To start out, Battle Realms is
probably one of the prettiest RTS games I have ever seen, and that would include such
titles as Starcraft, Warcraft, Age of Empires, or any of the other classics in this genre.
The sheer beauty of the graphics, when combined with challenging gameplay, an engaging
story line and overall superior programming combine to make Battle Realms a realistic
candidate for classic-status in the RTS gaming genre.
The premise of the game focuses
on an Oriental-style dimension where competing Clans battle for supremacy. The actual
gaming plot allows for several different mission paths based on decisions made by the
player at key points between scenarios. The single player missions limit gaming choices to
either the venerable Dragon Clan or the powerful and vicious Serpent Clan. Players are
controlling the destiny of their individual clan, fighting for control of magical forces
that could provide the key for supremacy and eventual peace.
Gameplay itself is relatively easy to understand; Battle Realms
does not try to reinvent the wheel in terms of game atmosphere, though I would have
preferred alternative mission goals rather than simply razing all of the enemy units in a
particular region. Players control the production of villagers which can then develop into
more complex character classes through the acquisition of more advanced technologies.
While all of this is pretty much part and parcel of the RTS genre, Battle Realms does find
a way to maintain a continuity of environment throughout the game. All the character
classes are created along traditional Oriental lines, though there seems to be a level of
authenticity taking place in Battle Realms that really appeals to me.
Controls are also pretty basic, though there is one point that I
had a little difficulty overcoming. I am accustomed to having graphic interfaces that
would allow me to control group activity which is an essential aspect of this game. Battle
Realms allows for hot-key control and also uses Ctrl key commands to order units to guard,
attack, and other basic actions. I was surprised that these options were not also included
in the basic control menu, however. I found that many of my units demonstrated a
peculiarly aggressive AI and without the ability to quickly reorder specific units, entire
assault groups could be quickly wiped out without constant supervision. The lack of these
graphic controls didnt really impede my gaming experience, but they did cause me to
have to spend more time learning to use keyboard commands than I would have liked.
The character AI was also quite interesting. I have never seen units so willing
to actively attack or search after enemy units once detected. Though I would often use
passive guarding commands to try and control awaiting assault groups, I would often note
one or two units that would still stray off if enemy units came within reach. This was not
so bad, (I mean, personality is always a plus), but it made discipline difficult to
enforce and I often found myself having to rebuild a group if any enemy units passed by
and I wasnt expecting them, which tends to be the case in this game.
said in the beginning, the graphics are what probably distinguish this game from the
get-go. Even though the video requirements themselves are relatively low (only 16 MB), the
game displays a sophisticated combination of map rendering, characterization, and general
environmental effects. A lot of times, I found myself letting the game play itself as I
just roamed the map, looking at the various effects, such as absolutely breathtaking
waterfalls, forests, and even grassy plains. When it becomes obvious that the game
designers put as much effort into planning and presenting the background effects such as
wind effects on the grass and clouds, it heightens the immersive nature of the game.
attention to detail is especially noteworthy when dealing with the characters within the
game. Each and every character class demonstrates a life-like quality that proves to be
incredibly entertaining. For example, the basic unit, the peasant, will stand around for a
few moments if left with nothing to do. If still left alone, the peasant sits down and
begins to fan himself with a hat. Admittedly, it is a small thing, but the appeal of any
game can be found in the details. The same applies for each and every character class;
they all demonstrate small idiosyncrasies like Archers that clean their leggings or test
their bows while awaiting orders, mighty Dragon Warriors that test the edges of their
blades prior to entering into battle, and a host of other small niceties that just make
watching the actual game itself a joy. It seems unfortunately rare for games to pay so
much attention to simple player units; more often than not, the graphics focus on special
explosion effects, etc. Battle Realms has thankfully instead turned its attention to
personality and plot, which creates a much more enjoyable gaming experience.
Battle Realms, like other RTS games, has tried to follow in the steps of early
RTS giants like Starcraft in using vocalizations to create some form of interaction with
the onscreen characters, although the lack of variety or comedy in these responses is a
bit disappointing, especially in light of the attention paid to so many other small
details throughout the game. It seems amazing to see that so much thought was given to the
way a ponytail would fall on an archers back from various perspectives, yet when
selected, an archer would only make two or three different acknowledgements.
Otherwise, the sound effects were quite enjoyable. There is something so very
enjoyable about hearing the thunk of an arrow striking a wooden post, or the
clash of spears in the midst of battle. The background music was also enjoyable, though it
did tend to be a bit monotonous after a while. However, it did serve to help build the
atmosphere that Battle Realms was seeking to create, and that ambiance proved to be very
Overall, the game meets all the requirements for a classic RTS game: beautiful
graphics, challenging and interesting gameplay, decent sound, and a unique take on the
gaming environment itself. Battle Realms weaves a fascinating web of Oriental mystery and
lets the player feel for a moment that they have found themselves transported into an
Akira Kurusawa film, where massive armies swell and ebb in a mystical swirl of death and
glory. Definitely, this is not a game to miss.