Warlords Battlecry II – PC
Developer: Strategic Studies Group (SSG)
Release Date (NA): March 12, 2002
Reviewed by Action Zero
When I saw this game sitting on the bargain shelf of my local GameStop, the bloodthirsty golden-armored reindeer-skulled champion challenging me to stand triumphantly upon the bodies of my enemies in some dark prison cell somewhere, I knew that Warlords Battlecry II was not like the other titles I that could have bought for ten bucks that day. Sure, it looked promising in the screenshots and was the most attractive of the older titles that the store was trying to wean out, but I had no idea how lucky I had been to find it until I got home and started playing. Like finding a cut diamond in the aftermath of a spilled saltshaker, it has proved time and again that hidden treasures do exist in this cutthroat gaming world, and you rarely have to spend fifty bucks to play an amazing game.
Warlords Battlecry II is a real-time strategy game in the series of the same name, which itself is an offshoot of the Warlords series developed by SSG. Leaving behind the linear plot-driven storyline of the original Warlords Battlecry, Battlecry II adopts an open-ended format where you can lead your people in a literal campaign to take over the entire realm, one territory at a time. With twelve playable races, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever play the same game twice. You could lead Humans into battle with the Orcs to the east to remove them as a threat early in the game, or strike south toward the Dwarven citadel as a jumping-off point for dealing with the eventual threat of the Daemonic hordes. With each territory having its own incentives for capture, along with being in a race against the other factions to gain power, your choices will ultimately lead your people to glory or ruin.
While Warlords Battlecry II doesn’t do much in the way of innovation, it does integrate role-playing game elements in a very important way, in the form of your Hero. This unit is the in-game personification of you, overseeing every base construction, fighting every battle, and watching over every step of your precious campaign to take over the realm. They start off with the only real distinction being a greater amount of hit points, the ability to build and the capacity for converting resource buildings to your command. However, from your first victory onwards, the experience points you gain build them from a simple demagogue to a powerful ruler with strengths and abilities all their own. The XP-spending periods between battles will let you boost your hero’s base attributes, their range of skills, granting them new abilities to take advantage of, and assuming your choices lead to this, new spells to learn and cast to turn the tide of battle. Play your points right and your Hero can become a force to be reckoned with, whether it be by brute force, magical power, or sheer charisma. With 20 different specialized classes and 10 circles of magic (each with 10 spells), you certainly have a lot of options open to you.
While the main elements are easy to comprehend, the array of smaller strategic choices that the game gives you is pretty all-encompassing. Your Hero can take Quests for mid-battle bonuses and gain items to boost their strengths and cover their weaknesses. Your Hero can build a retinue of experienced units from across their campaign, making their veteran status something that can pay off many times over if you nurture and cultivate it. You can focus your resources on making a powerful standing army to take the fight to your opponent or send harassers to distract your enemy while you pour your resources into constructing a mighty Titan, a one-time super-powered unit that will only fall to the strongest opposition or the toughest defenses. I’ve only scratched the surface of this game’s depth: There are many more elements to be discovered and played with as your campaign progresses, none of which seem to be too much to handle. By the time you’ve conquered your first Citadel, the only thing you’ll be wondering about is how well your abilities will work with the new faction’s play-style.
With its well-balanced races and classes, intelligent AI combatants, and powerful soundtrack, the only real complaint to register with Warlords Battlecry II is its limited save game capacity. You can save as many times as you need to in a map, but each save overwrites the previous one, so if you save at an inopportune time, there’s no way to undo that mistake. That said, it’s just one small gripe among a field of praise. Warlords Battlecry II is a well-polished game that offers an incredible amount of freedom for a real-time strategy game and executes its concept flawlessly. For anyone to whom replay value is worth its weight in gold, and anyone else just looking for a really fun strategy game, I wholeheartedly recommend this to you. Those of you who are undecided, seek out a demo of this game using your search engine, many sites host it for download and it’ll give you a chance to see for yourself whether or not it deserves your time.
And for those of you who are already slavering to pick up your own copy of Warlords Battlecry II, you can get it at GoodOldGames for $5.99. This holiday season, treat yourself and maybe a few of your friends to this amazing game. As someone who digs this favorite out and plays multiple times a year, it really is the gift that keeps on giving.
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