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Ah, history. Stranger than fiction, and the source of the best stories. JoWooD, makers of variable quality games... wait a second. Is this the same game we just reviewed earlier today? Why no, of course not, it’s a game based on the wars between Russia, the Mongols and the Crusaders - our very favourite period of medieval warfare! What’s more, instead of a mere two campaigns as in Fate of Hellas, there are three! That means, according to the laws of maths, this should be 33% better.
But it’s not any percent better. In fact, it’s just as tedious and sludgy, as it’s merely another expandalone of Ancient Wars: Sparta, which WorldForge built using exactly the same tech last year. And thanks to a bunch of bugs cropping up, it’s occasionally unplayable, as you can’t click on certain key units. That’s a real shame because we actually want to like this game a whole lot more than we like the Greek game of the same parentage.
The units - Russians, Mongols and Christian knights from the Northern Crusades - make up a swathe of history that’s incredibly rich, interesting and violent. There are elements of strong RTS ideas here too: like the modularly expanded town around which your base-building focuses, or the way in which units interact with each other and the terrain.
What’s most difficult to stomach, however, is that this is a game that sits in the wrong place for us to recommend it. It’s too slow and awkward to be seen as a modern RTS, and the events in it are all well-narrated but drama-free. It wants to tell the stories of medieval history, but instead tells the stories of the limitations of modern game development. There’s nothing here that can’t be found in a mechanistically better form in games like Command & Conquer or Warcraft III, or in a historically richer form in games like Medieval II. WorldForge are doing their best, we’re sure, but sadly it’s just not good enough.
Apr 25, 2008