Review by Hudson13

""Chess is a violent game.""

I heard that said years ago, and never really understood it until now; after the first half hour of moving troops across the enormous map, of negotiation and planning, I can finally see why chess really appealed to the nobility of centuries ago. This is an incredible game, and has changed -- favourably -- my view on RTS games forever.

This is a far, far cry from Starcraft, the last 'strategy' game I'd played on the PC, and the game which killed the genre for me. There are no formulas here, no tactics that will guarantee you a victory. In fact, there are no guarantees at all -- which is just the way I like it. You're given three discreet arenas to work in, those of diplomacy (negotiating truces, alliances, marriages, bribes etc with rivals), strategy (the production of buildings and troops upon the European map, and the deployment of the latter) and combat (the meeting of said troops with said rivals) -- it offers something for everyone, from the micro-management/diplomacy junkies like myself, to the all-out-melee lovers...also like myself, admittedly. I've read in other reviews here that diplomacy does nothing at all; my guess is that it functions on a very high level when you're actually playing the game on a 'hard' setting -- I'm about to go do so, to see if this is true, but still, I think that facet's been underrated. The strategy aspect has left me gleeful, although at later stages, I can see an aspect of tedium approaching -- there are a lot of provinces to scroll through and assign troop/building production to. The battlefield itself is magnificent: superior numbers never guarantee an easy win. Or a win at all. But I could talk about this forever...

Not entirely relevant, but consider this: my husband and I began playing this simultaneously, and have already found that we're playing two entirely different games. His arch-enemies, the Byzantines, are shrewd and calculating warriors, vicious and unyielding. In my game, the very same Byzantines retreat at every opportunity, and continue to beg treaties from my generals. His Russia suffers; mine thrives, throughout its vicious wars with surrounding infidels. This scope astounds and impresses me.

There's almost nothing to complain about here; in fact, one of the first things that drew me to the game was watching the tiny troops move -- almost randomly -- about on the battlefield, as they settled into the formations they'd been commanded towards. On the 'world' map, the portraits for princesses and generals (and so on) are simply gorgeous. The one problem I have is camera angle during battles set on hilly ground; it was occasionally very difficult to get a clear line of sight on more than one division at a time.

Again, no real complaints; admittedly, I've had it turned down a fair bit, just for the folks in this room who want to watch TV while I'm playing.

Enormous. With three periods to choose from, several difficulty settings, and any number of factions, I am going to be playing this thing for months.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/07/02, Updated 11/07/02

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