|Fans of SSGs great turn-based Warlords fantasy series were
taken a bit aback when it was announced the next game in the series would be real-time. Great, the hardcore muttered, just what we needanother
Warcraft clickfest clone. Well, Warlords: Battlecry is here, and frankly the turn-based
crowd had it at least partly right. Though there are some surface similarities to the old
Warlords games, Warlords: Battlecry has much more in common with Warcraft or even
Starcraft than it does with Darklords Rising. It doesnt wander far at all from the
established gather/build/battle RTS conventions, and while the games emphasis on
heroes lends a certain RPGish patina to the proceedings, nobodys gonna mistake this
for Vampire: The Masquerade.
Warlords: Battlecry doesnt do much new with the RTS genre, what it does do is very
good indeed. The interface is elegant, RTS amenities like queuing and setting waypoints
are easy to use, and it has a long and tough (though linear) campaign and a deep skirmish
mode. And while many have made a big deal about the games emphasis on heroes, what
blows me away about Warlords: Battlecry is its variety. With nine very distinct races,
80-some spells, and loads of skills, abilities, and magic items to choose from, Warlords
Battlecry brings the sort of variety usually associated with turn-based fantasy games
(Warlords, HoMM) to the realtime genre.
The games graphics will
probably disappoint some. Dont expect the 3D fireworks of recent RTS games like
Ground Control or Dark Reign 2. This is a classic ¾ view 2D non-accelerated RTS game.
Frankly, I find the graphics a bit dated--much closer to Warcraft II than AoE II--but
still attractive and functional. Granted, they wont make your jaw drop or eyes pop,
but theyre way beyond merely adequate.
AI can be a little spotty; while you can control your friendly units' "aggression level," too often they'll wander off into trouble. Enemy AI is even more problematic. The preferred AI strategy is the early-game rush, even when it's commanding armies that aren't particularly suited to that approach. Enemy armies are very slow to react to missile fire, for example, and I have destroyed powerful enemy strongpoints by bombarding them with catapaults. The enemy troops would scurry about in a panic, never once attempting to find and attack the catapaults, and I'd move on to the next enemy. Not a very gratifying victory, to be sure.
Warlords' interface is excellent; both intuitive and easy-to-use, and it comes with a first-rate manual. The game's a snap to learn and plays effortlessly, especially if you're familiar with RTS conventions.
Overall, Warlords: Battlecry is a very good RTS with enough new twists to keep you interested. It's not the most beautiful game in the world, and the weak AI makes multiplayer gaming the most interesting gaming option, but even with these failings the game is strangely addictive, and has a high fun factor. If you're looking for a solid and engaging RTS with just a dash of RPG, Warlords: Battlecry will do you right.