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Warlords: Battlecry Review

publisher: Mattel
developer: SSG
genre: Strategy

PII-200, 64MB RAM, 450MB HDD, 8MB video card
ESRB rating: T

release date: n/a
» All About Warlords: Battlecry on ActionTrip

August 08, 2000
Branislav "Bane" Babovic

There are very few games that have maintained their status among known best-sellers, and haven't succumb to new technology. The Warlords serial, however, has preserved itself to this day in its basic form, with an mediocre designed 2D sprites and its turn-based style of play. Warlords have been "playing" on different platforms for almost 10 years. The first version was on, today "extinct" Amiga, while the PC version came after achieving world fame on the first platform. Warlords set a standard as the first strategy that provided the opportunity of fantasy realm management. In fact, the first Warlords had only one map. The players studied it in detail and learned by heart every piece of the 2D green terrain on which heroes and monsters roamed. The situation didn't change even when the sequel was released, and didn't achieve success on the market. As a matter of fact, it practically threatened the future of the serial.

Still, the boys from SSG (which is one of the numerous development teams in the great SSI) realized the potential and wealth the Warlords carry, and released the De Luxe version of the Warlords II. Now, that was something special... The engine supported automatic map generating, and the editor was so powerful that you could make almost any desired scenario. The battles between insects, cars and locomotives will remain unforgettable. Yes, you could make custom made units, instead of ordinary ones, and determine special characteristics and special techniques. A little under two years ago, the third Warlords were released and achieved great success. An expansion pack followed called Darklords Rising, containing even heftier scenarios and campaigns. As customary, the extension disc contained campaigns from part III. At one time, the chief competitor to warlords was a catchy release called Kings Bounty of the New World Computing. That other serial grew into something known as the Heroes of Might and Magic, and dwarfed the Warlords. The comparison of these two serials is fully justified. Apart from the graphics, the competitors have many similarities: Heroes that explore the map together with the units, developing dispositions and the carrying of items, magical abilities and spells, unusual beings and storming of castles, quests acquired from NPC-s... The Warlords serial lacks the historic background and story line that the HoMM has. Still, the Warlords have their own races such as the Sirians, Horse Lords and the embodiment of evil in the form of the cursed knight Lord Banea. The third part of this game is completely dedicated to this anti-hero and for the first time the campaigns were fully designed for the "villains". The players liked it, because everybody wants to be the bad guy in the game, at some point or another.

Even though the "brass" in SSI claims that the Warlords serial will continue in its tracks, mainly the placid turn-based manner, and the grouping of the units by castles, the last Warlord release may make them go back on their word and re-track in the commercial RTS manner. Warlords: Battlecry is the first SSG flight into RTS and you have to admit, it is a good one. Comments can be heard that the units and the scenario are a predecessor of Warcraft III (but only in idea). Before all, the isometric and third person perspective are outdated with an onslaught of new 3D RTS games with multiple camera angles. Warlord fans may become confused until they become familiar with the game controls and the interface. It is a new system that has very little, if anything, with the old Warlords. The figure everything revolves around is the hero. It gives the game a strong sense of RPG, because the hero, through missions, acquires experience and develops individual features and skills. The hero can be picked from 9 races: Dwarfs, Barbarians, Humans, Orcs, Undead, High Elfs, Dark Elfs, Wood Elfs, Minotaurs. Depending on which race he belongs to, the hero receives bonuses or penalties. Judging from the penalty points, relationships between races can be established. For instance, the human hero has penalties from the Orcs, the Dark Elfs from the High Elfs, Undead from the Minotaurs, and so on...The bonuses and the penalties reflect on the speed of acquiring experience and the moral of the units. Since every hero possesses a command radius, every unit within that radius gains increased speed, specific attack modes, as well as bonuses. Depending on the race the hero picks a profession in which he will become proficient: warrior, wizard, rogue, assassin. Each of the professions has its skills and spells, which makes the forming of the character very complex. Basically, everything revolves around experience and correct arrangement at the end of the scenario. All heroes in single missions can be used in multi player mode.

Warlords: Battlecry is divided into several modes of play: the main campaign Tears of Dawn, Skirmish Missions, individual scenario and the multi player. The game contains a very detailed tutorial, so that the "fresh" hero can practice some commanding in battle. Editor is there to design maps i.e. to construct a map from fragments and the design of the terrain. The game contains 60 scenarios in the Skirmish mode. They can be played in single or multi player mode. There is also a random map generator, which practically means any scenario can be created. While choosing a scenario, creating a hero is essential. He is the central figure, and represents the player in the game, so if he to be killed in a charge, the game ends. It is possible to set a variety of parameters, when picking a scenario. The terms of victory in the scenario, for instance are many: Standard Victory (the classic goal of annihilating everyone else off the map), Raze All Buildings (requires the destruction of all buildings on the map), Kill All Armies (eliminating all enemy units), Raze Fest (in 30 minutes destroy all buildings on map), Slug Fest (kill as many enemy units in 30 minutes), Fortress (destroy enemy Fortress), King of the Castle (the winner is the first to raise the 5th level of the castle), Battle of Titans (all enemy heroes have 20 levels, and it is necessary to defeat all armies on map). The options are truly impressive. When choosing how to execute the scenario, it is possible to set the options for: the size of the main castle (1-5), whether it is The Fog of War or Line of Sight, whether the map is concealed or visible, if there are quests inside the mission and what is the accompanying force of the hero at the beginning of the scenario. More players can try their luck in a modem game, IPX net, Internet game or TCP/IP.

The heart of the game is the extensive campaign The Tears of Dawn. The story is good and done in the popular spirit of fantasy novels, with sudden turns and magical clashes of the Good and Evil. The Intro doesn't say much about the game itself, instead we follow the wizard Gavin and a little girl, his prot'g' Elana, as they make their way through the forest. They are attacked by a mysterious apparition in black, and while the girl managed to escape her mentor is killed. A meteor shower preceded, which affected the Realms of Dawn and its inhabitants. Before, all evil creatures coexisted with the goodies, but without unsheathing of swords or unleashing of magic. This "peaceful" state was provided by a Palladian order of Guardia Knights. They inspired awe, and let everybody know they will punish anyone who made war on their neighbours. But an old prophesy said that two tears will fall from the night sky, one red and one blue. The blue one is called Navaar and represents the magical energy which protects and gives life. The other one is called Lucifus the Conqueror, bearer of death and the messenger of war. Nobody gave much heed to this prophecy, until one night two meters fell, one glowing with red, and the other with blue light. After that event, armies of darkness took to arms, and began an aggressive campaign against humans, dwarfs, high elves... Also, as if from nowhere legions of walking dead appeared, united in the Armies of the Undead.

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8.8   Very Good

Wide variety of races, a very good level editor, unlimited possibilities of certain scenario, and a lengthy campaign of average story.

The mission balance within the campaign is low, difficulty decreases as the game progresses and experience is added, too few transfer possibilities of units with veteran status.


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