Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: World Forge
Release Date: October 2006
At one of my final stops at E3, I was able to spend some time at the Playlogic booth checking out World Forge's new historical RTS, Sparta: Ancient Wars. This game, as the title indicates, is set in the ancient world where Sparta was the biggest, baddest military power around. What sets this title apart from the rest of the pack is the focus on realism. In the modern era of RTS offerings, it would seem that conventional military combat is actually an unconventional way to make a game.
The idea behind Sparta: Ancient Wars is to recreate battles the way they were actually fought in antiquity, complete with men in armor using a variety of melee and ranged weapons, ships, galleys and simple siege engines. The title is not intended to be a new Age of Mythology, and isn't an Age or Empires or Rise of Nations either. You aren't going to find magic and sorcery, or gods and mythological creatures running around, and you certainly won't be bumping into Jason and the Argonauts. There will be a tech tree, but it will not involve jumping forward an epoch into a new time period. The game is deeply rooted in the era of ancient Sparta and the warfare of that time.
The single-player campaign will feature over 30 missions and three different "races." Since the thrust of the title is realism, the races will not be radically different from each other (which would make no sense, given the setting) but will instead feature different strengths at different forms of combat. Multiplayer will be included in some form, but it is not the primary point of the game. Sparta: Ancient Wars is definitely being targeted at those RTS gamers who value realism and are not particularly interested in competitive games against other human players. With that said, the game is "inspired" by historical facts. It is not going to retell actual history, but will instead be loosely based on actual history and take liberties in order to tell an interesting story and, most importantly, have a fun game.
Combat is primarily focused on ships and men. Almost all of the units are soldiers that can be equipped with a variety of melee and ranged weapons, such as swords, axes, and bows. Workers, in addition to constructing walls and buildings, can set traps to ambush enemy troops. One trap I saw in action was a rock pile set in the side of a cliff which, when triggered, would lay stony death on any troops unfortunate enough to be at the bottom of the ravine. Ships will also play a major role in battle, with their ability to quickly ferry around large contingents of units. There will only be a few different types, being cargo ships purely for troop movement or offensive ships with less manpower but more ranged weaponry for naval combat or to assault land based fortifications. And yes, you CAN ram other ships.While we are discussing units, one of our favorites was the chariot with blades attached to its wheels, moving down enemies with each pass we made. Sorry about those legs Spartan, they had to go …
One of the rather interesting features involves wind direction. Yes, you read that right. Your HUD you will have an indicator showing you where the wind is blowing from and according to that you can, for instance, put your siege weapons in position to start taking down a building. Eventually the structure will catch fire caused by the bombardment, and if you planned it well, the wind will spread the fire to other buildings and trees nearby causing a ripple effect and massive destruction in its wake.
Graphically, Sparta: Ancient Wars stands out, being completely rendered in beautiful 3D and taking full advantage of DirectX 9.0 and Shader 2.0 to recreate the ancient world in luscious detail. Attention to detail is key; for example, when you are training new units, you can actually see them down in the training yard practicing with various weapons. Aforementioned fire effects look particular impressive, leaving scorched buildings and forest in its wake. Physics will be taken care of by World Forge's own physics engine, designed to support the needs of a realistic RTS.
In conclusion, Sparta: Ancient Wars has everything a Spartan warrior could possibly want to do battle with, except perhaps for the computer (they did lead a spartan lifestyle, after all). Expect to see the title hit store shelves near the end of this year.
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