by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
When not conquering a territory, you can spend money youíve claimed from battles won to train your units, increasing their attack or defense rating; purchase healers or captains or holy men that give units added bonuses in battle; or simply recruit new units. But none of these options are cheap, and you also need funds to replenish your battered units after a battle. So you have to spend wisely.
There were times when I was too liberal in my spending and wasnít able to restock my army after a brutal battle. In that situation, one could try to fight on anyway, pick a successive mission thatís advantageous for the units you have plenty of and rest the others. You could also take out a loan from some wealthy Venetians and choose not to pay them back. Or, you could just lower the difficulty setting. But then Iíd have to question your manhood.
Units can also level up during battle after gaining enough experience Ė as in any RPG Ė and provide you with points to spend towards their attack, defense, morale, or stamina rating. You also receive skill points to spend on active or passive abilities specific to each unit. Saracen archers, for example, can gain the Surprise Shot ability and deal highly increased damage when firing while hidden. The experience system encourages a specific play style from one mission to the next. If you use your archers to get most of the kills, theyíre going to level up faster and increase in strength and get even more kills in the next mission. Itís a vicious cycle.
As if all the ways you can spend money and experience werenít enough, you can even equip units with weapons and armor and elixirs that you find on the battlefield. I spent more time managing my units in Lionheart than I am used to doing in Role-Playing Games such as Mass Effect 2. And thatís a good thing; it endears you to your army. I found myself hiding those experienced archers when they were hurt and throwing newer, more dispensable units at the enemy to weaken them. Saladin may have found that to be a sound tactic, but I did it simply because I like my archers and didnít want to lose all the time and money Iíd invested in them.
The ways in which you can customize your units are nearly identical in both the Crusader and Saracen campaigns, except for one major mechanic. In the Crusader campaign, you have to deal with four different factions before battle: The Holy Roman Empire, The French King, The Templar's, and The Papal Court. Each faction suggests a different strategy for whatever territory youíre conquering. One may encourage you to conduct a sneak attack under the cover of night, while another may suggest a more direct and honorable approach. Choosing a faction determines how the mission will play out, of course, but it also increases your Fame with that faction, which in turn provides you faction-specific perks like new units and additional skill points.
Under Saladin, the Saracens were apparently much more united during the Crusades, so you donít get multiple strategies for each mission. Thereís only one plan of attack for each territory, independent of your army composition. To compensate, you have a tech tree that provides you with more freedom to purchase the perks you want.
Enjoyable blend of RPG mechanics and RTS aesthetics
Stability issues that need to be adressed quickly