Lords of the Realm II
Envision the Lords of the Realm series as a sort of proto-Total War. Indeed, that rather modern series owes more than its fair share of tricks to LotM, a strategy game evenly split between turn-based empire-building and close-up battle management. You manage your empire in LotM on a county-by-county level using the world map. You move armies and supplies, build an economic infrastructure or engage in diplomacy.
Each county has a set amount of arable land, which you can use for farming wheat or raising cattle to feed your peasants. Ample food means your peasants will be happy and healthy, and consequently, population will increase. In addition to raising food, you’ll need to put your peasants to work gathering resources and building weapons. Those peasants are lucky to live under your banner, so don’t hold back on taxing the hell out of them. In times of war, you can hand them weapons and send them off to die. Yes, abusing the peasantry in LotM is fun.
Mercs are another method of building up armies. Mercenaries show up at your county centers, and are a great way to wage war without mucking up a county’s economy. The problem is, mercs are costly, won’t work together and never seem to show up when you really need them. When two armies meet, you’ll enter the real-time battle mode. Open field battles tend to be fairly simple affairs. Armies consist of peasants, archers, macemen, swordsman, crossbow troops, pikemen, and knights. As in real-time strategy games, each unit has a counter-unit.
Gameplay is fairly solid, with enough basic strategies to keep you entertained for quite a while. Do you concentrate on conquest right away, or attempt to build a strong economic base first? Do you attack the opponent directly, or burn his fields and slaughter his peasants in order to destroy his economy? Counties need constant attention, and different counties tend to present different problems. However, late in a game this can present a managerial nightmare when you have too many counties to look after.
Sieges are yet another unexpected feature. When an army lays siege to a castle, you’ll first decide how many siege engines, catapults and battering rams to build (sounds familiar?). These may take several turns to put together, during which time the opponent can send an army to break up the siege. Assuming he doesn’t, battle begins and you’ll need to breach the castle walls, fill in the moat, bust down the gates, and fight your way to the inner keep. Archers and boiling oil on the castle walls will make this an unpleasant experience, to say the least. Take the castle and you’ve taken the county. Take every county, and you’ve won the game!
System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Windows 95
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