gaming since 1997

Battle Realms

A long time ago the Dragon clan was a honourable clan, something to be proud of. Like all good things it wasn’t meant to be… One day “The Horde” came and destroyed everything on its path. The best warriors died in battle and the rest of the clan had no choice than to flee of these horrific creatures. In a final suicidal attempt their leader used the Dragon-orb to destroy those creatures. But little did he know that “The Horde” was only the beginning and that the orb was needed to protect the clan from other, greater dangers…

From that time on the Dragon clan was no more, the remaining men grouped with other clans that were running from “The Horde” to join up in a new clan. The Serpent clan was born. A group of bandits and other low life that only care about their own lives and know no honour.

You are Kenji, son of the Serpent clan-leader. Legend says you are the one who killed him.
After many years you come back to your homeland where things didn’t get better since you left. The single player part is “Kenji’s journey”, his adventure and battles against the other clans, the Wolf clan and the Lotus clan (both only playable in multiplayer and skirmish).
In the first mission you’ll have to decide which clan you will represent and guide through long, fearsome battles. It’s basically a choice between yin (good) and yang (bad). Will you help the Serpent clan by teaching some peasants a lesson or will you save the peasants from the cruel Serpent clan?
Honour and bravery lie in the path of the Dragon clan, willing to survive and dirty tricks in the path of the Serpent clan.

The moment you choose to help the peasants you will resurrect the Dragon clan and bring new hope to all people. You’ll get the help of two men that served your father. “I served the father, so will I serve the son”.
They will join you no matter which clan you support, but it will be told in a different storyline.

These heroes are a nice addition to your units since they all have a special power. For example: a sort of battle cry that strengthens all nearby units, a massive blow that take out most enemies with one strike and so on. All your units get to learn such special powers by meditating but none will be as strong as those of the heroes. The yin or yang I was talking before are earned with battles and chaos you caused, and by using these yin or yang you can “upgrade” your units: better armour, increased fire power etc.

But how do you get these units you may wonder?

It all starts with a peasant hut that produces peasants all the time (between 25 and 50 units). They’ll come out in a rapid pace in the beginning, the more units you have, the slower new peasants arrive.

Those peasants are used to harvest rice, get water, tame horses, build new buildings and train new units. You’ll have to train them in Swordsmen, Crossbow men or whatever. So you need to find the best balance between peasants and attack units since you get a fixed amount of units per map (if somebody dies you’ll get a new peasant, so no worries there).

The training aspect in Battle Realms is quite interesting. Let’s take the Serpent clan as example. You can send your peasant to a tavern where he will fight some until he is worthy of handling a sword and be under your command.
Or you can send a peasant to the Sharpshooter’s Guild where he will train in becoming a Crossbow Man.
And here comes the interesting part: if you send the Swordsman to the Sharpshooter’s Guild (or the Crossbow Man to the Tavern) you will get a new and stronger unit. In this case: a Bandit. This way you can continue training your units in all the different buildings to create a diverse group of warriors under your command.
When you get your clan together it’s time to saddle those horses your peasants collected in the stable. Riding on horses make you go faster, look further and gives you a shield between you and the enemy (the horse has to die before they can hurt you).

The terrain and units are in 3D which looks very nice, the effects of the different special moves are great to look at. It’s just too bad that you have to click a button before a unit uses its specials. I prefer my units to use it whenever they can, that way it could happen that they waste it on a peasant but with how it is now you’re just clicking those specials while trying to keep an overview of the battle where your unit exactly is.
They should have used the option Star Trek: Armada 2 had where you could let the unit use its special all the time or only till his energy was halfway.

The units would probably refuse to use it anyway since they seem to have a mind of their own. Sometimes they are just standing around without helping their comrades in battle and sometimes I just can’t make them leave a battle, they keep on turning back to face a useless death. I played with the Serpent clan who, as the manual says “know no honour in death”, makes you wonder what the Dragon clan does if you try to get them out of battle…

Prior to all the missions you’ll get to see a sort of movie made with the in-game engine. It’s always nice to know where you are fighting for and Battle Realms story line is interesting to follow.

As far as I concern there is only one flaw in this game, and it’s a big one.
There is no option to zoom out or use another camera handle or anything to get a bigger overview of your screen. You can live with it in the first missions, but the further you get, the more units and buildings you need to keep control over. And it is so frustrating not being able to zoom out. There is only a way to alter your view a bit with the scroll button on your mouse but it doesn’t come close to a zoom. I really hope they release a patch of some sort to include a zoom option but I don’t know if the developers see it as a necessity.

If you can handle the ‘to close to the battlefield’ view you’ll have a great game that is very enjoyable and in my opinion one of the most difficult RTS too. After some minutes of playing, while you are still building, the AI is already heading your way with lots and lots of units. I probably got used too much to my “build enormous defences around your camp so the enemy gets destroyed in a blink of an eye while you got all the time in the world to create whatever special you need and build an army big enough to crush the enemy base in a half a minute”-tactic which has no use in Battle Realms.

Our Score:
8.0
related game: Battle Realms
posted in: PC, Reviews, Ubisoft
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