previews\ Mar 19, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Dragon Throne: Battle of Red Cliffs - PC - Preview

Cao Cao (155-220 A.D.): “I would rather betray the world than watch idly as the world betrays me.”

The time is roughly 1,800 years ago, in the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. Three warlords stand poised to take on the world that they know and reunify a country.

Sun Quan (182-252 A.D.): “A saint once said: ‘Think of death while living, notice danger while safe.’ This remains good advice.”

Do you have what it takes to manage a society, prepare for battle, then beat the other warlords through your shrewdness, combat mentality and resource management?

Liu Bel (161-223 A.D.): “ ‘Sleeping Dragon and Young Phoenix,’ with one you can conquer the world. I have two of them. It is time to revive the Han Dynasty.”

Dragon Throne: Battle of Red Cliffs is the successor to Fate of the Dragon, a real-time software game from Object Software. Dragon Throne, which is published by Strategy First, takes snippets of actual events of Chinese history, then challenges players to meet the same obstacles and attempt to achieve the same goals as the historical figures depicted in this game.

Players can take on the role of one of three warlords (those quoted above), and not only control their individual kingdoms but perhaps extend beyond their sphere of influence and control on a grander scale.

The preview version of this game had some stability problems, and some graphical flaws, but enough of the program was in place to give a real sense of what this game will present.

A rich musical score backs strong three-dimensional graphical elements. But if not for the strict adherence to a certain time period, rather than bouncing all over the time scale, then this game could well be Age of Empires or Civilization. Not that patterning after either of those is a bad thing; it is just there is too much semblance to them. The game is viewed from the clouds, and as you gaze upon the wonderfully detailed environment, you realize you have seen many of the same elements – like the eagles flying overhead –in this game that have appeared in others.

Some of the factors in this game, when released at the end of the month, will be a multi-map system (a click and you can direct troops around the huge game board), several management factors (such as Domestic Policies, Diplomacy, Science, and Trade), a tech tree (you research up to 100 technological advancements for your society), as well as enabling warriors to choose from more than 40 skills.

A unique feature is the profession-transference system. You create laborers, turn them into sergeants in the military, but when not taking part in a military campaign, these sergeants perform their laborer’s duties.

While there are three individual campaigns available in the final version, the beta only had two training missions (the tutorial is rather long), two skirmishes and the Liu Bel campaign.

As mentioned, this game follows a pattern long established by other RTS programs. You must have laborers to do the dirty work, and you can create them at the Ceremonial Arch. They collect the resources that enable game players to build up the society. You can choose the diplomatic path to a harmonious reunification, or you can cut to the chase, create a vast army and march on the neighboring warlords.

Despite the fact that this preview did not include a manual, the control elements are fairly standard to the genre. If you have played an RTS before, you will be able to jump into this game.

The graphics also had minor disruption; either that or the skies between the player viewpoint and the ground were constantly harangued by swarms of white moths. Doubtless that will be cleared up by the final release, and when done, this game will definitely treat players to a richly detailed world. Subtitles were the only way to determine what was required in a scenario due to the game narration solely in Chinese.

The musical score, as mentioned, is superb. The other sounds are crisp but also standard to the genre.

By focusing on one rich period in Chinese history, this game will bring a depth and clarity to the turbulent times. Dragon Throne: Battle of Red Cliffs, while not offering a lot that is new, will nonetheless be a strong RTS game, and one that newcomers to the genre, and some veterans will enjoy.

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