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Battle Realms Review

publisher: Ubisoft
developer: Liquid Entertainment
genre: Strategy

PII-333, 64MB RAM, 3D accelerator
ESRB rating: T

release date: Nov 08, 01
» All About Battle Realms on ActionTrip

December 03, 2001
Dusan "Lynx" Katilovic

Back from the days of old, remembered only by the eldest, the days when history mixed with magic, comes a story of a bold and righteous man, the leader of the Serpents clan, a samurai knight who stood up to the tides of evil before they overpowered him. Dark days came for the decimated clan, which became a battleground for ambitious potential leaders of what was left of it. This is where you appear, assuming the role of the late leader's son, and the legitimate heir of the clan. Fighting the false charges that you killed your own father, you will also have to face the threat of enemy clans, while searching for the lost artifact that would stop the reign of evil once and for all.

The introductory story is intriguing, but those of us who like to stick to history, will be somewhat disappointed by the potpourri of symbols and terms taken from several eastern cultures (Korean, Japanese and Chinese). If this doesn't bother you too much, the better for you - you will be able to fully enjoy a great real-time strategy, with fantastic tactical elements, which brings a lot of intense action and some impressive graphics.

The game features three game modes: the campaign in which your hero advances through territories, one by one, regaining what is rightfully his; the fantastic and highly customizable skirmish, and the multiplayer mode (which allows you to choose to play any of the four clans - Wolf, Serpent, Lotus and Dragon). The game also features a short tutorial mode. The campaign is strictly linear (even though it may not seem so, as you can change the order of missions slightly) and it gradually drags you into the story with cut-scenes, which are far from master pieces, but still becoming.

Skirmish is a story of its own. I have not encountered such simplicity (in the positive sense of the word) in choosing how and what I want to play for a long time. The menus are clear and simple and most of all, functional. The best of all is that this doesn't mean it has few options; on the contrary - you can customize the game to suit your playing desires to the tiniest of details.

As for the gameplay (including the interface, unit and building management), Battle Realms is a typical RTS. The economic aspect of the game is focused on exploiting two resources - water and rice. None of the resources can be exhausted entirely, which dictates the overall game strategy, and can be either a good or a bad thing depending on your basic disposition. You will have to use one or both of these resources to train units and build structures. Units cannot be bought; they are recruited from the villager population, which is both an original and sensible concept. The only problem here is that as the mission goes on and on, fewer new villagers will arrive, and you will find yourself in a position to have a lot of powerful army units and a relatively small number of villagers gathering resources. Fortunately, the gameplay has been balanced in such a way that this should work OK anyway.

The villagers can gather resources and build structures. The tech-tree is well-designed and balanced, and it shouldn't present a problem during gameplay. Training units, will on the other hand, present a large number of problems. Depending on the mission and your decisions, your army can be composed of a large number of different unit types, and each of those types has several levels of proficiency. Now, even though archers and spearmen represent your basic units, you can train them in appropriate structures and hence turn them into immensely powerful units. Finding out what unit does what and how well gave me hours of pleasure and pain. When going into battle, always try to keep your melee units in the first ranks, followed by cavalry and archers, and keep your heroes with special weapons on the sides of the battlefield. Psychological warfare (Geisha and monk units) is very powerful and can prove lifesaving during massive invasions or defense.

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9.0   Excellent

Great graphics and character animation; Flawless RTS model with no useless experimenting;

The "fog of war" can be annoying, too difficult to destroy an already beaten enemy.


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