So you want to be a Hero...
Real-time strategy games have been a mainstay in electronic gaming since the
first sprite was weaned just after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Great military
minds like Napoleon Bonaparte, Admiral Nelson, Robert E. Lee, and Cap'n Crunch
have been cutting their teeth on pixilated battlefields before demonstrating
their martial prowess in genuine mud and blood (I just said that out loud,didn't
Today's RTS games are virtually indistinguishable from their eleventh century
counterparts…that is, until the people at Strategic Studies Group and Mattel
Interactive decided to borrow elements usually found in your standard RPG. The
result is Warlords: Battlecry, an RTS with a hero the player can customize
to suit their ideal. Whether you want to be the honorable and valiant warrior
of truth and justice or a manipulative and conniving blood-thirsty priest is
left entirely to your own discretion.
The game lets you choose from sixteen various profession-based specialties,
each with its own abilities. Ninety spells and nine different fields of magical
study (i.e., Necromancy, Pyromancy, Alchemy, Summoning, etc.) offer players
more options than many RPGs. Enchanted magical items can be found, quests can
be granted, and as you continue through the game your character literally gains
in power and ability.
However, your hero is only one unit. The bulk of the gameplay is standard RTS
fare - build buildings and units, mine for resources, and conquer the enemy.
Warlords relies on the highlight, point-and-click control. Hot keys
can be assigned to particular spells to circumvent madcap clicking. Thankfully,
the screen can be scrolled and orders can be issued while the game is paused,
which can save you from being on the receiving end of a lot of unnecessary butt
Warlords: Battlecry is colorful and fairly rendered in the standard
top-down, isometric perspective ala 2D Command & Conquer-style RTS games.
While certainly adequate, at this point in game design it's a little boring.
A zoom-out would have been helpful when you want to take in the scope of your
operation. A small "radar map" is available, presumably to help you keep track
of your army, but its small size and lack of detail render it practically useless.
Often the player is charged with not only keeping their hero alive, but several
other key characters as well. If any of these special characters perish during
a mission, it is considered a defeat and must be replayed in order to advance.
This tends to detract from the RPG feel of the game. The RPG element would have
been better facilitated if you were given the option to continue on in defeat
with the story changing right along with the result of your missions.
This has been achieved in much less advanced RTS games like the Warhammer
games for the PC & Playstation, Dark Omen and Shadow of the Horned
Rat. Without the freedom to lose a battle and deal with the consequences
of that defeat, the game lopes along in a disappointingly linear fashion. You
do have the option of traveling down the path of good or that of evil, but these
paths are decidedly linear as well.
are varied and the objectives are sometimes deceptively simple. For example,
early on in the game you will be asked merely to insure the survival of your
hero and a handful of VIPs for the 30 minutes it will take for reinforcements
to arrive. This can seem fairly easy as you build structures, create troops
and defend your people against a few sporadic bands of orcs. But the challenge
lies in withstanding the onslaught as the enemy attempts a massive final push.
The AI in Warlords: Battlecry is a bit weak, for the most part no better
than the ancient forbear WarCraft II. At times you'll
feel in charge of the dumbest army ever outfitted with pikes and bows. Although
you are given a variety of attitudes to assign to the individuals and groups
in your command, they don't make up for the general stupidity of your troops.
Say you send a unit of mercenaries to attack a group of orcs and, as they travel
to their appointed target, they're ambushed by a second group of enemies. Instead
of dealing with the more immediate threat, your troops will often carry on to
their designated attack assignment without even defending themselves against
the ambush attack. This may be expected of Gomer Pyle's squad, but probably
isn't what you created a crack team of mercenaries to do. Since there is no
zoom-out feature, you may need to babysit a few of your away parties simply
to insure that they reach the target and aren't half-dead when they get there.
Warlords Battlecry is a better-than-average RTS with enough
depth, breadth, scope and challenge to keep the average armchair warrior on
active duty. However, the frustrating linearity, at times crappy AI and dated
graphics keep it from snatching a place in history as a markedly innovative