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Battle Realms: Winter of the Wolf - PC - Review

Your clan charges forth, wolves at your command, blood taints the water, magic and missiles fill the air.  You are Grayback, lost leader and heir to the throne of the Wolf Clan. 

Battle Realms-Winter of the Wolf lets you pick from several quests.  The path of Grayback, leader of the Wolf Clan is the newest installment for the series.  The gameplay is typical, but offers more options than most strategy games of this type.  While similar to Warcraft, the user is given more options in upgrading clansmen, and more bonus upgrades to develop the town’s resources. 

You must manage your town with a balance of farmers, irrigation, and water collection.  Build your town and your defenses quickly.  Take those non-productive peasants and turn them into maulers, sledgers, or a whole slew of other battle types.  Make sure you balance your army with long-range soldiers, quick fighters, and those who just plain stomp everything.  This balance is critical because certain soldiers are needed to get past obstacles, such as diggers to borough under gates, slingers to hit switches from long range, and Sledgers to bash through rock slides.  Notice that your soldiers will continue to fight in battle until all enemies are defeated or out of range.  Don’t send your troops in if they are outnumbered severely as it is very difficult to run away.  This feature does allow for a more flowing battle scene for the user.  It seems that the soldiers each have intentions and strategies to follow, but keep a tight leash.  Once you are free from the battlefield, your soldiers will recoup their strength and stamina.  Better be a patient gamer, because it takes a minute to refill their strength, even from running a good distance. 

There are literally hundreds of key combos to use as shortcuts, but you don’t really need most of them.  Ubi Soft and Crave have built the GUI so you are aware of all happenings within your town and army.  You are alerted when a peasant is idol (an icon appears-click and go to peasant; and a sound chimes), when there is battle (an icon appears and swords clash), and the territory map in the lower right gives locations of your town, your troops, your allies, and battlegrounds.  Use mouse-overs to quickly view status info on troops, buildings, and enemies. 

The battle scenes are awesome, but make sure you have enough video memory.  You’ll need at least 16MB VRAM to run it at all, and it is suggested to have greater than 32MB.  Watch as the snow is drenched with blood and body parts.  The water slowly dissipates the blood after you’ve slain the enemy.  The forests appear to have nice depth, and the concept of moving under the canopy is creative.  Birds warn of approaching danger as they squawk and scatter from the limbs.  You can even see the shadow of clouds as they pass overhead.

I have explored the multiplayer aspects of few games, so maybe it’s just that I’m new to Internet gaming, but this game rocks online.  Join up to 8 players for a huge battle.  My favorite is the two on two battles.  It’s hard to keep players online long enough to complete a game and keeping it to 2-v-2 allows for nice teamwork.  It runs great over my cable modem, but may lag in battle sequences over a modem.  Concentrate more on quantity of soldiers than quality.  If the battle lingers, then upgrade, but you need to move and build fast.  It adds a new element to the strategy of the game.  Don’t forget, get some buddies at work, and play over the LAN.  It should run like you are just playing on your PC. 

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.5
The user interface is very easy and effective.  However, in single player mode there is so much waiting involved.  I had to twiddle my thumbs a little too much.  Once your troops are moving and attacking, there’s constant chaos and gratification.

Graphics: 8.5 
Shadows of clouds overhead, ripples and blood in the water, and especially the rain and snow are visually stunning.  I wish the lines on the characters were smoother, but I think the real focus for the graphics is for the battle scenes to flow smoothly.  And they really do.

Sound: 9
Very solid.  The music and effects are all stimulating to the graphics displayed.  Check out the voice on the Sledger; he sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Difficulty: Medium
Build as many soldiers as you can, then throw them into battle and watch the massacre.  You can get unlimited water and unlimited rice (have to water the fields though), so the resources are always available. 

Concept: 7 
There are lots of games that are clan based - grow your town, build your army, and accomplish the mission at hand.  WOTW does bring a slightly different look to the battle scenes, and that’s where its originality plays in.

Multiplayer: 9.5
Absolutely awesome.  It’s lots of fun to team up with other clans, and chat to coordinate your attacks and defenses.  I could eat up days with the online play.

Overall: 8.5
I liked the multiplayer aspect of the game better than the game itself, but both present their own challenges.  I think the real beauty behind the battle AI is exposed through playing with other humans.  The campaigns are dynamic to an extent, but it’s very similar to many other “destroy everything” games such as Warcraft.  Like that’s bad.  Warcraft is one of the most successful games out there, but WOTW is a better kick butt game. 

Great

Gw
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