Developer: Omega Force
Release Date: Q4 2007
There are just some things you can set your watch to. The sun will rise and set, the new Mario game will center around Princess Peach being kidnapped, Madden will sell a trillion copies every year, and Koei will be making large-scale war games until the end of time. It's their thing, you know? It's what they do.
The jewel in Koei's crown has thus far been their Omega Force studio, which has been known for the Warriors series. Taking place in fantasized (and oft fictional) versions of great Asian conflicts, they star a single person making all the difference in a war as he takes on hundreds of soldiers all by himself and emerges victorious. (They've pumped out about a thousand of these now, with no sign of stopping, but at least this year, they're changing up the formula with tag-teaming and giant robots.)
This time around, Koei and Omega Force are trying something familiar, yet new at the same time. Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War moves the battlefield out of the Asian locales and into Europe during, well, the Hundred Years' War of the 14th century. During this time, England and France were locked in conflict over the rule of the latter. Some famous historical figures made their names known during this era, including England's "Black" Prince Edward and France's Joan of Arc, to name a couple. Expect to see them here, over the course of your own personal war.
Unlike Omega Force's other titles, this one doesn't have direct hack-and-slash action. While melee fighting does exist, it's all done by proxy. At the game's outset, you create your own avatar; it can be male or female but (as implied by the voices you can choose), but it will always be decidedly European. This avatar is a commander who, at the start, bears no allegiance and is capable of leading several types of mercenary battalions at will. You can charge straight in with bladed soldiers or trample the enemy underfoot with a horse-driven cavalry. Specialty battalions consisting of everything from archers, elephants and cannoniers are also included. In Bladestorm, war is waged by leading large groups that attack via AI, rather than individually via real-time button presses.
Each battlefield you take part in will contain a selection of each type of battalion, lending strategy to the proceedings. From as early as the start of the game, for example, you can use archers to whittle down outer defenses, and then use horseback cavalries to storm the cramped insides of a castle base. Each unit type has strengths, weaknesses, and special attacks mapped to the face buttons that play to both (archers have a first-person sniping mode, cavalry has a trample, and so on). The more efficient you are, the more powerful units will be at your disposal, along with a host of other rewards.
For each battle, you can decide whether or not to ally with the French or English side of the conflict. Your decisions will affect the outcome of both the war and your life.
The latter, of course, is what's more important to you, and there are two things you fight for: money and fame. Being victorious in battle, of course, nets you fat cash; however, you're also on a quest to make a name for yourself as a significant warrior figure. The higher your reputation, the bigger the monetary rewards, and the better your troops will become. Tougher missions with even greater reward potential will also open up.
Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War is set to join the fourth quarter melee, and if Omega Force's constant stream of Warriors games is putting you to sleep, then you may want to give it a look. It's got strategy and simulation mixed in with your good old large-scale army ultra-violence, which means that it should hold your attention by appealing to your inner tactician.