previews\ Sep 15, 2003 at 8:00 pm

The History Channel Crusades: Quest for Power - PC - Preview

The crusaders march bravely forward through the pass, the infidels offering little resistance to the might of this force, until, using the height of the surrounding cliffs, a rain of arrows showers death upon the gallant number.


The battle is engaged, and the invading army battles along the base of the cliff to a point that allows them egress to the upper tier. The archers are poorly equipped to counter the melee charge and fall quickly. But there is an encampment, and more infidels are being recruited to the eastern cause. The infantry units begin to fall under the constant onslaught, but there is little cause for concern right now. For even if the numbers do dwindle, the gold collected will help this army recruit more to the cause.


The History Channel: The Crusades is a pending Activision Value release that is a real-time strategy game. While some of the elements are rather simplistic, this is a game that does not stray far from the general style of the genre. was given a preview of this game, and thus settled into the desert, with sword at the ready.


There were three modes of play available in this version: instant action, the Western Campaign and Eastern Campaign. In the Western Campaign, you take on the role of the Crusaders, marching through the Arabian Desert in an effort to free the Holy Land from the infidels. You can jump sides in the Eastern Campaign, and defend Constantinople from the invading crusaders.


Each scenario is preceded by a briefing, which obviously outlines the goal of the scenario. There are four unit types in this game, warrior or infantry, archers, crusader or holy warrior, and priest or holy man. Each unit will cost money to create after the initial allotment of units for the mission.


In order to create units, you must have a tent, which also costs coin of the realm. You get the coins in battle, by killing your opponents, or by collecting the random drops which are guarded. The priests, or holy men, are important because some of the chests contain holy water or relics which they use to heal the troops.


This game adheres strongly to the stock group, click and move format of the RTS genre. You can only separate troops out by selecting them. Dragging a box around the whole unit will collect the entire force and they will move ahead together, with little semblance of order. In fact, in the fight situations, the strongest units, the crusaders (or holy warriors depending on the chosen campaign) can become blocked from getting to the front lines by the other units. This is not a good thing.


The sound elements of this game are merely average. Troops bark responses to orders given; there is the standard clash of weapons as armies engage.


The Crusades does do a very nice job in the graphical department. This game has a nice three-dimensional look, and the armies move well. Dead units are surrounded in pools of blood that look a little out of character with the rest of the game, but supposedly gets the point across that these units are no longer capable of fighting.


Overall, this game is relatively easy to dive into and play. The overall game play is not that challenging and the AI seems a little understated. Replaying the same scenario several times yielded random spawns which may add to replayability of this game.


While The Crusades certainly has merits, it may be a little too easy for the veteran RTS gamer. Newcomers to the genre, however, will likely find this a visually appealing and elementary introduction that will open the gates to more excursions into this gaming style.

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