Destructive Creations, a little known team with a big background of experience, has released a great new RTS game set in the middle ages. This is a historical real time strategy game with focus on small squad tactics, rather than overwhelming numbers and zerg fests. It has a strong emphasis on tactics that play a huge role in not only singleplayer but also in multiplayer.
The main campaign story puts you in the shoes of 4 different nations: The Anglo-Saxons, The Vikings, The Germans, and The Slavs. Both the Vikings, and Anglo-Saxons have 2 leaders to choose from, Ulf Ironbeard and Rurik for the Vikings, and Edward the Confessor, and Harold II Godwinson for the Anglo-Saxons. The German Holy Roman Empire sadly only has Rudolf I to choose from, same with the Slavs with Mieszko I. Each leader has 5 chapters of their campaign to go through, but are fairly short lived individually.
You start off with a basic tutorial that honestly feels like you’re in the campaign altogether. I had not noticed I was even in a tutorial until it told me I had finished it. I was under the impression that I was playing the story already. It’s a basic tutorial, takes you through how to handle your units, and how to capture outposts and supplies. The one thing I wished it actually taught you was positioning your troops. It showed you how to hide, but it did nothing to tell you that your archers had friendly fire. Yes, I killed many of my own troops with my archers.
Through the campaign, you basically don’t get to build any buildings for the most part. You capture them, then upgrade them with more tents, or the farms and mines. The last mission of the campaign was the only one that I actually felt like I had a lot of control over my own buildings. Going into this I came in with a wealth of knowledge of RTS games. I thought, like the many I’ve played before hand, I could build as I chose and do what needs to be done to complete the mission. I was wrong. You’re very limited, as I stated, until the very end of the campaign where you’re attacking the last large city or in my case monastery. Even at that point, you can only build barracks, tents (for more units) and static pre-placed farms and mines. Later in the game I was able to erect several archer towers, but even still that felt more scripted than my own choices. The limit on troop numbers was actually fun. You couldn’t just recruit a ton of troops and simply overwhelm the map in one fell swoop. Having to manage what troops you bring, ensuring you have archers to cover you, ballista’s to bring walls down, and front line troops was just plain fun with the limitations you’re faced with. The campaigns are rather short. I completed one leader’s campaign in 2 hours. Granted there are plenty more to choose from, don’t expect a long story campaign. Expect most of your gameplay to come from multiplayer.
Unfortunately multiplayer has the same scripted feel to it. When I’m playing an RTS, I expect to have total control over my own defenses. Not being able to place buildings where you want to is a big let down. Especially in multiplayer. I’m not saying it’s bad, just not ideal. Each nation has strengths and weaknesses which make the game more or less balanced, and the maps are equally balanced to allow a great game to take place. Just keep in mind that you’re basically just placing down pre-scripted buildings. There is no surprise, no hiding the base, no strategically placing buildings for the best defense. Nothing of the sort will happen, which is a shame.
The strengths of the game lie in combat. Depending on where your units are placed, you get different bonuses. For example if you set an ambush up, and have one unit “lure” the enemy into you, you can flank them and get a bonus due to flanking. You can build traps that will decimate your foes almost instantly, but don’t worry, they’ll do the same to you. So be wary of the battlefield, traps can be anywhere. The friendly fire adds to the experience. You can’t just have a ton of archers and a couple melee troops going into combat. If you place those archers behind, and just attack, you’re going to kill your own troops along with the enemy. You have to place your archers in a way that your melee isn’t within the line of fire. Same goes for Ballista’s. I did an AOE attack a couple times and wiped my own guys out! The only downside to combat that I’ve found so far is the lack of ability to force stop a unit from attacking. Once they are engaged, they’re engaged. You cannot make them stop, move, or do anything else until the unit they are attacking is dead. For instance you start a fight with 1 single unit of melee lancers, then a set of archers come to back them up. If your entire group of units is committed to attacking that single unit, you cannot force them to stop and go attack the archers. This is a huge oversight and should be fixed immediately in my opinion. Not being able to tell your troops to stop and go somewhere else right away doesn’t really work well within an RTS game.
Overall the game is fun. The combat was refreshing, even though it can be annoying. The mechanics of combat and the trap systems are unique and I think bring a lot to the genre. I believe RTS fans, both historical or not, will enjoy the game for it’s laid back approach to the genre.