HISTORY: Great Battles Medieval – PC Game Review
HISTORY: Great Battles Medieval. PC Game Preview. Slitherine, Ltd. $39.99. Scheduled for US release in first quarter 2011; presently available as a download or a through-the-mail purchase from Slitherine, Ltd.
While it may appear to be a real time strategy (RTS) game, it is really a highly detailed tactical simulation along the lines of the Combat Mission games.
Passed Inspection: Great graphics, sound affects and music. Tactical options allow the player to fight any number of battles with just a few mouse clicks. Tons of replay value.
Failed Basic: Some wonky mouse controls prove frustrating. No ability to re-watch the action. Missing back ground data on weapons and armor types.
Slitherine, Ltd. is a UK computer game company with an eclectic output of games, covering everything from Rome and Napoleonics to World War 2. Together with the History Channel, Slitherine is preparing to release their take on the Hundred Years’ War to the American gaming market.
The Hundred Years’ War, which lasted from around 1337 to around 1433, was really a number of battles for control of France. Over the many years of conflict, English knights and soldiers as well as peasants found themselves making channel crossings to take on French knights, soldiers and peasants. Finally, the British were forced out of France but not until after tens of thousands of deaths on both sides. This series of wars, along with famine and plague, saw France’s population diminished by almost two-thirds. This period also saw the evolution of tactics with the English longbow and early firearms having devastating effects on the art of war.
HISTORY: Great Battles: Medieval is a PC platform adaptation of an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 release and, as such, it will prove to be a great addition to the few PC games that cover Medieval combat. What I find most interesting about this game is that while it may appear to be a real time strategy (RTS) game, it is really a highly detailed tactical simulation along the lines of the Combat Mission games. It dispenses with the tedious “build your cities and grow your armies” styles of play that dominates the RTS marketplace and focuses on the warfare. The strategy comes in picking the battles you fight and the forces at your disposal. The meat of the game is maneuvering and fighting in the beaches, fields and hills of France. It was inspired by History Channel’s Great Battles series.
The visuals are very nice and can be run on a variety of PC graphic configurations. The graphics are stunning even with a lower-end graphics card. The sound effects and music capture the atmosphere of the Middle Ages. Cut-scenes with live action and CGI sequences taken from History Channel specials spice up the backstory of the action, and players will find themselves learning about the time period while their computer avatars live the battles.
The controls are mostly based on the mouse, but a few keyboard options are available, too. I found the mouse controls to be a little flakey and imprecise at times, especially when changing views on the battlefield. At times, I resorted to using the keyboard for more fluid controls. This may be a result of the game being ported from the Xbox console world in which small, self-contained joy stick/button controllers are the norm. I personally prefer the mouse-and-keyboard arrangement.
The game gives the player over 30 different types of units reflecting everything from peasants with clubs to the famed English longbowmen, horse-mounted knights, siege engines and cannons, many types of pikes and pole arms, swords, etc. This game has all and more of what one would expect from a complete Medieval combat simulation. It would have been a nice addition for the game to include an encyclopedia of weapons and armor for the players to access, but I guess you can’t have everything.
The game starts with a rousing video segment initiating the player ito the world of the Hundred Years’ War. Options are given for playing a skirmish, campaign game or on-line game. Skirmish mode allows players to create their own battles, while the campaign mode allows the player to fight the war as either the French or the English in a series of linked scenarios. The strategic map allows the player to pick the sites for battles. In a campaign, a Camp Screen allows players to recruit troops, modify weapons, armor and standards and even change characters. It is a very fast and intuitive way to manage your lords and their armies.
When the battle starts, the player is given a three-fourths perspective overview of the battlefield. By using the arrow keys or mouse controls, the player can zoom down into the heat of the action with a view so detailed that faces and armor types can be clearly seen. With a few mouse clicks to give orders, your forces move across the map to engage in combat and shoot volleys of arrows and crossbow bolts. The sounds of clashing swords and screaming men can be heard as the battle commences. The player must use terrain wisely in order to improve the odds of pulling through the fighting. As the campaign years progress, new technology becomes available to the armies, such as new types of weapons and armor, cannons, etc. “Strategy Cards” can also be played by an army; these special commands act as commander affects and can raise morale, encourage soldiers to fight harder, etc.
I loved the combat action but found it frustrating that, unlike games such as Combat Mission, I couldn’t rewind the action to re-watch what had just happened from a different angle. This would have done much to add value to the gaming experience.
HISTORY: Great Battles Medieval is a wonderful game with a few chinks in its otherwise shiny armor. It has vast replay value and will be a wonderful addition to any wargamer’s PC library.
Armchair General rating: 85 %
About the author:
A college film instructor and founder of Nouveau Cinema Group, Inc., an organization which rescues old movie theaters, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal profession, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War 1 and 2 gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!