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Battle Realms: Winter of the Wolf was the first try of Battle Realms at expansion packs. We all know how unfair the world of video games can be, and how important is the timing when releasing a new game. Some great games get lost in the sea of releases, Battle Realms could be one of these.

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Battle

Battle Realms was the first game developed by Liquid Software, a real-time strategy title with many great things. A great powerful engine, beautiful maps, nice gameplay, and much more. But it was never too popular, and we'll talk about why in a moment, but first, we should talk about Battle Realms: Winter of the Wolf for a moment.

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About the game

As we mentioned before, it was planned to be the first in a series of expansions for the original game Battle Realms. Winter of the Wolf takes place 7 years before the events of Battle Realms. The Wolf Clan used to have a wild lifestyle in harmony with nature in an unexplored land. But when something shook their home, they were forced to use the power of their sacred totem to transport to a safer place.

However, they ended up in the middle of lands under the control of the Lotus' and the Snake's clans. It didn't take long for the Lotus Clan to find out about the Wolf Clan in their domain and enslave them. But a brave leader, Grayback appeared to free his people out of the mines and slavery. Fight for justice in a campaign heavily affected by climatic and environmental elements through the endless winter.

Why didn't it succeed?

Battle Realms had a rough time in the market, it launched too close to Warcraft III. As you know, Warcraft already had an immense fan base, and given the similar gameplay style, it opaque Battle Realms. So much that in fact, 'Winter of the Wolf didn't even see the light in many places outside of the US.

This is what happens when a new IP launches almost at the same time as a big name in the same genre. While it did well in reviews and it still has fans, it's nothing compared to the legendary Warcraft series.

Review

Just like the original title, Winter of the Wolf features an interesting and well-developed campaign. Nicely developed characters in an excellently built game-world. However, it doesn't add much to the original game, and there isn't really any big change. But that's natural in these older expansion packs, where they add enough content to make the game bigger but not enough to be a complete game by itself.

Overall it's a shame Winter of the Wolf wasn't released worldwide, as it's an excellent expansion to an already great game.

  • Graphics and visuals: The game looks excellent. The powerful engine renders beautiful 3D maps and detailed characters. These are even better than its main rival Warcraft III, which is why this is even more of a shame.

  • Gameplay: Winter of the Wolf has everything from the original game, and adds up the almost constant extra of the eternal winter. The snow affects the characters and their behavior, making it an interesting element to consider when making decisions. The controls are super comfortable and the AI is competent and solid.

  • Sound: The game has an excellent original soundtrack and nice sound design. Definitely a worthy competitor to the Warcraft series, but the timing of the release was a huge miscalculation for the success of this title.

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Battle Realms (c) Ubi Soft
Windows, Pentium II-400, 64MB RAM, 600MB HDD, 4x CD-ROM
70%
Tuesday, December 11th, 2001 at 03:09 PM

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By: Westlake

Battle Realms, from first time developer Liquid Entertainment, is a real-time strategy game (RTS) with a Japanese theme. It is also, interestingly enough, almost the direct opposite of the last RTS I reviewed, Empire Earth. While Empire Earth was huge, with lots of playing styles and strategies, Battle Realms uses a much smaller scale. Now, being smaller doesn’t necessarily make a game worse, but Liquid Entertainment removed so many strategic elements from Battle Realms that, despite looking good and running smoothly, the game feels slight. There just isn’t enough going on to make it fun to play, or to give it a shelf life on your computer of more than a week.

Since strategy is the most important thing in an RTS, it’s odd that Battle Realms has so little. But consider all of the places where Liquid Entertainment removed strategy from the game:

1. The resources. There are only two resources in the game -- water and rice -- and both are in unlimited supply. So you only have to control one rice field and one body of water (including a well that you can build) and you’re set for the game. You don’t need to rush to control resources, and you don’t need to battle for resources.

2. The map. The map starts out explored, including the locations of resources. So there’s no difficulty in finding a spot for your base -- or in finding enemy bases since they have to be near rice fields.

3. The peasants. Peasants in Battle Realms do the regular things -- gather resources and construct buildings -- but there are two differences. For starters, peasants are produced automatically at peasant huts, so you don’t have to decide when to create them. Secondly, they’re what you use to create military units (in a system reminiscent of Starcraft’s Zerg race), so you can never have too many. That means the whole dynamic of deciding what percentage of your population limit you should dedicate to gathering resources is gone here, because if you find yourself with too many resources, you can just send peasants off to train.

4. The battles. Once battles start, you have almost no control of the outcome. Battles run about five times faster than they should, so things are just moving too quickly for you to control, and military units tend to jump and dance and spin during combat -- which is fun to watch -- but it means you can’t target anything, either. Plus, units really, really want to fight, so it’s difficult to get them to break off their attacks, and once they take damage they move more slowly. So battles tend to end with one side being decimated, and things like hit-and-run tactics don’t work.

So where does the strategy lie? Well, there are three areas: in picking a location for your base, in placing your defensive towers (since you only get four), and in deciding what military units to build. That’s not a whole lot, especially since you’re given a severe population limit (usually 40 or less), meaning you should always just select your best military units.

But Battle Realms has problems in other areas as well. Consider the clans. There are four clans -- the honorable Dragon Clan, the sneaky Serpent Clan, the magical (and yucky) Lotus Clan, and the rugged Wolf Clan -- and they each have over a dozen unique units, plus a handful of buildings. That sounds like a lot of variety, but even though the clans look and sound differently, they’re really just a slight variation on each other. For example, each clan has its own basic healer, archer, siege, and melee units, and, although the other units can be different, they’re just not enough to make the clans seem very distinct, especially since the buildings are almost identical and the training methods are identical. But, on the good side, the similarities mean the clans are fairly well balanced. Gujarati meaning of english words translation.

The two campaigns that come with Battle Realms are also reasonably bad. Either the Battle Realms engine doesn’t support much in the way of triggers, or else Liquid Entertainment chose to avoid triggers, and so the 14 missions in each campaign play like simple skirmish mode. You get a base, the computer gets a base (or a few bases), and you have to destroy every last computer controlled unit and building to win. That not only sounds boring, but it gets worse since this is one of those games where a peasant can sneak off and start building a new base while you’re destroying the old one. Plus, there isn’t any friendly explore option for units, and you can spend as much time tracking down that last enemy unit as you can playing the rest of the mission.

And that’s too bad because Liquid Entertainment tried to do some interesting things with the campaigns. For starters, there are some branching elements to the campaigns, so at key junctions you can decide who to attack or which allies to woo. Also, while in both campaigns you play Kenji, a descendant of the Dragon Clan, in one campaign you’re good and want to defend citizens and unify the clans, while in the other you’re evil and want to put citizens in their place and take over the clans. The contrast is interesting.

And Battle Realms has some other bright spots. It’s just that the game’s good areas are technical areas rather than gameplay areas. So I could tell you that Battle Realms has an extremely nice interface, that its graphics are pretty good, that Liquid Entertainment did an excellent job with the unit animations, and that the game ran great on my computer, even though my computer falls squarely in between the minimum and recommended system requirements. But how important are those things if the gameplay isn’t any good?

Well, not very. So, if you’re looking for a fantasy RTS, try Warlords Battlecry. If you’re looking for a fast-paced RTS, try Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. If you’re just interested in a 3D RTS, then you can’t go wrong with Empire Earth. But don’t play Battle Realms unless you’re prepared to be disappointed -- or worse, bored.

Ratings:
[20/40] Gameplay
[13/15] Graphics
[12/15] Sound
[10/10] Interface
[06/10] Multiplayer
[05/05] Technical
[04/05] Documentation

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Rating
70%