Knights of Honor
Those who have read the multiple Fragland previews of this game should already know that a lot of the Fragland staff were really looking forward to its release. And I can honestly say that I for one, am not disappointed in any way.
Knights of Honor is a Real-Time Strategy (RTS) / Empire Building game, much in the style of the Total War and Civilization series. It is the ‘real time’ element though, that makes Knights of Honor unique. It is by no means a fast-paced action game, as your units move about on an enormous map compromising the whole of Europe and even some of the regions that were known to Europe during the Middle Ages. Mind you, Knights of Honor is not a slow-paced game either. You will be joyful because once you really get gaming, you will need every extra minute and every single second to rally your armies or conduct negotiations.
You play a king who must manage his Realms and territories and at the same time trade with other kingdoms, defeat your enemies, outwit your friends and allies and extend your grip on ‘Power’ over the whole of Europe. You are not alone in the achievement of that goal, up to 7 Knights can assist you – and you will need them to achieve your goals. The Knights you choose, can be promoted to generals, merchants, priests and spies, each learning as they go along, creating wealth, promoting piety or conquering regions and bringing them under your direct control.
An element that has become clear in the final version of the game, is that the combat itself is very focused on the morale of your troops, and of the enemy’s morale. If you can break the enemy moral with flank attacks or missile troops you can make them root (run away) or fight with much less efficiency. Although the combatengine is not the most advanced around, it is very enjoyable – especially later in the game when you can field more advanced and specialized units. As you will undoubtably notice, Knights of Honor was made by expert coders and … gamers. The engine and gameplay is constructed –subconsiously or not- for maximum gameplay-pleasure, aimed towards the more ‘demanding’ gamers.
Allow me to disgress a little further on the combat element, as we have had a lot of questions about that. One aspect of the combat that is rather advanced, is the Siege Warfare. Both the defender and the attacker have a large number of different siege units to defend or attack with. For example: ladder troops, trebuchets, catapults and battering rams are all available to would-be conquerors. A defender can build mighty bulwarks, stone walls, archertowers, and so on to defend his city. Each faction can also produce unique units making sure that nearly all battles can be diverse – to say the least.
But combat is not the only way to conquer other Realms, of which there are about 500 (!). A very important gameplay element is the Spy. They play a very important role in your rise to glory. They can infiltrate any other king’s courts and bring about unrest, hand over the keys to the city or even trigger internal civil wars – all aimed at weakening your enemy. The element of Diplomacy, together with the efficient use of a Spy is perhaps one of the most potent weapons in the game and a vital one if you are to become emperor of all of Europe. Let’s be honest here, who among you doesn’t harbour that secret wish.
Once a Realm is conquered, they can be offered a peace treaty, you may demand more lands, money, vassalage, a royal wedding, whatnot … all insuring that you have claims on their throne.
Beware though, the game can be confusing at times, especially when you have intensely build up alliances and negociated pacts around Europe and you have to make decisions about supporting your allies in battle or not. Making the wrong choice can cost you dearly, as you ‘overall kingdom rating’ will subside and that in it’s turn, will influence other events in the game (e.g. rebel armies massing to fight you and the way other nations look upon your kingdom).
One big help in reducing any possible confusion, is the big ‘alternate view’ – where you can look upon a smaller version of your map. That view in its turn, has a whole range of other ‘views’ available. The distribution of provinces, the feelings of other nations towards your empire, buildings that your cities are constructing, all available assets, marching armies etc…. They can all be observed in this alternate view, making overall control of your ever expanding empire a bit easier.
Now, important to know for those of you who are just discovering this title, is that graphically-wise, Knights of Honor is entirely in 2D, providing lush and smooth graphics. Rest assured, while 2D animation has its limitations for some games – in this case it seems to be the right choice. The map on which you play is fresh and animated with beautiful graphical changes when you upgrade your ‘keeps’ or buildings. Each major faction has its own architectural style that evolves throughout the timeline.
The sound is good – AI-advisors keep informing you of treaties, war declarations and the victories or defeats of your army. The musicscore is original and stays tastefully balanced on the background. We thank Allah the Almighty that the backgroundmusic never annoys – which is the most important thing when playing a game that tends to take a certain amount of time to complete.
To summarize: Black Sea Studios and Sunflowers have delivered exactly what they promised: a large, RTS-based Empire game, that encompasses elements from all mayor strategy games out there and then combines them in something new. Anyone who enjoys RTS and Empire games should be happy playing this… just don’t lose track of time, because it will make you late for appointments, keep you awake until very late at night and entertain you until dawn if you let it. There is always one more battle to fight, one more treaty to sign…