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Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc Preview

publisher: Enlight Software
developer: Enlight Software
genre: Strategy

PIII 800, 128MB RAM, 16MB Video Card, 700MB HD
ESRB rating: T

release date: Feb 07, 04
» All About Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc on ActionTrip

There's a whole bundle of review and preview codes hanging around the Action Trip office and we've been up day and night going through each and every one of them. (It's hard goddamn work we tells ya! - Ed.) Among the many recent beta builds was Enlight Software's Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc; currently in development for PC and Xbox platforms. Joan of Arc presents an interesting combo of 3rd person action, real-time strategy elements, and some RPG goodness. The PC version of the game is scheduled to launch on January 7, 2004 across the U.S.. We were lucky enough to get our mitts on the beta, so that we can tell you what to expect when the game hits retail.

It is 1337 (l337?! - Ed.) and you must aid Joan of Arc, the renowned French heroine, and her troops in the battle against the mighty armies of the English king whose only goal is to quell any resistance and claim the throne of France. The hundred years' war between France and England rages on as both sides struggle to gain control over key territories. Although greatly outnumbered by the English, your troops have courage and moral by their side thanks to Joan and her admirable leadership abilities. Your goal will be to mobilize any remaining French forces in the area and organize a powerful counter-offensive. Even in the darkest hour, Joan will not be alone. She will be accompanied by other skillful leaders, such as Jean De Metz, the Duke of Alencon, and General "Le Hire."

At the outset of the single-player campaign, you'll have to pass along a more or less linear path and take out several enemy patrols. The few introductory missions gave us a good opportunity to get used to the controls and camera system. Also, the game operates in two distinctive camera modes - 3rd person single-character action and the real-time strategy mode; both of which have their advantages in different battle situations. One the first praiseworthy features we encountered was the challenging aspect of positioning troops and hero characters to counter often well-concealed opponents. This is why the so-called real-time strategy mode proved as a very useful addition to the gameplay. As you engage in the RTS mode, the game will appear more epic and you'll have to rely more on your tactical abilities. Issuing orders seemed simple enough and you won't have to worry about any unnecessary micromanaging along the way. You should also note that players are allowed to switch modes practically any time they wish. For example, in one particular mission, we controlled Joan in 3rd person mode and entered the heart of an enemy base-camp with a host of troops, while "Le Hire" remained behind to guard the gate. As soon as the English reinforcements arrived and started surrounding the camp, we quickly switched to RTS mode and sent "Le Hire" and his soldiers to deal with this new threat. After a while, thanks to good tactics and good melee combat, our small army prevailed and achieved victory against a much stronger enemy.

Gamers should also know that they won't have to bother with standard RTS stuff like resource gathering and base building. Instead it all amounts to using and recruiting units that become available during the mission. There will be plenty of different units to send into the fray, from bowmen and cross-bowmen, to swordsmen, spearmen, and knights. Medieval warfare will also do its bit. Relying on powerful siege weaponry Joan and her forces will be able to arrange effective assaults against enemy encampments and castles. You'll be able to use the following weapons: arbalest, battering ram, belfry, bombarde, cannon, fauconneau, and the trebuchet. Each of these can be extremely useful if used properly.

One thing we liked at first glance was the epic structure of some of the missions. Like the time you have to endure through a forceful English invasion on Orleans. A great host of enemy soldiers has been sited on the horizon and you're authorized to protect the citizens of Orleans at all costs (especially those hot French women - oooh la-la!). The English have strengthened their lines with mighty siege weaponry and it's only a matter of time before they brake through. Until they do so, you may man the walls with archers and even climb up there with Joan and other hero characters, in order to take out as many soldiers before they storm the inner-city. Once the gate crumbles, your foes will rush into Orleans though a narrow passageway. This gives you another good opportunity to weaken their ranks before they invade the town streets and start executing civilians by the numbers. Another interesting battle situation was when we had to invade a huge English castle. The best way to approach the fort was to divide our forces into two groups, thereby gaining the element of surprise. While Joan and Jean De Metz sneaked up from behind, "Le Hire" and the Duke of Alencon assailed the main gate. Although we had many casualties, the battle resulted in a well-deserved victory (and there was much rejoicing... Yaay!). (YAAAY - rejoicing - YAAAY!! - Ed.)

The basics of the constant 3rd person action in Joan of Arc broadly resembled those of EA's recent masterpiece Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Similarly to RotK, Joan of Arc allows your hero characters to gain experience points and unlock a variety of unique combos throughout the battle. Combos and basic hits are performed using the mouse and keyboard combo. The more enemies you slay, the more experience your characters gain. This is where the RPG factor comes in mighty handy. Dealing out experience points can enhance your main attributes (Strength, Defense, Dexterity, and Leadership) and level up your basic attacks and combos (range attacks, melee attacks, horse attacks, etc.). Along the way players will find many things to improve the strength of their leaders. Hero characters are often forced to lead their faithful troopers on foot. Many battlements and camps, however, possess a few mountable steeds, which you may nab at any time. Once saddled up, each hero is able to charge off into action, casting his enemies aside with mighty sword swings and powerful horse rushes. To augment the performance of heroes even further, we were also allowed to use certain items, like pendants, amulets, and crystals. All these aspects, may not sound like particularly complex RPG features, but they can strongly influence your success in battle.

From a visual standpoint the environments in Joan of Arc offer a range of details, such as animated grass swaying in the wind, water effects, rain, and a lot more. Additionally, there's a praiseworthy diversity of character models and objects in the game. Apart from seeing a wide number of authentic-looking siege weapons and units, you'll also be able to observe historically accurate architectural styles - buildings and military outposts common for that era. Beefing up the resolutions made things look even better. Although the frame-rate was a bit choppier, the environments and models certainly looked more detailed.

One of the most thrilling aspects of the game's audio experience was the exceptional music score that accompanies players throughout the battles, conveying a heroic movie-like ambiance. There's also a decent array of ambient sounds and classic battle noises to boot.

From what we've mentioned of the features in this hands-on preview Wars and Warriors: Joan of Arc looks like a promising game. The fact that you can enjoy epic battles, send troops into combat, and head into one-on-one clashes with elite enemy leaders should ensure a fun experience for the players. We're yet to see, however, if the final version can live up to the ideas and goals set before it.



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