I’m always a bit weary with strategy titles on consoles. On a PC, a strategy game can come to life, mostly thanks to the opportunity to make a very complicated game much easier to play thanks to simplified controls and a general tidier, faster experience. Things are usually a world apart on a console – titles are usually difficult to control and feel stripped down, often suffering from lag thanks to the massive amount of battling going on on-screen. Still, it’s always nice to see a new title giving it a go, and Great Battles – Medieval is set to be the next title on the market trying to turn you to console strategy gaming.
Great Battles – Medieval takes you through the Hundred Years War, letting you play through the story from both the French and the English perspective. While at its roots it’s a fast moving strategy title, it touches on turn based territory with a live pause option, and also includes role playing elements thanks to the ability to completely customise your troops to effect their abilities and attributes. Missions will take you through some of the great battles from the war in question, but the map screen also offers you extra skirmishes that let you earn more money and experience to spend on your army. These missions include putting an end to peasant rebellions and capturing enemy towns, so there’s a fair bit to chug through.
If you’re a strategy buff used to ploughing through pages of information, planning detailed strategic movements or organising troop formations, chances are you won’t be a fan of Great Battles. It’s simple; very, very simple. The game changes between live battle mode and a pause screen, which can be activated by pressing any button while a battle is taking place. During pausing you can change where your troops are heading, who they are going to attack, and change simple commands such as their aggressive stance. Battles will pan out automatically as soon as you un-pause, and it’s a case of seeing if your strategy will pay off. If you see any trouble brewing, you can change what your troops are doing from the pause menu to get yourself out of sticky spots. Unlike most strategy games, terrain doesn’t really affect your troops. It’s odd, really, and it’s something you come to expect from games like this, so not to put something this basic in seems a tad lazy.
When you’re not plundering about the battlefield you’ll be in the army camp pimping up your troops. It’s here that Great Battles – Medieval shows a bit of individuality; everything goes a bit RPG on you. You can pick and choose from a variety of weapons and armour variations, you can give your troops mounts or make them go into battle on foot, or even give them abilities that are useful in the battlefield such as different attacks. It’s actually a lot of fun, and the only time you’ll really feel like this game offers any kind of strategic value because getting the right combination ultimately effects how battles pan out.
If a battle goes particularly nasty, you can pull out a special card power that can affect play too. These aren’t daft powers, like sending dragons to take out a bunch of soldiers, but things such as causing troops to rally when they’re suffering a particularly nasty defeat. They can be useful in times of distress, and they stay historically accurate at all times. Some players may not like this kind of card system, but it certainly breathes life into Great Battles – Medieval and goes some way to making the game more enjoyable and fun for otherwise none-strategy game players.
While the simplistic gameplay is enjoyable enough to pick up and play, the AI leaves something to be desired. During one battle, I issued one command – I sent my troops forward. Promptly, the enemy scattered straight away, leaving me to win by default. This wasn’t an isolated case, and many niggles rear there ugly head through the cracks in the game engine from time to time. Your own troops can act just as randomly too, and it’s partially the reason why Great Battles – Medieval just isn’t all it could have been.
Great Battles – Medieval is also pretty shocking on the presentation front. It looks outdated, the graphics engine looking a good 5 years out of date, and while it doesn’t need to be particularly stunning, it could have gone some way further to cover up some of the other problems that the game throws at you. While you can zoom in to see battles from a closer perspective, you’re better off watching the action from afar, the close ups of the pixelated bodies of soldiers waving their swords at each other is a pretty horrible site, further making you realise just how ugly this game can be. Cutscene’s on the other hand are clips from The History Channels archives, which are a nice touch actually, and it gives the game some educational value.
Great Battles – Medieval is cheap and cheerful and really that’s all there is too it. Great Battles – Medieval is far too stripped down and simple to offer any long term enjoyment – from the presentation to the overall gameplay engine. It’s annoying that a little bit more effort hasn’t been put into making this a tidier game, because it could have been improved tenfold. If you’re a PC player you have many more options available to you that can give you a much more impressive, enjoyable and overall finished strategy experience, but for console players who are looking for something to dust off on a lazy Sunday afternoon, Great Battles – Medieval is a nice enough strategy title that at its best will give you something to pass away the time.
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