Battle Realms Review
Roy Rossi / May 25th, 2002 No Comments
Oh look, a fantasy RTS game…why am I not excited. Well, since Red Alert I haven’t played a single RTS game, apart from the glorious Shogun, that has done anything remarkably different to Westwood’s classic to make me want to play it. Battle Realms is the name of the game, an oriental flavoured RTS revolving around the conflicts between 4 clans, lets see if it can make me sit up an take notice….
Lets get one thing clear from the start; this is the best-looking RTS game I have ever seen. The game begins with some real slick menus and then sends you into the huge, beautifully drawn maps, diverse and littered with very organic looking features, the best 2D backdrops outside of Baldurs Gate. Where Shogun gave us spectacularly huge battles with little to no detail, Battle Realms takes it in the opposite direction, you might get only get about 30 units at a time, but the detail is impeccable. Frogs hop about, rabbits scurry around and flocks of birds scatter noisily if disturbed by your troops. All your forces are fully 3D polygon figures and have some excellent animation, its almost like watching a miniature Soul Calibur as they show of their wide array of moves, the magic effects and dirtying blades simply add to the effect. Unfortunately, Liquid Entertainment had a bit too much faith in the engine, the characters are very low detail close up, during the game you never see this, however all the cut sequences are done using these Final Fantasy 7 esque models and they look dreadful.
These cut sequence storylines aren’t the best I’ve ever seen either, some satisfactory voice acting tells a very brief rendition of a story of which I could not follow one bit. This is fairly inconsequential though as every map has a simple ‘kill ’em all’ style objective, more of this later though. The music and sounds are very different to the voices though, excellent oriental themed tunes add to the atmosphere greatly along with all the expected ambient wildlife noises.
As RTS games go this has an excellent selection of units and the creation of these is the games secret weapon too woo us all. At the heart of the game there are resources to collect, rice and water, that you send out your peasants to collect. These peasants eventually form your fighting force though as you send them into your dojos, archery ranges and alchemists to strengthen them. The just-add-water-innovation comes from the mix and match nature of it all, basically you can train a peasant in archery and swordplay, or you can train him in alchemy and archery, combining their qualities. Add the various special attributes you can give them (eg. a limited supply of magic arrows) and the fact that every unit can be mounted on horse back – provided you can find some wild, wild horses that is – means that you have a very customisable armed force. There is another side to this though, in terms of micro-management this may be a bridge too far, to get the more powerful units you will need to send your men from place to place to train them in different skills manually, there is no way to queue up their training. Needless to say, in the heat of battle it isn’t easy to replace a strong unit when you have to send a peasant to the dojo, then the archery, then the alchemist, then the metal works, then the stables…
A nice touch, and a nod towards the old Warhammer games, is that you get character units, unique men who have a special ability and can really turn the tide of a battle if you use them correctly.
The game innovation ends here. The actual gameplay is solid; it does everything you’d expect an RTS game to do, but not much else. Your adventure takes you from level to level with some branching, but not by result of battle, you just get to choose which mission to do next sometimes. Every map has the same objective, kill all the enemies in your way, you struggle for a while to build up your army, fending off the odd attack, then when you’re strong enough you go wipe out the enemy with ease. Finding the enemy can be a different matter, after destroying the main enemy bases on each level I have had to spend around 20-30 minutes patrolling the map to hunt down the last few enemies I missed, this is rather poor in my book.
The enemy has some sharp AI at times, you will find your weakest points being attacked and you’ll find them retreating and rebuilding else where on the map if they take a beating. Sometimes they can be a little unfair on early missions though, on one map I was stormed by 5 sword-men on horse back after about a minute of play and had everyone killed there and then, sort of a tank-rush…but with horses.
Battle Realms has some good things going for it, it has had a lot of care and attention put into it, as Liquid Entertainment has made a perfectly good RTS game. My only real problem with it is that I’ve seen it all before…I can’t give this as high a mark as it probably deserves because it plays so similar to so many games that have gone before it. If you’re a tiny-man-controlling-freak who can’t get enough RTS games then this comes highly recommended… if however if your getting a bit sick of harvesting rice/farms/tiberium to train samurai/knights/minigunners then I’d think long and hard before investing in this.
Battle Realms has received a nice score of 3.6 / 5 for an overall score of 72.0%.
tags: review , smacky