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PC Review - 'No Man's Land'

by ToAstA on Oct. 24, 2003 @ 1:52 a.m. PDT

Westward Ho! In No Mans Land, the player leads the colonization of the American continent between 1600 und 1900. In three campaigns, divided into 30 diversified missions, the player sees the historical development of this era from the viewpoint of six different ethnic groups: Englishmen, settlers, American patriots, Spaniards and forest- and prairie Indians. Read more for the full review ...

Genre: Real Time Strategy
Publisher: CDV
Developer: Related Designs
Release Date: October 20, 2003

Buy 'NO MAN'S LAND': PC

Related Designs and CDV's new RTS game, No Man's Land, hops into the populated RTS market with their colonial era game. The game's main feature is the campaign mode which spans six stories played out over three campaigns. During these campaigns you'll see the cast of characters grow to include the Spanish, English, Patriots, Settlers, Woodland Native Americans, and Plains Native Americans. Each culture brings their own technology and battle options which really make for some interesting scenarios as far as the game's stories are concerned. The basic premise of the story brings the player through America’s history of war from the colonial period on to the Wild West and everything in between. While based on historical events the game is not actually historical correct. You’ll see some famous names, but don’t expect this to be as accurate as a history book.

The game controls much like every RTS game you might have played before. This is a good thing by all means, since if you’ve ever played any real-time strategy game before you’ll be able to jump right in. For example, left-clicking a villager will bring up their build menu in which you can choose from the various buildings to construct. Then, you choose where you want to place the building on the map and click again sending your villager off to do the work. Telling your villagers to gather resources is pretty much the same as building structures. Want wood? Select a unit, right-click on tree and they’ll get to chopping, after which, they will return the chopped wood to your town hall or warehouse if you’ve built any. In order to harvest food you must build a farm on fertile soil and send your people to work sowing and reaping the rewards. The other resource that dominates all RTS games, including No Man’s Land, is gold. Find yourself a gold deposit, build a mine on top of it and get to work collecting your golden currency.

Using what resources you have collected boils down to building more advanced buildings and get to raising an army to battle with. You can also build buildings to research things such as improved armor, faster ships, better cannons and the like. Protecting your people can be as easy as building a fort with thick walls and guard towers. The thing about forts is that they can be captured once all enemy forces have been removed from the area, you’ll notice the walls change to your color and then you can close up the gates and getting to raise an army to battle with. After all, what kind of RTS game wouldn’t have war? You’ll need barracks, of course. Once you meet all the requirements you can build more than just your basic grunt to fight with.

Elite units like snipers and conjurers can also be produced, the cool thing being that the elite units are different for all the cultures. You will also see hero units for each culture. These heroes possess abilities that are wholly unique to only that unit and can often help out greatly to turn the tide of battle. Certain cultures also have different abilities even for the grunts of the army. The Plains Native Americans are the only culture that is unable to build fortifications, but they are also the only ones capable of picking up their buildings and moving them around. Whereas the Woodland Native Americans are able to swim and hide under the water, something no other culture can do. All these little touches help add more options to the gamer in strategy planning stages.

The graphics in the game really help represent the different eras well. Relative designs really kicked it into high gear with the work they did on the game’s graphics. Every little detail in the world is noticeable and totally feels like it should be there. You’ll see your villagers and troops leaving ripples and wakes when they walk through ground water as well as the hard labor of chopping away at trees and digging through the fields for food, as well as people leaving footprints in the snow. Swaying trees in the wind as well as a plethora of wild animals living on the various islands and terrain you will inhabit is also another cool feature. Be careful, as some of the more angry animals will actually attack your villagers and soldiers (such as bears and wolves.

Once the battles begin, you’ll be treated to an exciting scene of carnage and excellent animations. When you finally have two massive armies meet up in the ages with cannons and gunfire you will see cannonballs leaving black holes in the ground and bodies lying in pools of their own blood. In the Wild West you’ll see your outlaws with six-shooters having to stop and reload before firing again, The Woodland Natives launching fire arrows and warships launching cannons in great detail. The game’s engine allows you to zoom in relatively close to the action without losing too much detail. Obviously when zoomed in the models show their low polygon count, but that is understandable for an RTS game with over 200 units on screen at times.

No Man’s land also features some of its own unique features, such as the Counters you can research and use against your enemy. Develop a plague and use it against your opponent to slow down their food production, or bark beetles to decimate their wood supply. Also during the game you will have the chance to hire bounty hunters. These units are extremely expensive but can prove to be very effective. Once you’ve hired a bounty hunter, you select and enemy unit to hunt and send him on his way. He will track down and eliminate the enemy you selected, provided that your enemy doesn’t pay him off to turn the tables on you.

To go along with the single player campaign mode are six different multiplayer modes. The classic Deathmatch makes its return pitting two to four players in an ever-man-for-himself situation where annihilating the enemy forces is the only goal. A variant on Deathmatch is the Team against Team mode where several players unite to destroy the other team of players. This mode is a ton of fun from my experiences with it. No Man’s Land also has an RTS version of Capture the Flag which is pretty self-explanatory; capture your opponent’s flag and capture it to win. The game also has Eliminate the Elite Unit, in which your only goal is to kill off your opponent’s elite hero unit before he kills yours, all the while trying to stem off attacks from his army. No Man’s Land also includes two of its own modes for multiplayer. The first is Defend/Destroy a railroad. In this mode you must defend your railroads from enemy attack while you try to destroy theirs. The other new mode is Railroad Competition, in which you must be the first out of all your opponents to build up a working railroad. This mode is really challenging, forcing you to gather enough resources to build the railroad and an army to defend it.

Along with the excellent graphics, Relative Designs has also produced a wonderful game soundtrack and sound effects. The music will change depending on which era you are in and convincingly so. Your units are much like those in most other RTS games, clicking on them warrants a response from them which get very old very fast. Thankfully they can be turned off in the options menu. No Man’s Land has excellent 3D-surround sound support, too, so you’ll hear wind blowing across from the left to the right and the sounds of waking water against your fleet of warships. Gun and cannon fire also sounds very convincing when you have a group of soldiers all firing their rifles at once. The boom of the gunfire sounds powerful as does the sound of ten cannons launch their iron balls of death towards the enemy.

No Man’s Land is most certainly an above average RTS game. The same problems that annoy me in RTS games are still present in No Man’s Land, such as certain boring campaign missions (doesn’t happen very often) and AI path finding that sometimes gets lost on long treks. These are minor gripes and shouldn’t turn you away from giving this game a try.

Score : 8.0/10

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