Review by Erin Ellis
Attention old-school real-time strategy fans: Dreamcatcher will soon be releasing Besieger. Set in a historical fantasy world that combines elements from Norse history, D&D and even the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard, Besieger offers some old fashioned base-building, conquest and dungeon-crawl fun.
It’s a guess as to the influences of the storyline in Besieger, but I caught elements of the three sources noted above. The beta version contains two playable factions: the Vikings and the Cimmerians. Set in what appears to be an ancient, Norse-like world of colorful islands, these two factions vie against one another across varied terrain.
Campaigns, skirmishes and multiplayer will be available. As the Vikings, you lead a small band of survivors, led by a hero Barmalay, to find Thor’s Hammer and liberate your people. Besieger contains a limited experience system whereby your heroes and common units level-up and attain higher hit points. The player has no control over specific attributes of the hero, but it’s a nice little wrinkle in gameplay.
The Cimmerians, whether modeled after those from the ancient world of actual history, or those contained in the Robert E. Howard stories, are under the rule of their King Konin’s evil, sorceress sister. She doesn’t like to wear a lot of clothes, so I imagine commune with evil gods is hot work. Konin hasn’t been seen since he left with a band of men on some noble quest.
There are some superficial differences in the factions, the Vikings are heavy on infantry and use airships, while the Cimmerians are geared more towards cavalry and ranged units. This provides some differences in strategic approach, but at the core is the same strategy: build up your towns, build a lot of units and proceed to send your opponent to dine at Odin’s table.
Base-building strays from the traditional RTS approach in that there is no central, town hall structure. The focus is on population-control structures such as houses. There is a heavy emphasis on peasant management in this game. Workers are created in houses and those workers can either collect resources, build additional structures, man siege weapons or be sent to barracks where they can be turned into a number of different military units.
The tech tree itself is pretty significant, but the flow of the campaigns is well constructed, so you’ll receive a gradual education in building progression. True to its title, Besieger places an emphasis on siege-craft, so you’ll notice a lot more upgrades and units available for siege weapons. As a counter, you’ll find upgrades for defensive structures such as walls and defensive towers. A fully upgraded wall can house ranged units pretty much anywhere along the parapet.
At this point, the graphics look a little dated, but I would say that the game contains a distinctive artistic style. Environments make full use of the graphics. They are colorful and teeming with activity. Any given map has quite a varied, mountainous topography that contains decentralized neutral hostiles such as wolves and centralized neutral hostiles like ogres or werebears. As you watch, wolves will hunt deer in packs or mix it up with an ogre on patrol. The world really feels alive.
Of course, everything else is moot if key features such as AI and pathfinding are broken. If you’re an RTS fanatic like me, you’ve probably run across your share of retarded AI that makes some games virtually unplayable. I’m happy to report that, even in the beta version, Besieger appears to possess some pretty solid AI and pathfinding routines. I never had any tooth-gnashing moments; at least, none that were not entirely my own fault.
Besieger is shaping up to be a solid, old-time RTS game. With a little more spit and polish before release, it could definitely appeal to people who enjoy the Age of Empires or Age of Mythology games. While it doesn’t appear to contain anything innovative, this title does seem, even its beta version, to be constructed by folks who know how to make a real-time strategy game.