Knights of Honor - PC - Review
Knights of Honor takes place in the Middle Ages. It is a game that requires players to not only take charge of their military power, but to also consider the people living under their rule. Elements such as religion, economy, education, and influence come into play in this very deep strategy game brought to us by Black Sea and Sunflowers.
The ultimate goal in Knights of Honor is to gain territory using strength, intelligence, and influence. Luckily this goal is not as easily obtained as it sounds, since taking over a small next-door province takes much planning and preparation. Very much of the gameplay is made up of how you rule your provinces and how you use your resources.
When starting the game, you’re given the option of playing on Europe or Instant Battle. Instant Battle takes you into Knights of Honor’s battle mode, where the camera is zoomed in on the action. Here you give units commands and have complete control over the battle. In the battle mode the game plays like the RTS titles most gamers are used to.
When you choose Play on Europe you begin the campaign mode. You first choose the era, and then the country you wish to represent. This mode is very involved and even veterans of strategy games will most likely need to at least browse the manual before diving in.
You begin with an allotted amount of land, surround by land for your taking. There are a number of ways to do this, including peace treaties, declaring war, dispatching spies, trade agreements, etc. Just about anything you can think of is at your disposal to flourish as a leader.
The camera is initially zoomed way out, giving you a view of your provinces and small villages. You control most of your development here, and it’s where you recruit and maintain your most important unit: the Marshal. Once you have a Marshal, you can recruit knights from different trades. These trades will give you new options as well as expand on already available options.
Knights can be a cleric, spy, merchant, landlord, or builder. Each trade will award you bonuses in related areas. Merchants can set up trade agreements while spies can be hired by and assassinate enemy Marshals. Your hired knights can also turn out to be spies, which can be used as an advantage if caught through interrogation or ransom.
Marshals can also level up and gain new abilities. Battles will grant your Marshal experience, which in turn can be used to acquire new abilities that aid in the next battles. The abilities themselves can also be upgraded.
Aside from managing your country and hierarchy, battle is a large aspect of Knights of Honor. Having a strong military is not the only thing to worry about, but is also key to ruling over Europe.
When an important place is being attacked, or when you attack an enemy territory, you are given the option to lead or let the battle be controlled by AI. If you choose to lead, you enter a layout that most RTS titles follow. The camera moves in for a closer look, and you are given control of your units. You can order them to move, run, charge the enemy, attack, retreat, and defend…the usual.
Different units will serve you in their own ways. For example, peasants will run into battle with their pitchforks with no real strategy while swordsmen will attack and defend in formation. Each unit requires the correct facilities in town. My biggest problem with combat is how uneventful it is. You will commonly find many soldiers just standing around as their comrades fight for their life.
The structures in town are very important to your overall progress. To increase your books you need a library, but the library requires a parchment maker. The parchment maker then in turn needs a sheep farm to make the parchment from sheep skin. Your kingdom is built as a small community that works together to sustain their way of life.
Knights of Honor is extremely deep, and the anal RTS fan will love it. Players control every aspect of a kingdom and are required to conquer Europe in many ways other than militarily. The problem with this set up is that the casual RTS gamer probably won’t want to learn such a deep system. I could be wrong, but it doesn’t seem like dealing with politics and treaties is going to appeal to the fans of Warcraft and Command & Conquer. The other problem is the time of release. Knights of Honor is going to be shadowed by the rabidly sought-after games of this fall, and while opening up some new aspects to the RTS genre it doesn’t quite hit on some of the standards set by recent releases like Rome: Total War and Dawn of War.
Giving the player so many options is a double-edged sword; the player can control every piece of the game they want, but at the same time it creates a steep learning curve and can easily overwhelm.
The player models and battles themselves aren’t very impressive, but every other visual element is. The environments are beautifully laid out and towns are highly detailed. The art style is quite impressive and nice to look at.
The music is wonderful, but it seemed to pop in and out at random times – I didn’t get to listen to it as much as I wanted to. The battle sounds don’t do many of the battles justice.
The depth can cause this game to be a lot more difficult if the player isn’t ready. Even after reading up on how to control the flow of the game, actually doing it can get complicated.
I think being a true European conqueror is a great idea, but releasing such an ambitious title in the midst of many hyped games could hurt this title’s success.
Multiplayer only modes have been added to mix up gameplay a little. You can choose to do battle in a couple different ways (Open Battlefield and Historical Battles) or you can take advantage of the creative spin-offs. Town Assault has one player defending a town from the other player and King of Towers requires players to capture and hold as many towers as possible on an open battlefield.
It’s obvious how much work was put into this game and it’s hard not to appreciate it. Though the complete control might be a little much for most gamers, the ones that learn the game will enjoy it very much. Creating a dynasty, signing peace treaties, and declaring wars really makes you feel like you’re in control.