Lords Of The Realm II review by Al Giovetti

Lords Of The Realm II
Review by Alfred Giovetti
Price: $54.95
Release: November 29, 1996
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Impressions
Producer: David Lester
Publisher: Sierra Online
Phone: 800-757-7707
Website: www.sierra.com
requirements: Windows 95, Windows 3.1, 486DX2, 66 MHz, 8 MB RAM,

Film at 11: We had a chance to go visit and speak with David Lester, founder of Impressions now part of the Sierra family. David shared with us his design concept for the games he was working on. A Betacam SP film of David's interview was edited and broadcast as a segment of The Computer Show as part of our regular programming. Much of the information below came from the time we spent with Dave talking and looking at the new game.

Company line: Created by Impressions, developers of the award winning Lords of the Realm, this sequel will immerse players in the duties and concerns of a 12th century English lord making a bid to rule the country.

Lords of the Realm II uses an historically accurate artificial intelligence to recreate the difficulties of managing a feudal kingdom, creating an army and battling for supremacy. For an alternative challenge, players can battle friends and co-workers by modem or network.

Lords of the Realm II requires multiple skills from the strategy gamer. Players must build their castles and manage their kingdom's resources to strengthen and defend their lands. At the same time, they need to develop enough surplus to attack and conquer the territory of other lords. The kingdom and resource management are turn based, but the battles are real-time, using 12th century tactics and weapons. In addition, Lords of the Realm II is designed so that all levels of players can enjoy the game. The interface is designed to speed entry to the game regardless of skill level.

History: Just a short two years ago, the original Lords of the Realm was released, which captured critical acclaim from a wide range of gamers. The current game expects to capture the same audience with a real-time strategy game. Similar to the original game, the setting is medieval times, 1268 A.D. to be precise. The location is England, where the goal is to become the king. Starting out as a lord, game play requires unifying people under your leadership, increase the resources of cattle, grain, wood, gold, iron, and others that will assist in the building of castles, armies, and siege engines.

Interface: The main screens include a top down perspective map of England divided into noble fiefs and top down maps of villages complete with castles, farms, and other sim city like building projects. As the game progresses, animated sequences, called cut scenes, will portray certain important events, such as a unit of archers hurling arrows at an oncoming enemy.

The strategic game is turn-based and carried on an overhead, third person, isometric perspective map that shows mountains, forests, and other terrain on diamond shaped tiles on the left three fourths of the screen. The right one-fourth screen size panel has a map of jolly old England at the top with fifteen color coded realms. The version we saw had six players: blue, purple, violet, green, yellow, and red. Below the country map are the command and information screens that provide information and control to selected units.

A zoomed rotatable overhead oblique view shows color-coded armies, castles, farms, taverns and other structures in high detailed relief on the map. It appears that individual squares or diamonds have preset structures, but the castle requires custom building techniques, like the Interplay Castles game. The structures will upgrade with money and the time it takes to build.

Gameplay: You need develop your realm, grow crops, raise livestock, mine and quarry iron and gold, manage a forestry operation, build weapons, hire and manage stewards to tend your castle, hire and manage caretakers to tend your farms, raise an army, build castles, and carry on diplomacy. Just so you will not be performing the same old successful strategy taking one neighboring fief after another, Sierra mixes things up by making the game more difficult the more successful you are, forcing you to develop new strategies.

Of course there were many people who did not feel that the game was repetitive, and they enjoyed taking land after land relying on time honored tactics honed in battle after battle. There is also the possibility of going to far, just as Might and Magic II did when they increased difficulty proportional to level attainment. The game was actually easier to play on lower levels and character development worked against you more than any other factor in the game.

A command that would cycle through your provinces and through your units would be a welcome one, but the designers neglected adding this refinement. Maps come from a group of 30 which can be configured with castle size, game difficulty, number of competing nobles and other factors for custom games. "Incredible replayability with many unique country maps, including England, France, Germany, Italy, over 30 unique battle maps and a custom setup option that lets you create your ideal game: short with plenty of fighting (perfect for multiplayer games), or longer with more kingdom management for a more flowing game."

