. Hero you say? Yes your hero. This is where the RPG aspect comes in. Your hero is you, now as redundant as that sounds, it's true (poet thing again). What you want your hero to be will affect his performance on the battle field. This much more than just a "Commander" type unit, he grows in level and skill as you move from battle to battle which makes him a player rather than a unit. You can customize every aspect of your Hero. His disciplines, strengths and weaknesses. His magic ability, damage and armor class, resistance to magic, elements, everything you would find in a well written RPG. This makes your hero the most valuable unit in the game, but it doesn't end there.
The races provided by this game are the most diverse I have ever seen. It's not just Human, Orcs and Elves, its every fantasy race you can think of. What's great about that is, every race has their strength and weakness, also the race balancing done in this game is fantastic. In traditional games, they try to match unit to unit and off set it by making it more powerful than its counter part but it requires more resources to build or vice versa. This is done away with in this game, some races have more melee classes than others while some have more magic classes, so it will take a bit more thinking when planning a attack.
Since we're on the topic of resources, here is the break down. You need to collect 4 resources in this game, gold, crystal, ore, and stone. Also note that some races require more of a certain resource than another so it would be good to check out which resource your race depends on the most. Another feature that I found pleasurable is lack of help required to mine your resources. This means you don't need fifty million peons to harvest your gold. The harvesting is much like direct deposit, you capture the mine and it gets deposited into your bank automatically. Now, you can store units in the mines to boost the speed at which you gain resources which I highly recommend doing, and again they do not have to move to and from your main town and the mine, which clears the area for more buildings. Another feature unique to this game is the unit recruitment. After you vanquish a enemy you get battle points which you can spend on buying special named units which a considerably more powerful than the ones you can build. They have bonuses and extra powers the regular units don't.
Speaking of bonuses, many of you are familiar with "crates", most RTS games have them. In Warlords the crates are for your hero, they are usually packed with armor, new weapons or jewelry that offer all kind of stats bonuses and magic bonuses. Another great feature about this game are the mini quests your hero can accept and complete for extra loot. The Random map generator was a nice touch added to the skirmish/Multi player modes. No matter how many times you play it (unless specified) you will always be given a fresh map to wage war on.
AI, Wether it futuristic war or Mid-evil combat, I have seen the computer player fall short of giving you a real challenge. They either do a poor job of putting it together offering an easy win or going overboard and making it near to impossible to win. Some have come close but usually fail due to exploits of the game code for the AI. In Warlords there are varying degrees of AI difficulty.
They range from the hardly any effort needed, to pray you make it through this. The AI on lower settings knows where your people are and will try to avoid a conflict and find an easier way in. However, on harder difficulties they will come running right down your most heavily defended entrance brave heart style. Also the implementation of formations actually means something, one thing I have seen is the lack of formations being useful. Many games have the bunching problem, where the AI will bunch up all together while traveling and sometimes cause the group to become stuck or "Follow the Leader," where all the units will form a single file line moveing towards your way point . Warlords seems to have removed this problem and made formations useful once again. The AI so far has done a pretty good job in offering a challenge, but as with all things, time will tell if it was a well designed AI or not.
The final topic of my review is the Single Player campaigns. Again you take your hero, pick a race, and try to take over the world. I know its sounds just like every other single player objective in this type of game, it's a bit more involved than you think.. Once you conquer a land, you own it by influence, now who's to say it can be taken away from you? and trust me there are many lands to conquer. I don't want to ruin the surprises of the single player campaign, so take it upon yourself to find out. Single player plays the same as skirmish and all rules, bonuses, and rewards apply. But there is a difference, skirmish is for the quick fix or need to level your hero, single player plays more of a story and the battles take more time for there can be more than one inhabitant in a land.
I truly enjoy playing this game. It's a breath of fresh air in the glut of Warcraft/Command & Conquer clones. Its implemented many aspects that its brothers before it have not. My hats off to SSG and Ubi soft for making such a great game. However I have one problem with the game, and those are the Titans, every race has a super unit called a Titan. They are the strongest and toughest unit in the game. I believe they made them to strong, for you can wipe out an entire board with one, but there is an option to disable titans which pretty much invalidates my problem. Disagree with something in this review or have a tip for me leave me a message on our message board I invite all forms of criticism.