The original Warlords: Battlecry was the first game to combine a complete real-time strategy game with RPG elements and heroes. After all the flak hardcore Warlords fans gave SSG during development, the game was eventually accredited for it?s fantastic and unique gameplay. Now the sequel to the highly successful original is here, and it?s ready to take you for an exciting ride to fantasy role-playing land. The only question is if the sequel can live up to the reputation the original had. Well, I can tell you it definitely does that, and does it well.
The graphics in Warlords: Battlecry II are down right beautiful. Even though there aren?t polygons, as seen in the upcoming Warcraft III, the textures are so detailed, bright, and crisp that you can?t help to admire it all. And with a graphics resolution up to 1600x1200, even if you have a big monitor this game will look very pretty. For anyone with very low system specs, you can run the game as low as 800x600 for maximum performance.
You can tell the trees?, units?, and creatures? models are pre-rendered in 3-D, but they still look beautiful. They look much better than many other RTS games, where the designers simply draw a 2D image. The animations are also fluent and clean when you run the game above medium speed, but if you?re running the game at medium speed or less they tend to get a little choppy.
Sounds / Music:
Firstly, the sound is without a doubt stupendous. The game offers support for EAX sound cards, which means the sound is of excellent quality. The first thing I noticed was the music. Steve Fawkner, the man behind the music, did a real bang-up job when he composed this masterpiece. It has a nice dramatic, peaceful tone to it that a RPG/RTS title really needs.
Now let?s move on to the sound effects. There?s really nothing overly special here, as the sound is basically your standard RTS fair. You?ll hear various average sounds, such as swords and armor clashing, dragons breathing fire, and daemons growling for some fresh meat. One of the things that amazed me was the number of sounds each type of creature has in the game. Each one has multiple acknowledgements - which isn?t anything new - except that it?s pretty impressive given the number of different creatures and units in the game.
If I were required to sum up the gameplay in Battlecry II with just one word? well, let?s just say that would be impossible. This gameplay is simply incredible. When you start off, you?ll want to quickly run through the tutorial. The tutorial is very quick and simple, but still manages to teach you all you need to know to play the game. After that, you would head on over to the campaign mode and get ready for a lot of fun. In the beginning, you?ll create your hero; the biggest RPG element in the game - whom you?ll use in every game you play. You can choose between twelve different races for your hero and his army. Fans of Warlords: Battlecry I will notice that there are three new races: the Dark Dwarves, the Fey, and the Daemons. After that you?ll choose your name and avatar to give your hero his personality. As an added bonus, you can choose a password for your hero (if you want) so nobody else can play your character.
Once you are done creating your character, you?ll move on to a map consisting of approximately 67 territories for you to conquer. There are twelve palaces on twelve of the 67 territories; each representing the race that controls that area. When you claim control of a minor territory, you?ll receive certain benefits, such as new types of troops to control. If you happen to take control of a territory with one of the race?s palace on it, you?ll then be able to use that race in your own battles, if you choose.
Much of the gameplay is similar to most other RTS games. You build your buildings and army, you research to make your army stronger, and you use strategy to decimate your enemies. Where it becomes unique is the fact that you have your hero to use in battle, along with optional quests to complete. Your hero is a very big part of the game. He (and a very few other troops) can ?convert? mines so that you may receive gold, ore, stone, and crystals. He can also learn spells that will make you very powerful later in the game. Another thing your hero is useful for is the quests. Quests are entirely optional, but you?ll definitely want to do them. You gain new types of recruits to use, as well as a variety of other bonuses when you finish them.
Winning a game is done differently on many of the different territories. Your objective can range from the standard ?kill everything? style game to a mode where the objective is to kill the other enemy?s hero. While we?re on the topic, when you kill an enemy?s hero, that hero often drops certain items, such as crowns. These give you special bonuses as long as you?re wearing them.
Much like nearly all RTS games on the market, the multi-player mode is virtually identical to the single-player skirmish mode. Of course, playing against another human being is much more fun than dealing with computer AI. This is why I liked the multi-player mode so much.
SSG made the multiplayer mode accessible over modem, IPX, TCP/IP, or Internet play. The Internet option brings you on Ubi.com?s servers. This is much like Battle.Net, compete with rankings, chat rooms, and an easy-to-use interface. The only problem I ran into (and it is a big problem) was the number of players. At one time, there were only five people playing online. I did manage to find a game every time I logged on, however.
Another cool feature in the multiplayer mode is the fact that you can take your offline hero online and advance him against other players. There were also secure servers, which let you create an online-only character, which is saved on their servers.
With Warcraft III just around the corner, you might not be willing to buy another RTS game at the moment. Don?t make this mistake. Even if you play Warcraft III first, you?ll definitely want this game in your collection. Warlords: Battlecry II is easily a MUST have for any RTS fan.