Difficulty: The difficulty level determines the amount of control that the player has over the game. In novice there is less for the game player to do, while in veteran the level of micro management is more intense.

Politics: You can insult and cajole, make alliances and break them, demand and give tribute and support against an enemy. The political treachery can be most interesting but not effective enough to be central to the plot.

Combat: Jumping on the C&C, Warcraft, and other games of the same ilk bandwagon, the combat mode and siege-mode is real-time and not the turn based affair of the precursor game. Six different unit types are at your disposal: peasant peons, mounted knights, swordsmen, pike men, crossbow men, archers, and mace men. Castles will now store gold so their building and defense will be a crucial part of the game. Since underlying the entire game is the economic game, mining and protecting gold will be very important. Sieges use battering rams, catapults, siege towers, archer and crossbow troops, boiling oil, mace men, knights mounted on horseback, pike men, peasants, and swordsmen, as individually controlled units.

An interesting feature is the filling of the moat, which took me a while to figure out. You click on the troops and then the moat water you want to fill in. You must work quickly and attempt to get the arrows off your troops. Moving bow men up to support the troops filling in the moat is important. (see more hints below).

Artificial intelligence: The enemy can be both brilliant and stupid, like real troops. Mostly the diversity comes from the different types of troops. If you have an advantage over the troops it is in using ranged weapons, including arrows and catapult rocks, to decimate enemy troops and battlements. Catapults do NOT kill the soldiers of yours or the enemy.

Four different artificial intellegence opponents, each with a separate personality. The young knight who attacks relentlessly. The old baron who waits and consolidates while building a strong force, the bishop who uses influence to obtain his ends and the duchess who uses treachery to obtain her ends.

Graphics: The zoomed in map graphics show individual units of men that vary in number of individual men shown based upon army or unit strength. Each army will wear color coded uniforms to distinguish which army they are, and the rendered characters will be holding bows if archers, riding horses if mounted knights, and wielding pikes if pike men, to name a few of the graphic refinements.

Animations: A slick three dimensional, fully animated film created in 3D Studio Max or on a Silicon Graphics station which provides the background and logic for the game begins the game and ends every encounter showing the results of the war graphically. Each sprite has been modelled carefully and beautifully in 640x480 pixel Super VGA.

Voice actors: The optional text is also supplemented with a narrator with a distinctive English accent who does a good job and extensive digitized speech that is used throughout for the five computer opponents and in other places. Additional actors take the roles of Countess, Bishop, Duke and Knight which are very little like the roles they were selected to play.

Musical score: The music is better than average with over nine original scores of CD quality period music.

Sound effects: Tons of better than average sound effects including voice commands in the battle section.

Multiplayer features: LOTR2 supports up to four player play with phone modem, null modem, and IPX networks in the Windows 95 version. The DOS version has no multi-player options. "Designed from the beginning with multiplayer in mind, Lords 2 supports up to 4 players over an (IPX) Network, or 2 players Head to Head via modem."

Utilities: The save games are adequate. There is a standard Sierra context sensitive help system an a paper manual, so that you can use together to get all the in game information that you need. Sierra should be applauded for not eliminating the paper manual.

Hints: Lords of the Realm Hints

The Future: I for one hope there is a Lords of the Realm III. A company spokemen tells us that additional battle and country maps are planned. The maps included England, Scotland, France, Italy, Germany, The Middle East, China, and Ireland.

Journalists: Except for Bernie, this is a universally loved game.

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Previews references:
Sierra Lord of the Realms II Web Site
Editors, InterAction, summer, 1996, pg. 42-43
Editors, Next Generation Magazine, volume 2, June, 1996, pg. 86.
Scott Udell, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 90, September, 1996, pg. 46.
Editors, PC Gamer, September 1996, page 34-35
Rob Smith, PC Games, volume 3, number 9, September 1996, page 56
Bernard Dy, Computer and Net Player, volume 3, number 9, February, 1997, pg. 85, 70%
Barry Brenesal, PC Games, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 93, 92%.
Bill Trotter, Boot, volume 2, number 8, April, 1997, pg. 89, 90%.
Richard Law, Gamezilla Review, 93%
Editors, Next Generation, issue 28, volume 3, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 127 - 128, 90%.

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