Monday, April 4, 2011

Review: History Great Battles Medieval (PC)

History Great Battles Medieval (PC), as the name suggests, takes you on a journey back to medieval times. Specifically back in time to the 100 Years War. The premise, that you take control of the armies of either the English or French and attempt to recreate history has been attempted many times before although nothing memorable for this particular period. Until now.

The game has a grand scope - as you'd hope for something taking place over 100 years


It’s a real time strategy game where you take the helm as commander in chief over all units from your faction (including Henry for the English or Joan of Arc for the French) in battle as they attempt to defeat opposition forces. You have direct control over the speed of the game and can pause at any moment to relay further orders before witnessing units from both sides move.

It’s a game well designed, simple clicks allow you to orchestrate the battle and out manoeuvring your foes and the game rewards intelligent tactical nous. One feels that, with movement over a grid formation and pause mode intended to be used constantly (in order to change movements) the game may have been better as a turn based strategy but the decision to make it real time allows for, arguably, smoother gameplay.

From battle to battle, your units gain experience and money. This is valuable, as it grants the ability to gain extra skills (in attack, defence, range), upgrade weapons and armour as well as recruitment. Played right, your units and armies become formidable. In addition to this, and a feature that adds something most other titles in the genre don’t, your generals can wield artefacts which can have a major influence over the battle. As well, there’s a detailed battle card system that allows further tinkering of the battlefield, granting advantages to your troops when they need them most.

I'm thinking it's better to be on the blue side right now


Downloadable content promises new campaigns, missions and updates, something that whilst not useful now has a great deal of potential to add life to the game and a multiplayer mode adds the enticing possibility of destroying friends and family members.

This is a great title for those who want to try strategy for the first time, those who enjoy history or those that like a good old fashioned scrap. It is well designed, clear and easy to understand, with excellent graphics, a smooth control interface, a great range of missions and an enjoyable if slightly bland soundtrack. The missions range from short (these missions are done in 5-10 minutes), to medium and long in both campaign mode and for those short of time, there’s the option to skirmish a single battle instead.

A great and almost unique feature of this game is in the partnership with the History Channel. A lot of games pretending to be based in history sacrifice authenticity for ease in design but such corners have not been cut in this rather interesting title. The historical accuracy has been intelligently incorporated as the sources providing Intel prior to your missions are cut scenes played as an amalgamation of animation and (low resolution) documentaries.

It's a good looking game, and historically faithful, to boot!


This proves successful, generating the feel that you are genuinely recreating the past with rather realistic armies. However, this great strength also happens to be a weakness. The game does feel fateful, with missions designed merely as an easy method to move onto to the next cut scene. To its credit, the game does attempt to divert you from a linear path with tactical choices of scenarios on campaign maps but the pre-ordained feel is difficult to shake. Indeed, for a series of wars battled over a period of 100 years, you as a general suffer from remarkably few losses. Self affirming – yes, but perplexing nonetheless.

It is a game that is easy to play and relatively hard to master. I place the relative, as the hard core strategists may find the title a little easy, even on the very hard mode. These people can always set restrictions on themselves to artificially up the difficulty level, though – such as attempt the modes with no healing between battles. Long story short: It has something for just about everyone.

Overall, this game is rightfully recommended. It does attempt to step out of the shadows from other games in the genre and has real credibility due to obvious research made into the plotline. The gameplay is fun, if a little simple and it is an excellent title to introduce - and hook - people in the strategy genre.

- Owen S

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