Windows - 2002
Also released on: Mac
Description of Warrior Kings
The game that Sierra left on the shelf has become Microids' jewel in the crown. With wave after wave of RTS games based around military/mercenary or sci-fi models, it's a relief to have a breath of fresh air focused around a world of medievalism and mythology.
You're in the Empire of the One God, currently ruled by a despotic Patriarch and his corrupt army commander, the so-called Holy Protector. Instead of defending the land from outside aggressors, the Patriarch is ruthlessly suppressing dissent from within. So when Amalric, the Baron of Cravant, becomes a focal point for resistance, the Patriarch besieges and burns down his village and executes the old man.
Amalric's son Artos barely escapes with his life and from his exile on the small island of Jarlsford begins to plot his revenge. Your task is to build up his army and resources and gradually take over the Empire. The path you take is entirely in your hands and can be any one of three completely contrasting directions.
The dark path is that of the Pagans who sacrifice peasants to their gods, summon demons to fight on their behalf and prefer mass troops and aggression over defence. On the side of the angels are the Imperial forces who can use their bishops and inquisitors to pray for Acts of God and Archangels to come to their aid and are stronger on defence than attack. The third option is the Renaissance race who rely almost exclusively on creating the most advanced technology to help them win every conflict - they're especially hot on banking, resource gathering and siege weapons.
The first thing that strikes you about Warrior Kings is just how stunning the graphics are. The 3D is not just restricted to top-down views over huge landscapes but you can zoom right down to ground level and watch a peasant chopping down a tree, a mercenary setting fire to a building or a soldier preparing to release a catapult. The degree of detail is astonishing, from the stonework on the castles and forts to the knights' armour and the hide of a monster. The maps are vast and your opening view of the first town going up in flames as the enemy mounts a concerted attack is eye-boggling.
Resource gathering is primarily concerned with gathering enough food to keep your troops going - the army marches on its stomach, etc. While peasants do the farming, all the food has to go back to your central manor and then be forwarded to your villages. Transport is via cart and protection of these carts is vital to every stage of the campaign. Your foes can ambush and steal them and effectively cut you off from your supplies just when you need all your strength and morale to turn the tide of battle.
Other resources are the usual building materials of wood and stone, plus gold to buy mercenaries, trade and upgrade. There are 4 basic types of troops available to you and they are carefully balanced to ensure that no one type has outright superiority. For instance, light infantry like archers are extremely nimble and can take down the more slow-moving heavy infantry, but are vulnerable to heavy cavalry units who in turn are no match for the spearmen and pikemen of the heavy infantry.
This is where the strategic element comes heavily into play. Mass rushing is a complete dead loss here unless you fancy the idea of a glorious suicide. Use of the landscape is much more important, as positioning a group of archers on a hill overlooking the enemy gives you air superiority and makes it harder for heavier troops to labour up the slope to take you out. Sometimes it's better, too, to send some of your lighter troops ahead in skirmish mode to draw the enemy out and let the heavier troops polish them off.
,p> Use of formations is also crucial to the fortunes of war. Troops travel at their fastest in column formation but have a weightier attacking punch when in a wedge. Formations also have the effect of spreading the damage through all the troops, which means they take longer to be defeated. This is especially relevant in defence, as the oval formation maintains a static defensive ring that is extremely hard to wear down.
Standard RTS rules for choosing, grouping and moving units apply, with the added advantage that clicking on one unit will automatically highlight all the others of his type. The inevitable fog of war is ever present and creating a scout at an early stage in the game is highly recommended to suss out where the opposition are lurking. The Black Cactus engine is powerful enough to have hundreds of troops on screen and to be able to move them smoothly and seamlessly around the landscape with almost no glitches. We say almost because occasionally the game drops out completely and without warning and sends you back to the desktop - save as often as you can.
The interface is designed to be as user-friendly as possible. Drop-down menus are small and discreet at the top of the screen and the mini-map is tucked into the bottom right. The mini-map is permanently set up with due north at the top and this can be disorientating when the gameplay shifts to facing south-east, although a 'vision cone' locates the field of view open to you in your current location.
There are some useful tutorials to get you started (plus a few hints on how to get through the first stage in your hard copy manual) and the manual on the CD gives a comprehensive overview of both game info like buildings, units and upgrades and a world perspective on the Warrior Kings universe if you feel the distinctly nerdy desire to believe that it all really exists.
While the background music is generally stirring and moody by turns, the special effects are particularly impressive. As you float over a village you hear the church bell tolling, a cart driver muttering, peasants working the farm, machinery whirring and horses neighing. On the battlefield arches' arrows swish through the air and land with a satisfying thump, flames crackle and the dying wail. At ground level you can really begin to believe in this universe after all.
This is not a short game and once you've started you'll never want it to end. The learning curve is not excessively steep and you'll find that each time your troops get massacred, by about the third restart you've worked out the correct strategy to overcome numerically superior odds. With its mouth-watering graphics, vast playing surfaces, huge and varied armies and challenging tactics, this is the one RTS game you should be boiled in oil for not owning.
Review By GamesDomain
Captures and Snapshots
Comments and reviews
EJAY 2015-10-13 0 point
When I extract the download, it gives me a folder containing a .toc file and another zipped folder ("image_session1.bin"). When I extract that, it creates yet another zipped folder ("image_session1.bin.cpgz"). Extract again, and it creates a copy of the first zipped folder ("image_session1-1.bin"). Any suggestions?
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Warrior Kings was also released on the following systems: