Review by kefka989
"A decent game, if not utterly broken"
Now here is the sad tale of what can go horribly wrong when you let game design go down the wrong path when it comes to PC games. This game should serve as a warning to anyone who wants to make or buy a particular PC game and does not know why PC games are not exactly as popular as they used to be.
The game is fairly simple. It takes place during the medieval age of Europe, in the 1200's. It takes place in Scotland, or at least starts there. The game story revolves around the Scottish attempts at freedom. It mostly involves you taking the role of the head of a clan and make your clan rise to power. Once you have control of Scotland, you must then bring your fight to the English and attempt to fight for independence from the English crown of Edward the First. You may notice that the game is named after the famous 1995 movie. Well that is because the game happened to be in development as the movie was being made, and so the developers decided to get the movie license to get more name recognition. I guess it makes sense; more people will buy a game based on a movie rather then a historical time period no one cares about.
The game play is simple but realistic. Your clan will start out small (normally) and you will be in direct competition with other clans. Your job is to make your clan stronger, and you can do this by using diplomacy, such as using politics to gain the upper hand on opponents, or military means, such as simply marching over and taking their cities. Cities are your main focus in the game, much like in Civilization. You will build units, manage your crops and food production to increase your population cap and growth, and also assign people to make particular items. You can have workers make more housing, tend crops, build weapons, build armor, build trade items, so on and so forth. The crafting takes a good amount of time, and you can only add characters naturally. This means that your population increases slowly as populations tend to do. You also have to set aside some people to act as your army, equipping them with weapons and armor you produce. Once you enter a battle your militia will take the field, ranging in size depending on your assignment earlier. The fighting is somewhat like an early version of the Total War series, controlling 3-D soldiers on a 3-D battlefield, assigning each unit orders and each unit being determined based on your armor and weapon equipment. You have to assign your workers carefully as you have to make sure you have enough production as well as protection. Once you have cities large enough to produce large populations, you can really get to work expanding. Once you expand outward enough, you can control whole provinces, and then whole areas, and once you are strong enough, take over England. Once you do indeed get strong enough, you will have to deal with English troops as well as other Scottish tribes, and the English are not pushovers. Still, if you get strong enough, you may be able to push them back, that's if constant threat of plague and rivals don't undermine you first.
Now all of this plays fairly well enough. There is no frills or overly complex bits of the game, and it is fairly fun if you like strategy and RTS games with realistic roots. But the game has one major problem. This game, being a PC game, has what I like to call a game killer' bug. What is that? Well, that is when the game has a bug that literally makes it impossible to play. In the case of this game, there is a bug that manifests itself later on as you play. It usually strikes when you start expanding outward and really start to get a head of steam in expanding. What happens is the game always crashes at a certain spot, over and over. You can save your game, and if the game crashes one in-game year after your save, you can reload all you want, but the game will always crash at that exact same spot, regardless. You can make a new game with a new starting clan, but the bug will show up again, but usually at a different time, give or take a bit. It usually strikes at around the same general time frame but it is never confined to happen at one particular year. This means that since this comes up, you will never be able to finish the game ever. Once you get strong enough, the game will crash and you must start over because reloading the same game is useless as it will just crash every time, no matter how many times you try. I tried to rush the game, expanding outward in every direction as fast as I could without wasting a single moment. I managed to take over Scotland, even though I had no real fortified cities (had no time to do so) and a meager army after having it run through a gauntlet of assaults. I was just about to launch an attack on England and continue the game when the bug showed up and stopped me dead. So literally no matter how fast you are, you will not beat the game before the bug shows up, so it's pointless. It is a massive let down because you spend so much time and effort building up your forces, only to watch it all go down the tubes when the game crashes. It's almost as if they did not want the game to be too easy, so they instead decided rather then making the game harder, to just make it stop as soon as you were doing too well. Maybe if they had worked on testing the game instead of including the movie license to it, it would have faired better or at least would have been a working game.
It is amazingly depressing how this game turned out. They focused on making the changes to include video files and characters from the movie but did not check to see if the game actually worked. They even had the nerve to release 2 updates to the game that fix minor issues, but they never made a patch that fixed the bug that makes the game crash, as if that was not more important then fixing a few graphical glitches. It's been over a decade since this game came out and they never released a fix for it, so it's probably that they never really cared enough to waste their time with it. I wanted to like this game, I really did, but I cannot condone someone buy this only to be crushed as I was when they just start to get into the gameplay. This really shows the problem that started to claim the life of the PC game market, games that came out that focused more on flash or market appeal then actual game design. More and more you see games come out that look good and sound good, but when you play they are horribly broken as if they were never beta tested. Its sad but I can see why the PC market went from a major rival to the total combined force of the consoles, now to being mostly confined to being useful only for games too powerful for consoles (yet), MMO's, and games that are ports of the console games, or games that are going to be ported to the consoles. I think if not for MMO's, there would not even be a PC game market anymore. Long story short, do not buy this game unless you enjoy disappointment.
Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 12/08/08
Game Release: Braveheart (US, 07/31/99)
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