Release Date: Out now!
Multiplayer: 2 player
Strategy games have always had a rough time on console, but games like R.US.E have shown us what can be done using the 360’s controller.
Sadly games like History Great Battles Medieval show us how not to do it.
Sporting the History logo on the side my expectations were not high going into the game, and after hitting the game proper they fell even lower when I witnessed the graphics.
By all accounts gameplay over graphics is the way to go, but sometimes they’re so poor you just can’t accept that and this is the case here. Units, terrain and even the location map look absolutely terrible. This wouldn’t look out-of-place in the Indie games channel and frankly many of the games there look far better.
This lack of detail makes for a distinct problem when it comes to distinguishing units from one another.
Cutscenes come directly from the History Channels archives meaning it’s all live action, and bad live action at that.
So I took a deep breath and delved into the gameplay itself hoping to discover a gem of a strategy game underneath the presentation.
Great Battles is a blend of real-time strategy and turn-based strategy in a fairly interesting, if odd, concept.
To issue orders to any of your troops you press any button to actively pause the game, then select who you wish to move. Irritatingly you can only select and move one troop at a time which is a major flaw when trying to maneuver large armies. Your troops can’t move through other groups of your troops either leading them to often take maze-like paths through the field of combat, at which point the enemy has usually moved anyway.
The core strategy is sound enough, if simplistic. The main campaigns will take you through the battles of history but the core mechanics are simple to grasp and correct use of common sense will see you through. Assuming you have any common sense.
But even the basic concepts that cavalry against basic infantry with no spears should just smash through them don’t seem to work. The cavalry will hit the enemy line with almost no impact much of the time. Other things often seem random as to when your troops will become routed making judging your battle plans awkward as you try to guess if that unit can actually conquer another.
Battles themselves are unspectacular with the enemy AI being dull-witted and fighting animations poor. Two large armies colliding should be an epic affair but Great Battles feels a bit more like a small child throwing a few toy soldiers around.
Use of pincer movements, flanking and other battlefield basics rarely seem to make a difference often leading me to just throwing everything at the enemy until they die.
It does contain a decent army customisation which allows you to swap out weapons, turn infantry in cavalry and upgrade weaponry. New items will be unlocked as you earn gold in the campaign and outfitting your army to fit your playing style is quite entertaining.
But now I’m at just over 500 words, half of what a normal review contains on this site and I’m struggling to find anything good to say. I’ve already gone through most of the problems, bar some others that I’ve probably yet to encounter.
So I’m going to finish the review here because I can positively feel my soul shattering at having written such cruel, but honest words.
With the likes of R.U.S.E, Halo Wars and Supreme Commander 2 showing us what a console RTS can do, it’s hard to think of any reason why you would choose this over them. Perhaps if you have a love of history and medieval warfare….no, not even then.
+ Giving my infantry a kick-ass sword!
+ Erm, it has a “press start” menu?
– Good grief this game is ugly beyond belief.
– Ugh, why can’t I move my army all at once?
– How did my heavily armed infantry just lose to peasants with sticks!?
Horrible, insulting and terrifying. I expect this level of graphics from a low-end Indie game.
Decent enough battle sound and narration. That’s about it
It’s history, told badly.
There is a very slight strategy game underneath this mess, but it’s not worth digging for.
If you don’t get bored you’ll get a few hours from it.
A mess in every sense of the word. Drab, dull, lifeless and utterly devoid of anything to make up for it.