In the 11th century, crusades were all the rage. Started by Pope Urban – possibly the coolest pope name to date – it must have been reassuring, knowing that your religion was so right, that other people were killing each other about how right it was. How right must something be, for people to go that mental? Crusaders: Thy Kingdom Come is a large-scale military strategy game, which players of Total War will immediately recognise. The WASD and mouse camera controls will be familiar, the strategies of pitting mounted units against foot soldiers will be comfortable, and the different unit formations and advantages of terrain will be already lodged inside your head, ready to carry you more easily to a victory.
But where Crusaders fails to innovate and re-invent the genre, it does a good job of specialising in the Crusades setting. The five leaders’ powers come in handy, the secondary objectives are something that the game makes it worth going back to, and the religious relics are a nice way of working game-like stat bonuses into a 200-year religious conflict that was pretty low on leveling up. This is a relaxing game (mainly thanks to the time accelerator only going up to x2), with combat playing out sensibly, and the skirmishes looking surprisingly good up close. The sound is inoffensive and never breaks your immersion – units don’t vocally respond to an order, so blessedly you don’t listen to 30 synonyms for OK like usual.
Crusaders just doesn’t reach the depth or the heights of the Total War games though. That may be an impossibly cruel comparison, but it’s one that’s forced by the blatant similarities of this game. Developers Neocore side-step the still-warm potato of Muslim vs Christian crusades, by letting you play through the Muslim campaign, and – thankfully – by declining to reference current difficulties. Also, the manual self-deprecatingly refers to the game’s treatment of religion as “idealised” – which we took to be their way of saying the whole affair was as corrupt and indecent as hell. But then, you read into these things what you want to believe, don’t you? Who cares what the book actually says?
Oct 6, 2008