Warrior Kings: Battles is a real-time strategy computer game developed by Black Cactus and published by Empire Interactive in Europe and co published with Strategy First in North America. It is a sequel to the 2002 game Warrior Kings and was released March 21, 2003 in Europe and September 30, 2003 in North America.
The story is set 100 years after the first Warrior Kings where the Empire of Orbis has fragmented into states of feuding warlords. Like its predecessor, gameplay focuses on the RTS elements of resource and base management and unit combat but also the alignment system where all players start in similar positions and develop into their own unique faction of choice, the prime being under the strict religious knighthood of the Imperial, occultism and demon worship of the Pagan or the logic and scientific innovations of the Renaissance, all supporting both historical and fantasy based unit design.
Warrior Kings: Battle is a real-time strategy game meaning much of its gameplay is focused on gathering resources and training and management of units for combat again opposing players. There are four types of resources to harvest; food, wood and gold but are not available until they are dropped off at a village and then transported via cart to the main base. The later two are gathered from the surrounding environments like forests and mines while food is growth and harvested from built farms with quality and quantity of growth depending on are fertile the land beneath it is. Food also depletes slowly over time as your population also consumes it. While villages and other resource-based buildings can be built anywhere, military and economy based structure much be built inside the walls of the main base, with each added building expanding the walls as the main base is built from the start and is usually the prime target for most games. There is also a mana bar present that can be used by special units with the ability to use magic that can be refilled through prayer or sacrifice of units depending on the alignment.
There are certain classes for each unit, being Light (ranged) and Heavy (combat) Cavalry and Infantry, Siege, Reconnaissance (scouts), demonic and special, all of which of effective and vulnerable to others such as demonic being weak to special and heavy cavalry being weak against heavy infantry head-on and thus requiring use of terrain, unit formation, positioning and attack direction to be applied for effectiveness of all units. Units are built at a base level but can be trained for better effectiveness in battle through the use of attack dummies. Range units also have a set amount of ammunition at their disposal and can be replenished faster if a Supply Wagon is near. There are also naval units like attack ships and trade cogs built at a port by water yet can only be built and used in multiplayer games.
Along with the Campaign Mode, there are two modes for online multiplayer and offline single player. The first a basic Skirmish Mode where players fight in a standard game with set number of players and a chosen map and generals along with minor gameplay settings. The other is Valhalla Mode where instead of constructing bases and training armies, players pre-select a full army without any economic aspect of play with the goal being to captured strategic flags scattered throughout each map, requiring players to capture these to earn points with the highest point earner as the victor when the set amount of time finishes. Flags can be caputred and recaptured multiple times along with respawning units as an option.
While there are three main alignments, the player can instead also choose one of two sub paths that are a hybrid of Imperial Renaissance and Pagan Renaissance that while lacking some of their notable units, gain other unique units of their own such as the Imperial Renaissance Dragoon cavalry and the Pagan Renaissance legion of undead.
The campaign layout is like that of a Risk style game, where the world map is broken down into 22 smaller provinces with each to be captured and secured, highlighted blue upon completion. The province of Liguriensis is located roughly in the centre meaning that the player doesn’t have to capture all other provinces before the final conflict however is not encouraged to do so due to the high difficulty of the final mission and so with each captured province comes a reward for later battles such as more starting resources and an advance in certain alignments. One or more generals, sometimes allied with and against you or even against each other, hold each province, each with their own unique character portrait and style of play including which alignment they usually choose and favoured unit type and strategy. As each general and their corresponding province map are conquered, both are unlocked for use in Skirmish and Valhalla mode.
When Liguriensis and the Lord Protector falls, unified provinces and any others the player didn’t seize rally around under the new rule of the Empire, with the throne being given to the player.
The game was first released in Europe on March 21, 2003 along with a collector's edition that included artwork cards. In July that same year Empire Interactive later revealed it would co publish the game with Strategy First for the North American release, which would later be on September 30, 2003.
|PC Zone UK||85/100|
|Computer Gaming World||3.5/5|
Upon release, Warrior Kings: Battles received a fair yet generally favourable reception with an average critic score of 74% at Game Rankings. While many praised the game's unit design, presentation and depth, others criticised the slow paced nature and frustration of certain micromanagement gameplay aspect, along with a number of technical issues.
ActionTrip praised the game's implementation of fantasy elements, "which improves the overall impression of the game" along with troop versatility being "one of the main qualities of this game as it does feature some highly innovative units." GamersHell concluded that the game was "one of the sleeper hits of this year (2003)", having "everything needed for a fine RTS game and still offers several fresh new ideas that expand the genre into new lengths." IGN stated that "Warrior Kings: Battles is the sort of game fans of the genre will sink their teeth into, as there is plenty of depth" while the some of traditional gameplay conventions make it lack "that spark which sets the classics apart from the also-rans."
PC Zone UK said the game "never fails to surprise you, throwing up some new challenge or nuance just when you think you've mastered it" and features a "superb 3D engine [that] throws out beautiful landscapes all over your monitor, like an artist crafting on a canvas". However they did criticise the single player campaign being "straightforward, and sadly far less varied and compelling" than the previous installment. PC Gamer also felt similar, being more of "a series of missions with no cohesion other than the fact that they all lead toward your final objective." GameSpot felt that while the "underlying design is solid", there certain issues that brought it down, notably being camera control and pathfinding issues that given the game's focus on micromanagement makes it "an exercise in futility", concluding that theres "a lot of value out of the box, but whether you'll feel compelled to slog through all of it is another question."