reviews\ Sep 12, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Celtic Kings Rage of War - PC - Review

Haemimont Games has given us a chance to delve into gaming in a fun and unique way, while still providing an experience that is easy to recognize without sacrificing originality. Celtic Kings is a beautiful mix of RTS and RPG that took this jaded gamer by surprise. One of my favorite "recent" games is Age of Empires II. It was appealing from the start, and got better (and harder!) as I progressed. It was satisfying, but does not compare to Celtic Kings. 

Though there are four societies involved here, only two can be played: the Gauls and the Romans. Each of the two have their strengths and weaknesses, which is ideal for the varied gamers who might prefer one type of strategy over another. If you like tact, resources and experience, the Romans will suit you; but if you prefer a more rag-tag, strong, yet anxious group, play as the Gauls. As in most games of this type, your success lays in acquiring territory, funding (gold), armies and subsequent training. Using the vast (HUGE!) maps, you can choose to engage in small skirmishes or large ones to obtain your resources. Unlike AoE II and others, this game does not require you to build structures, rather you must capture and take over existing buildings. Also, you do not have to constantly micro-manage your peasants and make them plant gardens and such; rather just send pack animals to other areas to bring back needed resources. This allows you to focus more on training and setting up your conquered village(s). 

The Roman's principle fighter is the Hastatus while the Gaul's is an Axe man. A principle key of success is to make a "hero". Your Hero will lead the Armies into calculated success. While you can charge head-first into a battle without a Hero, there is a huge difference between the methods. Romans or Gaul can have Heroes, but use different methods to create them. 

The other way (RPG) the game can be played is as an single player adventure, using young "Larax", a fighter dedicated to battle but has the option of deciding which side of the war he wants to support. Traveling the terrain and gathering intelligence and experience, playing this way can lead to hours of challenge and fun. You can interact with factual historical personalities as you quest and collect bounty along the way. This variation makes Celtic Kings special and a treat to play for hours. 

The visuals are very nice, but not so special that there's anything unique. The terrains are very nicely done and the moving objects (people, animals, etc) are well defined and clear. The music is appropriate and dramatic though I grew weary of Larax's thick-dialect mumbling. The AI for the game is excellent. I did not experience any truly annoying glitch or obstacle that wasn't reasonable. I did experience a couple of crashes, but only after hours of stable play. Less problems, in fact, than any other game of this genre. It appears consideration was taken to make sure the game played well in lieu of tinkering with unstable, though spectacular graphical technologies.  

Gameplay: 9
It's familiar without being redundant. The game is relatively easy to pick up and get the hang of, though constantly pushes you to hone your method.  It plays smooth and you are not distracted by glitches and hang ups in the execution of battles. Giving the gamer some breaks (ie: not having to build your own structures) allows you focus on other tasks that are more satisfying. 

Graphics: 8 
The graphics are not the game's strongest point, but that does not mean they are "weak". The developers chose not to re-invent the wheel, but made it roll with as much effectiveness as possible. They made great use of existing graphic technology. You'll be so involved with your gaming, the depth of stunning graphic ability will not be an issue. 

Sound: 7.5
Very nice, somber music typical of a game such as this. Sometimes grand, but often subtle. The voices were muffled and almost annoying at time. I grew weary of hearing how Larax's sword thirsts for blood. The accents were thick and not very convincing. 

Difficulty: Medium
Depending on how you play (RPG or RTS), the game can be very hard and challenging. You can make it as hard as you want it to be by the way you choose to execute the action. Preparation and moving with calculation makes a hard game easier.

Concept: 8.5 
Nothing new about a "quest" game... or is it a "strategy" game? Since it is a hybrid, it's worth more than dismissing as only one type. It plays like a lot of other games in this genre, but adds more depth and playability. 

Multiplayer: 8 
Up to eight players can play online or via LAN. Make sure you join with competent players or your experience will be miserable! A wise small group of Romans can easily defeat a larger average band of Gaul. 

Overall: 9
This was truly a delight to play. I found myself going back and forth from RPG to RTS. It's a great dilemma to have. Whether you play as a solo warrior exploring the world of the Gaul, or driving armies into battle, this game delivers hours of superb action and fun. I imagine, if you played without a break, there would be close to a WEEK of gameplay without reaching an end.


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