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Ubi Soft



Liquid Entertainment



M (Mature)



Q4 2001



- Engaging storyline to keep you interested in playing
- Good RTS action similar to Warcraft
- Get to wield a samurai sword



- Doesn't tread any new RTS ground
- Lacking good multiplayer support over game sites (GameSpy) so far
- CPU AI controlling opposing forces at times seems a little too good



Review: WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos (PC)

Review: Disciples II: Dark Prophecy (PC)

Review: Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom (PC)



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Battle Realms

Score: 8.9 / 10


I've always had an affinity for ancient Japanese culture and real-time strategy games. Something about running around fighting with a samurai sword has always appealed to me, and the Warcraft series happens to be my all-time favorite collection of PC games. So naturally I jumped at the chance to review Battle Realms, which combines the mystical, art of war elements of the feudal Japanese world of centuries past into a Warcraft-style RTS game. The result is a solid title that employs many of the gameplay facets that have given rise to the Warcraft series' deservedly devoted fan following wrapped with the ambience of ancient Japanese culture.


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Like Warcraft a good storyline helps lift Battle Realms above the usual RTS crowd and gives energy and interest in continuing to play the engaging single-player campaign mode, Kenji's Journey. You assume the role of Kenji, the young heir apparent of the Dragon Clan who is now accused of murder after being found over the body of your freshly killed father, the leader of the violently unstable aforementioned Dragon Clan who have survived the onslaught of the supernatural Horde. After fleeing in shame, you now are on a quest to prove your innocence and prove you are a worthy successor to your father one way or another. A great wrinkle to this storyline is that as Kenji, you can follow either the path of good or evil, the ultimate yin and yang. More than a little upset that you have been undeservingly shamed? Take out your frustration by going over to the dark side of evil and play out a Grand Theft Auto III-style adventure. Want to prove you walk the virtuous road and are willing to become an honorable leader? You can do that too. After what happened last September, though, I'm personally more apt to travel the path of righteousness. It isn't as much fun to play as the bad guys anymore.





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What Warcraft playing-veterans will recognize right away is the familiarity and closeness to Warcraft's basic gameplay style. You construct your clan's necessary buildings by collecting water and rice to feed your army with, assemble a large force, train them for different functions, and plan a successful attack after foraying into the standard fog of war to turn the tide of battle into your favor. It's RTS control at its simplest and most basic element of PC mouse 


influence, which gives Battle Realms an elementary learning curve. There is more intricate template and hot key controls that can make it even easier to maintain complete manipulation over your clan, but again these aren't very difficult to master, especially for RTS gaming old-timers.

The other single-player option is Skirmish, which lets you modify the game to your tastes. From selecting the clan both for your own army and your opposition to picking the map you play on to the game's settings, it's one of the best features of Battle Realms, giving you complete flexibility in what type of game you will be playing during each particular sitting. Diversity happens to be Battle Realms biggest asset. You have four different clans to select from during Skirmish play: Dragon, Serpent, Wolf, and Lotus. Each clan has its own set of unique and different buildings and members as well as each clan following and requiring a different disciplined craft of Japanese war to be successful on the battlefield. Dragon and Wolf clans follow the path of the harmonious spiritual path of yang while if you select the Lotus and Serpent Clans you will be looking to advance through the following of the chaotic yin.

Graphics are solid overall but not overwhelming, lying somewhere in-between Warcraft II and the upcoming Warcraft III. A large and bright palette of color brings the buildings and characters in Battle Realms to vivid life. The great array of different sized and shaped clan members is a big help in differentiating the combatants on the field of bloody conflict. The ample amount of crimson bloodletting is the main reason this game collected an M rating. Sound effects are very good on the field of battle when weapons are clashing together or being fired. The vocal replies those under your command give to you when you issue a dictate are on the humorous order of yet again what you would find in the Warcraft series. Music throughout the game of the Zen-like variety you would expect in a Japanese-theme RTS or be familiar with if you watched any of the Karate Kid movies for that matter.

Don't think this a walk in the Zen garden either. Battle Realms is tough. You must have a strategically built army with a good mix of all levels of trained clan members to stand a chance against the opposition. At times, you can get frustrated at the CPU's apparent irrepressible AI might, but this isn't a negative. The artificial intelligence of the game both for and against you is smart. It's sometimes difficult to find an AI that really gives you a formidable challenge, but Battle Realms isn't one of those lacking titles in the fierce AI department. You must keep on your toes and get to building and training a large army contingent, because the CPU doesn't give you much time to work with before you usually get your first taste of an attack. Sequences of war action are intense. You regularly get a quick and clear decisive indication on who is the clear winner during a particular battle. If you run up against a large number of enemies, expect to generally be annihilated in short order.

Battle Realms' weak multiplayer options so far leave me no choice but to deduct score points. During my review process, I couldn't get a multiplayer game going over GameSpy, one of the biggest multiplayer gaming servers around. This happened on several different attempts each on a different day, even though the game gave me the option of playing over a GameSpy connection. I kept getting error messages. It's the only negative aspect of my entire Battle Realms experience. But not having an easy, accessible multiplayer setup does hurt a game's overall rating in this age of expected internet gaming abilities for an RTS title.

Battle Realms was one of the better RTS games to hit the market last year, but has somehow seemingly been largely ignored like a red-headed stepchild in a crowded PC RTS field that included a selection of top-quality titles. Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns, Tropico, Command & Conquer: Yuri's Revenge, Conquest: Frontier Wars, Empire Earth, and Shattered Galaxy all were great RTS titles of 2001. With so many choices, it's inevitable a really stellar game such as Battle Realms can get disregarded. But make no mistake, this is a superb game in the genre. RTS fans looking for a great fix until Warcraft III invades store shelves sometime later this year may want to grab hold of Battle Realms, just to prepare for the oncoming orcish onslaught.

- Lee Cieniawa


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