Celtic Kings: Rage of War Review
publisher: Strategy First
PII-300, 32MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Aug 27, 02
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Dusan "Lynx" Katilovic
There is an unwritten rule that a game, which represents a mixture of genres usually brings the worst from the both of them. Fortunately, there is still that written Latin rule: Nulla regula sine exceptione - all rules have exceptions. And Celtic Kings certainly is a surprisingly successful combination of a real-time strategy and a role-playing game - a combination that will keep both aspiring strategists and inquisitive adventurers glued to the screen for weeks.
The story (and particularly the Adventure mode) focuses on Larax - a young Gaelic warrior who is off to avenge the death of his young and beautiful wife slaughtered by the Teutonic warriors. The intro sequence explains Larax's motives for this epic quest, which is presented as a linear RPG adventure.
Alas, in spite of his might and determination, Larax is no match for his powerful enemies on his own. You start the game with Larax, but as you progress through it, your compatriots will start joining you one by one on your quest against the villainous enemy. They are more than welcome; they are crucial for ending the campaign successfully. This way the RPG gradually turns into an adventure.
If you have the ability to tactically organize the situation, you will soon turn Larax's motley coterie into a mini-army composed of infantry, spearmen, and horsemen, capable of facing the enemy army and tearing down their defensive structures. You will also get to manage resources (food and gold), and recruit peasants into your ranks.
The adventure mode is completely linear, but far from boring. Campaign briefings are given as advice and instructions from the tribal chieftain. The huge unexplored territories covered by the fog of war will constantly make you wander "What now? What comes next?". Important events will come one after the other in neither a frenetic nor a monotonous tempo - the plot unravels just at the right speed, which lets you fully enjoy this amazing mixture of RTS and RPG in all its aspects. Larax will slowly gain experience as you progress through the game, and will finally become a master warrior, an (almost) immortal legend.
Unlike the adventure, the Single Player mode is a full blown real-time strategy. You can choose to play on the Roman or Gaelic side and win the map by fulfilling the predetermined conditions. I have played many a RTS, and I can say with some confidence that Celtic Kings really shines in this field! Even though it has no real novelties, all the existing elements have been so well polished and balanced that they are bound to please even the most demanding of strategists. The computer opponents can be personalized by setting the power of their AI and their style of gameplay. You can select the map size and type, as well as the quantity of initial resources, victory conditions and the presence of Teutonic units (which act as creeps in WarCraft III). All I said here goes for the Multiplayer mode too.
One of the most important things in the game is the city, which is where the player will create harvest and manage resources. Gameplay is fairly simple as is the way to success, but this doesn't mean the game is too easy. Some structures are in charge of certain aspects of your economic and military progress. All your key military commands are issued from the town hall. The blacksmith produces new weapons and the barracks can train new troops (six different types of them); the tavern is used for food and work distribution, and the temple is where you create monks and spells, heal your units or sacrifice enemies. Arena is a place where you can further train your troops or hire heroes - the most powerful units in the game. Apart from the city, the map contains a large number of villages which act as resource centers.
There is a rather simple way to win this game. When you get used to clicking a bit faster, you can start to produce complex weaponry and elite units. Economic management is a bit harder, and you will need a lot of gold to create a homogenous army capable of invading and holding enemy territory. One of the best ways to get your pockets filled with gold is to send small formations in early stages of the game all around the map in order to explore it, and find unaffiliated villages that will pay for their protection. You will also have to hire heroes. They are outstanding fighters, and troop commanders. I advise you to build the military academy as soon as you can, as it makes every hero you hire after you built it have level 12 (maximum) from the very start.
The interface is classical and simple, and the only remark I have here concerns the clumsy way of selecting and organizing your units. Zooming in and out is performed using the mouse and the Space key, which is otherwise used for activating the mini-map. There are few command options altogether, and you will get grips with them in no time.
Technically, this game is certainly not perfect, but it isn't too far from that either. It utilizes a typical isometric engine and the design is clear, detailed and colorful, without being too motley or looking ostentatious. They just could have been a tad bit more inventive when it comes to different unit design. The music is very good, and the sound effects are decent, but unfortunately few.
Celtic Kings - Rage of War is the right choice for all RTS fans and almost all RPG fans. I am saying this because this game is really more of a strategy than a real RPG. This is far from bad... on the contrary; the guys from Haemimont Games did a good job combining what is hard to combine. Another question itself - can this game satisfy a player used to the highly complex RTS tech-trees and resource management? The answer to this would have to be - no, not really. But it still has a lot to offer for nice and long gameplay.
8.3 Very Good
A great combination of RTS and RPG elements; all important game parameters can be adjusted; great music;
Insufficiently complex RTS elements.
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