previews\ Jun 9, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Highland Warriors - PC - Preview

If most game developers are slop-slinging greaseballs at the local 24-hour diner, the people of Data Becker are Martha Stewart.  No, they can’t crochet a plaid scarf from a ball of thread and they don’t wear pink dresses (at least I don’t think they do).  Rather, Data Becker’s employees have an incredible eye for microscopic flaws.  Data Becker’s real-time-strategy games rely on three things: detail, detail, and detail.  Their upcoming real time strategy release Highland Warriors is another fine example of their ability to pick through their games with fine-toothed combs. 


Set in the Braveheart-era of the Scottish Middle Ages, Highland Warriors captures the spirit of the rugged lifestyle of the time period and the gruesome battles the various Scottish clans and English engaged in.  Data Becker utilizes the latest technology and incredible detail to make Highland Warriors a thoroughly enjoyable romp. 


Players begin by choosing their side.  Players can fight for freedom and join the Cameron Clan or crush the rebellion as a member of the civilized English.  Perhaps the economically powerful MacDonald clan or the magically-enriched MacKay clan suit your fancy.  Each clan has its strengths, and success largely relies on managing these strengths to victory. 


Highland Warriors shines on the screen.  All of the detailed graphics are viewable in a 360-degree rotatable environment.  Real-time shadows add realism to buildings, units, and landscape.  The units, made of up to 8,000 polygons, look just like extras from Braveheart with painted faces, nicks in armor, and plaid kilts.  Buildings, made of up to 1,700 polygons, have various stages of damage and real-time shadows for each stage.  Flags wave, trees sway, and smoke rises… the entire game seems as though it’s alive. 


Much of the gameplay is similar to that of other real time strategy games.  Various resources are required to construct buildings, create units, or purchase items.  In Highland Warriors, resources include stone, ore, wood, gold, and food.  This isn’t just hack and slash.  Strategically stockpiling resources and amassing an army could mean the difference between glorious freedom and heinous death.  The single-player campaign should take plenty of time to complete with 35 non-linear missions to tackle and 80 cutscenes detailing the story.  Multiplayer mode can support up to eight players simultaneously over the Internet or LAN. 


Units, made of 8,000 polygons each, include sword-wielding and mace-twirling infantry to long-range bowmen and spell-casting druids.  Each army has special units unique to the game.  The English can use spies to gain intelligence on their enemies and the MacKay clan have druids to inflict plagues on units.  What would a game of Scottish freedom be without William Wallace?  Mr. Wallace and other historical figures, including King Edward I and Robert the Bruce, make appearances and have their own special active and passive skills.  King Edward, for example, can bring fear on enemies causing them to flee with his passive skill, and can gain vital knowledge from captured enemies through torture with his active skill.  The workers on each side can also specialize in certain tasks.  Leave a peasant on the fields to harvest for an extended period of time, and he’ll become a master farmer, harvesting at accelerated speeds but losing other skills such as woodcutting and mining.


Data Becker pushed reality to the extreme with their implementation of realistic weather.  The first real time strategy game to apply changing weather within missions, Highland Warriors challenges the player to plan ahead for the brutal winters.  Green fields slowly turn to snowy winter wonderlands, causing all kinds of havoc on units.  Units’ performance deteriorates in the snow, food is harder to come by, and some terrain becomes impassable. 


Again, it’s the little details Data Becker pays attention to that makes their games special.  Highland Warriors’ user-friendly atmosphere won’t alienate anyone.  Easy to use tutorials will leave players screaming “Freedom!” in no time.  The game’s interface is entirely malleable as well.  Don’t like the mini-map in the corner?  Move it wherever you like.  Buttons cluttering your screen?  Move them or delete them entirely.  Customize the screen as you see fit.


Highland Warriors will be available for the PC this winter.   

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