PC Review - 'Warrior Kings: Battles'

by Hank on Sept. 17, 2003 @ 1:17 a.m. PDT

Set in a fantastical medieval world where small Kingdoms struggle for supremacy in a chaotic land of knights, and demons, you are the ruler of a new kingdom, born from the ashes of a once mighty realm. To resurrect this realm to its former glory you must forge order out of chaos by uniting the fragmented lands into a single, mighty empire under the rule of one warrior king - you. Read more for the full review ...

Genre : RTS
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Black Cactus
Release Date : September 30, 2003

Buy 'WARRIOR KINGS: Battles': PC

We’ve all heard stories of the Middle Ages, when the castle was the supreme representation of power and struck fear in the hearts of peasants. The castle is the stronghold of the empire, where the most elite warriors reside. If they fall, the castle will fall alongside, and if you are the ruler at that moment, I pray for your life, for there will be a beheading, and soon, a new king. Welcome to the life of Warrior Kings: Battles.

Warrior Kings: Battles is an RTS game set in the Middle Ages where you take control of a domain to prove that you are superior to your opposing kings. Starting from scratch, you must make your kingdom flourish with food, money, and resources. With a continuous flow of income, you can then build your military strength. As we have learned from our history classes, a powerful military figure leads to a powerful nation. Well it’s time for you to prove your leadership skills, so go out and build the best army that all nations will fear.

A balance of short- and long-range units are the key to a military invasion's success. There are several units available to build: mercenary, spy, bishop, javelineer, squire, knight, sapper, mangonel, explosive cart, archer, spearman, man-at-arms, gunner, supply wagon, and priest. Naturally, not all of these units are buildable from the start; you must upgrade in order to achieve the more powerful units. At the beginning, I would use spearmen and javelineers for short-range attacks. Javelineers are very powerful spearmen who are on horseback, enabling them to reach destinations very quickly. Using these units, you can clear an early opening and leave clean-up duty for your spearmen. Once all of the short-range units reach the desired location, I would bring in my long-range units: archers and squires. Squires are similar to javelineers, but they tout bows instead of spears. While these units are keeping the opponents busy, I would slowly sneak in my mangonels, long-range barrage units capable of annihilating a building and units. With the opponent busy and on the brink of defeat, I would finally be able to bring in my powerhouse units, who are ready to finish the battle by destroying what is left from the raid. These units would be the gunners, man-at-arms, strong melee units, and knights, which are sword units on horseback, a force to be reckoned with.

If at anytime you run low on resources and cannot build up your army, you can always hire your troops. It's not exactly the strongest force, but a quick "fix it" solution to overcome your predicament. On the other hand, if you do have enough money and sufficient upgrades, you may even see your most elite troops, such as the war elephants, archers, pikmen (stronger spearmen), and knights. Even with such a massive force, you may not prove victorious unless you strategically manage to place them in the correct formations and attack at the right time. That's why I would bring out the spies or scouts to give me updates on the opponent's castle, finding the perfect chance and openings to cause chaos. If necessary, I would use sappers to drop bombs and create essential structures to overtake the opponent's fortified castle. During a battle, there are two units that you should always have with you: the clergy (bishops and priests) to heal the injured and diseased units, and the supply wagon, which is probably the most important non-attacking unit because it provides the legion with more ammunition or weaponry whenever they run out. These units may be available at your luxury, but it is all thanks to the units behind the scenes.

The "behind the scenes" units would be the peasants or the "King's underlings," as I would call them. Without them, your massive army will never evolve because they are responsible for providing your empire with food, minerals, resources, and most importantly, the construction of every single building, from military buildings to religious structures. In this game, there are three different building categories: military, research and villagers. Among the military buildings are: stables, armory, trading post, and blacksmith. Some of the buildings within the research category are: church, sawmill, observatory, scriptorium, and cathedral. A few of the villager buildings are: warehouse, manor, and farms.

There may be more buildings and units available, but I have not truly figured out the building structure of this game. For example, if you create a certain structure, then some other structures in the build list will disappear. The units and buildings mentioned above have been consistent for me so I will say that these units are the base units with which you must finish the objectives for each domain. Every mission's objectives are the same -- destroy the opponent's manor. I find this somewhat annoying because it's always nice to have a change of pace, with mission objectives like rescue, recon, or defend your ground. There is also no storyline involved with the game. All you get are little text messages giving your objectives at the beginning, and you can’t even open up the objectives window in gameplay.

The biggest issue that I have with the game is the camera angles. Because of its zooming feature, the camera angles become somewhat of a chore. Using the caps lock key to rotate around is a huge burden, especially if you have a wireless keyboard that constantly notifies you when caps lock has been activated and deactivated. If you do finally get to the right position, the angle can still be wrong, making it difficult to see and manage your base. They really need to fix this camera, as it pales in comparison to C&C: Generals, where camera management was so easy that even a child could do it.

As for in-game graphics, the details of the units aren't too bad, but when using the zoom feature, you can see the units' blocky features. I would have loved to see the fights in better detail, since all you can see would be a thin white line trailing an arrow and the unit waving its weapons around. Perhaps the only time the graphics looked really nice was the CGI intro. If you’re going to show such a nice intro, then you should also back it up with either good gameplay or awesome in-game graphics, or preferably even both. With the exception of the impressive appearance of the buildings, this game didn’t achieve either, completely destroying the good groundwork that was set in the intro.

The music in the game matches the game's genre, but each tune has almost the exact same beat, tone, and pace, which gets really repetitive if you are playing the level for hours. You will also hear the voices of the units, which are not bad and match their respective characters. You've just got to love the peasants always complaining about too much work or wanting to change jobs. They also sleep when they aren’t doing anything, and you can see the ZZZZ’s coming from these lazy bums. Go work, you underlings! Other than these two components, the game's sound seems like it was fairly neglected.

After playing the game, I feel that they really need to improve the physics and most aspects of the game, especially the poorly-done camera angles and music. Implementing different objectives would have made this game so much more enjoyable. The game's load time was also extremely long, considering I played it on a Barton 2500+ with 1gb of memory and a GeForce 4 TI 4600. If you're looking for RTS games based in this particular era, you might want to try Empire Earth or Age of Empires, two widely-acclaimed games, or even Praetorians, an extremely tactical RTS for the truly hardcore. This game may have some potential in its features, and even though it tries hard, this release doesn't quite cut it.

Score : 6.7 / 10

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