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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RTS

 

Publisher

Ubi Soft

 

Developer

SSG

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

March 2002

 

 

- Addictive gameplay

- Great graphics

- Nice little touchups to the RTS formula

- Entertaining Sounds

- Real variety of units and races

- Long length of game

 

 

- No story

- Annoying save mode

- No water units

 

 

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Warlords Battlecry II

Score: 8.9/10

As with the myriad of FPS (First Person Shooter) games that are released, in the genre of RTS (Real Time Strategy) there are often too few games that are worthwhile.  By the rating above Iím sure youíve no doubt guessed that I found Warlords Battlecry 2 (WBC2) worthwhile.  I was so impressed by my first test run of the game that I had to forgo all other planned activities for four hours straight.  Then, on the following two days, those hard working gaming sessions became seven hour periods.  This game has proven to me to be more addictive than cigarettes after all night romps in the hay with my special friend.  This game has been the most fun Iíve had in playing an RTS since Dungeon Keeper 2 and Warcraft 2.  

warlords-battlecry-2-1.jpg (272764 bytes)         warlords-battlecry-2-2.jpg (326402 bytes)

WBC2 however does not share many similarities with those titles or many other strategy games.  Sure it is still firmly embedded in the RTS genre, but SSG has tweaked, balanced, added, cut, and polished their game to be and extremely polished RTS yet fresh enough to hold the interest of even the most jaded computer chair strategists. 

The first distinctive feature that gamers will notice when they first start playing is the significance of hero units.  When starting a single player campaign mode, players will be prompted to create their own hero.  When creating their hero, gamers will notice the sheer amount of choices in race that there are in this game.  In total there are 12 races, and they are each distinctive in their strengths, weaknesses, units, and buildings.  The differences are not just cosmetic (even 

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though different race units and buildings are all individually modelled) as they are in some games, but rather, there are real differences between all 12 races that require adjustments in strategy to be successful.

 

Iíve never been into magic users when gaming, but am almost always preferential towards the brute force method.  So, I chose the Barbarian race which complemented my playing style perfectly.  Among the 12 races, every gamer is sure to 

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find their forte and ability to use one successfully within their style of gameplay, and strategy.  Each raceís strengths and weaknesses are rated into four basic categories of strength, dexterity, intelligence and charisma.  These basic categories in turn affect the ability of your hero in such aspects as combat, resource gathering, speed, spellcasting and many others.

Hero units, once created, must choose a profession, and then a specialty.  The specialty and profession available to each hero is dependent on race.  Each gamerís hero unit will also have an inventory and slots where armour, weapons, and equipment can be equipped.  These pieces give your hero bonuses, and can add to their skill in combat, spellcasting, speed, and other areas.  These items can be obtained by slaying other heros or purchasing them. 

The real meat of the single game comes in the campaign portion of the game.  Here, aspiring heros must conquer a 72 region map, piece by piece, in a bid to become the supreme warlord.  There could have been a nice insertion of a story here, but instead, there is nothing of the sort and gamers are left to contemplate why they must become Alexander the Great. 

Before each battle for a region, players will be able to choose some units to begin with based on a minimum number of army points, assigned based on your heroís command rating.  More troops can be chosen by spending some of the income from the lands that you have conquered on army points.  Players will be able to choose from their basic units, or from retinue units.  These are more advanced units that have chosen to take sides with your hero because your hero is so badass, or they are advanced units that have survived battles between campaigns.

Each region offers a bonus to the your hero, your units, or your buildings.  Conquering regions also provides your hero and your surviving troops with experience points. As your hero gains XP, they will receive ability points when they level up.  These points can in turn be spent on your heroís skills, abilities, spells and basic points.  Troops gaining XP cause them to become more deadly in combat, and can be maintained in your retinue.

The reward for conquering the map is an Orb of Etheria which is a prized item which after 20 plus hours of gaming, I have still not obtained.  However, the manual reassures me that achieving it will be worth my while, making my hero even more unstoppable in multiplayer and skirmish battles.

A great feature also is that players will not be locked into only playing their chosen race for their entire conquest.  By conquering the home citadels of other races, players will be able to play the other races in their continuing bid for total domination of the map.

The collection of resources has also been streamlined in WBC2 so that it still plays an integral role in the strategy, but is not prone to micromanagement.  No mines, or units need to be produced to collect resources.  Rather, your hero or your most advanced units can convert mines to your cause.  Putting your peasant units to work in the converted mines will make collection swifter but is not necessary. 

This leaves the player to concentrate on their battles, defence and offence.  Each hero has a command radius in which troops within this radius receive bonuses in battle.  This can turn the tide of a battle against the odds in the favour of the side which has a hero among their troops.  However, having a hero slain, puts a side to a decided disadvantage. 

During battles, heros will be able to access quests at neutral shrines and mausoleums, which are more akin to just small simple tasks.  Upon their completion, heros will be awarded with items or new allies.  Scattered throughout the maps, there will also be some initially neutral churches which can be converted to your side to produce advanced units.

After the technology tree is near its maximum progression, Titans can be summoned.  These are units which can be produced only once in a battle and are unique to each race.  They are very tough to kill and do huge damage.  They are expensive to summon and take a long time to build, but can usually win you a battle.  This only adds to the mayhem and fun, and rewards the strategy of gamers who are able to defend their base successfully, manage their resources and who are patient. 

There are few complaints to be had with WBC2.  The minor innovations and the supreme polish of the game shine through any shortcomings most gamers will be able to point out.  One of these is the limiting save feature.  While SSG may be wanting to limit the number of saved games to one, for whatever reason, this is sure to prove an annoyance to gamers everywhere. 

While in the bid to maintain a perfect battle record, I made a mistake during one battle and had my hero killed.  This meant that my hero would not be able to collect as many experience points, and so I decided to load a previous save.  However, I found that I could not as I had not saved thus far in this battle.  So, I exited to the system.  Upon restarting the game, I found that the game had saved that exit of the mission as a loss.  After many expletives I bit the bullet and continued on with the first loss on my record.  Also, during battles, saves are unlimited, but there is only save game, meaning that a save at an inopportune time is worse than no save at all. 

Although the expanse of units, and races is already huge, there are no water units.  While only a minor quibble, the addition of water units would have only added to the fun of the game and the already adequately full menu.  Also, at the time of writing, I was beginning to find the challenges in the campaign a little easy.  I had conquered about thirty regions and my hero was beginning to be unstoppable with a small support group.  SSG seems to have considered this though.

Apart from the campaign, players will be able to take their heros into skirmish battles where different rules can be defined, and into online multiplayer battles.  The myriad of play options here is truly excellent and will allow players growing bored to create new and unique challenges for themselves.  All in all, there are over ten rules to tweak and over ten victory conditions in skirmish and online battles. 

For all gamers waiting for Warcraft 3, this game should be a perfect tie-over until the Blizzard title rolls into town later this year.  In itís own right Warlords Battlecry 2 should be able to keep the attention of gamers even after Warcraft 3ís release, such is my confidence in the fun to be had from WBC2.  With the amount of options and spit and polish that has gone into WBC2, strategy fans should find a lot to like about this game.

- Mark Leung

(April 5, 2002)

 

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