Still waiting for that copy of Warcraft III to hit the shelves of your favorite video game store? Tired of replaying those same old and stale RTS titles that are slowly collecting dust on your shelves as well as taking up valuable hard drive space? Perhaps you're just looking for something a little bit different to add to your gaming retinue? If even one of these scenarios happen to describe your gaming habits as of late, then you might want to sit down and give one of Ubisoft latest releases Warlords: Battlecry II a test run on your PC gaming system. Combing elements of tried-and-true fantasy RTS gaming with a fresh set of units, weaponry, and hero characters, Battlecry II undeniably stands out in the realm of strategy gaming.
Though the genre of RTS gaming continues to gain strength and popularity in the eyes of both the consumer and publisher in the highly contested world of computer gaming, it seems that quantity continues to overshadow quality. For every 10 strategy games that hit the shelves each year about half fall to the wayside due to bad design structure, unoriginality, or any other number of problems. With that in mind, Warlords: Battlecry II, the latest game from the designers at SSG, may not be the most original title on the market, but in the end saves face by adding some of the most comprehensive character, building, and unit designs to hit a fantasy styled RTS title in quite some time.
Similar to the Warcraft series of RTS games in both gameplay and design, Warlords: Battlecry II is set in a medieval/fantasy world where players assume the role of a unique 'hero' character, commanding the vast array of forces that are allied to him or her. Players then battle the other contestants on the map, gaining resources and territory in order to build more and better armies; all with the intent of defeating his or her opponents on that particular map (and, overall, the entire landscape of the mystical world). Again, not an original concept by far: anyone that has ever played Warcraft or its host of title clones should easily be able to jump into the fray and begin their own solo campaign within no time at all. What makes Battlecry II particularly interesting as well as unique title in the fantasy RTS genre of PC gaming, however, is the sheer number of options available to choose in regards to playable armies and heroes. Players have the ability to choose from 12 unique races, each with their own set of specialty armies, characters, and building/structure designs. Available races include Human, Minotaur, Dark Elf, Daemon, Undead, and Fey (the fairy race) among others. Each race plays almost completely different from the others, adding a great sense of dimension to both the single player campaign as well as the multiplayer function. Not only that, but because of the open-ended map structure of the game, players can run more than one hero/race at the same time on the same map scheme, with the possibility of combating one another at later points in the game.
Adding a bit of RPG to the gameplay, the designers of Battlecry II have also implemented a progressive hero development system that can help players define their armies as the game continues. Utilizing skill and experience points, players can set specialty traits in their hero units, ranging from base character classes (warriors, mages, etc.) allowing for future development of other factory created in-game units. Players can also tailor their hero units attributes, giving them better abilities with combat, spell casting, repairs, conversion of enemy structures and mines, troop morale, and even health regeneration and stamina. The RPG aspect of the game also includes such specialty weapons, armor, and other fantasy personal devices that can be acquired by heroes and used in game (such as magical armor, weapons, and the like).
The single player campaign version of Battlecry II contains 4 modes of play (including Normal, Ironman, Bronzeman, and Tinman) that change the goals, XP allotment, and character scenarios that make up a given map. Unlike other RTS fantasy games, single player maps found in Battlecry II also contain randomly generated elements that can also affect the overall gameplay, including 12 'Victory Condition' elements that can randomly pop up during the loading process of a map, adding a nice twist to the tactical aspects of the game. These include an 'Assassination' condition, forcing players to eliminate hero's in order finish; 'Raze Fest' where the goal is to destroy as many enemy building as possible within a 30 minute time limit; 'King of the Castle', where the player must be the first to build a level 5 keep; and the popular 'Battle of Titans' condition, where players have access to all-powerful level 50 hero's.
The single player game also contains a random map generator that throws in field attack scenarios against a players held territory, forcing players into combat scenario's that all less than ideal in order to successfully defend and keep a previously held portion of territory on the main map. Two other notes that are worthy of interest on the single player campaign: most enemy structures and buildings can be converted for a players own use, allowing you to create an command units that would normally only be for use with an enemy army. Players can also join in on side quests and adventure (in the grand style of RPG gaming) that allow them to gain more XP points and off map buying points that can be used on subsequent maps.
Thanks to publisher Ubisoft, Warlords: Battlecry II can be played with thousands of over fans online at the companies' own game server. The multiplayer portion of Battlecry II contains the same 12 'Victory Condition' scenarios that are available during the course of the regular single player campaign, with up to four others playing simultaneous on the same map. Players can choose to join up against a common enemy, or go toe to toe against others on Ubisoft's server via the internet, direction connection modem, or on a LAN system. The multiplayer version comes with a random map generator, pre-defined scenarios of warfare, or players can use the included map editor to create their own maps and even share them online to other players of Warlords: Battlecry II. One word of note concerning the multiplayer game: if you happen to be using a firewall on your computer system, you'll need to either disable the program to play the game, or head over to the tech pages of SSG/ Warlords: Battlecry II home page and locate the reference material needed update your list of accessible ports.
As a whole, Warlords: Battlecry II turned out to be quite a bit more interesting of a RTS game that we initially thought it would be. Though the graphics are a tad bit dated (along with the old school 2D graphics engine) the gameplay itself was outstanding. This was due to the fact that over 12 different races are available to play, each with a ton of their own unique units, base structures, and abilities. This in turn adds an extreme amount of replayability to the game, giving Battlecry II more bang for your hard earned buck.C&C: Renegade
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