Robert E. Howard is gyrating in his grave. Dreamcatcher's latest fantasy RTS Besieger borrows from the mythos of Robert E. Howard's Conan stories. After the debacle of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, this game could be enough to raise Howard from the dead and send him on a butt-kicking rampage.
King Konin of Cimmeria has disappeared while on a mission. His scantily-clothed sister has appropriated his throne and started to assimilate the neighboring Vikings. Lord Barmalay, one of the few remaining Viking heroes, is leading a band of survivors and assorted heroes, such as the centaur Cha'zimm, on a quest to free his people.
Unfortunately, I never found out how the story ended because I became so frustrated with this clunky, unpolished game that I set it aside. Taking place in an admittedly verdant and attractive world of mountainous islands, Besieger is plagued not only by poor AI and pathfinding, but by a baffling adherence to tired and outdated RTS conventions.
Besieger features the usual array of RTS play choices: single player campaigns, skirmishes and multiplayer. It offers two playable factions: Vikings and Cimmerians, persistent hero characters, and a rudimentary experience system for all units.
The world of Besieger is very nice looking. Lush, green and rocky, it feels like a living world. Within a day/night cycle, you can watch as wolves engage in battle with a band of neutral hostile ogres or hunt a deer. The terrain is very dynamic: deep ravines, gradually sloping hills covered with rocks and trees and sheer, dramatic cliffs. This varied landscape also has a significant impact on character movement: units move slower uphill, faster down.
I love a rich game world, but if you're going to make the terrain mountainous and diverse, then you had better make sure that your pathfinding and AI are up to the task. Early in the campaign, I had one of my heroes get stuck on a hillock right before a big battle. This is absolutely unacceptable. The pathfinding in general is horrendous. Moving a group from point 'A’ to point 'B’ is a test in patience and micro-management. Area attack commands would be laughable if they weren't so frustrating. Many units are unnecessarily lost to these deficiencies. Save often, you'll be re-loading your game a lot.
Camera control is awful. Every time the camera runs into a mountain, it shoots straight up into the air. It also has a tendency to get stuck on said mountains. You'll spend more time struggling with the camera than just about anything else in the game. Again, if you're determined to play this game, save often.
Besieger's focus, as you can tell from the title, is on the siege and defense of large, fortified towns. Town defenses can be attacked with a variety of implements, from standard siege equipment such as rams to airship cruisers equipped with arbalests, or if you're feeling cheeky, send a transport airship full of troops over the wall and try to establish a foothold within the town.
Prepare to breed those peasants like a county full of Catholic serfs. The focus of your town in Besieger is your peasants. Some may disagree, but I find the excessive management of peasants to be just about the most boring gameplay convention of all time. Peasants not only build structures and gather the three resources: wood, stone and iron, but they are also the raw material for producing your military units. You must send peasants into military buildings to produce your army. Of course, you'll also have to spend some wood, stone or iron for every unit. This begs the question: why bother with the peasant?
This philosophy really gets out of hand when it comes to Besieger's weapons of focus. A peasant must be sent into a siege factory to produce a mobile workshop. That mobile workshop will then require additional resources and time before it can be turned into one of several different siege weapons. That siege weapon must then be manned by another group of peasants.
The end result of all this micro-management of the great, unwashed masses is that it wrings any possible fun out of the game. Considering the other significant technical problems, there isn't a lot of enjoyment to be derived from Besieger as it stands. Add in a script and voice-acting that makes you want to eat your own tongue, and you have a title that is a total miss. Save yourself some money. The summer dearth of games isn't bad enough to waste your time on this one.