Monday, May 26, 2008

Review: Crusaders - Thy Kingdom Come

In today's politically-correct social clime, it takes a measure of cojones to put out a game where you orchestrate the crusade against the saracen-held holy land.

Crusaders - Thy Kingdom Come is a real time strategy set during the (you'd never guess) Crusades. The single player campaign follows you as you assume the identity of one of a handful of Crusader leaders, battling your way step by step to Jerusalem. One must admit it is an idea that has some potential, especially for history buffs out there.

It's a pity the follow-through was so bad.

Graphics -
The visual layout of this game is something of an anachronism. The rolling hillsides are uncomplex, the user interface panels are rendered merely as a straight 2D graphical overlay with no depth whatsoever, and yet every model... every little knight, archer, tree, rock, shrub, horse, house, tower, flag and blade of grass upon the plains... uses a stupid amount of polygons. The models for the soldiers are actually not bad, but if you ever have the camera down close enough to admire the detail, you won't be even in the slightest effectively commanding your troops. The rest of it just calls attention to the blandness of the art. Is it really necessary to use such high-poly models and high-resolution textures to explicitly depict the utter blandness of the art in this game? All that does is make sure that those who have the hardware to appreciate such things will instead be your most vociferous critics.

Sound -
The sound here was an obvious afterthought. The sound effects are just on the "uninspiring" side of stock. The area in which the camera must be placed to hear things like stomping marches and twanging bows pretty much guarantees you won't hear them except when they're irrelevant to what you are looking at. The music is an even worse development - despite being of good fidelity and competent creation, it is the same repeating track over and over again, with moderate parts and high energy parts... and you never quite get over looking for where the action is supposed to be every time the music swells in volume and tempo... only to be discouraged every time. We've been trained that game music is supposed to adapt to the current action or situation in the game, and now to play a game where it does not feels like somebody put pepper in your salt shaker.

Gameplay -
Just about everything having to deal with playing this game is bad or wrong. The camera controls are aggravating and nonintuitive. The pacing of levels is such that you're either struggling to keep up with the action or tapping your foot waiting for your soldiers to get where they are supposed to go so you can tell them to do the next thing. Even the ability to double the flow of time does not help much with this. The effects of such variables as cover, stamina and formations seem to be obvious enough but then you can never really tell if they're actually making a difference or not. One thing that is undeniable however, is that your archers are too stupid to avoid shooting your own troops unless you explicitly forbid them from using their ranged attack at all, which kind of defeats the purpose of them.

The only nice thing I really have to say about this game is that there's a novel feature in it of which one of my uncles would approve.. he could never get into most RTSes because, in his words, "any game that allows you to build structures and soldiers as quickly as you can kill them off is bullshit." So, unca would approve of the fact that you can only recruit/rearm your men between missions (and it costs money to do so), and once you're on the battlefield, what you've got is all you'll be getting. It does make for a different strategic style I approve of during combat, and that is placing a strong emphasis on preservation of the lives of your men lacking in most games, where you can just zerg-rush your way to victory as long as you have the cash to replenish on the fly. That's not how it works here. You have limited funds (which you can only spend between missions anyway), and the absence of lost soldiers is keenly felt. I wish more RTSes used dynamics that emphasized the value of using strategy to keep your men alive longer than the enemy.

That said, just about everything else is crap.

Verdict -
Grade - D. If not for that one redeeming feature above, this game might have received the first F I've given a game since Derek Smart stopped making games.


DimentoGraven said...

Dude, your verdict, the last sentance, makes me think you should have a series of links that take you to a list of games for that rank. Y'know, click on A+ for all games that you ranked at that level, A, A-, B+, etc.

If you've got a link already it's not obvious to my sleep deprived brain, and for the life of me, I can't even think of the name of that last fucking game you ranked and F...

Anonymous said...

Erm...Derek Smart is still making games. No, really, I'm not yanking your chain!