by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
Not having multiple strategies to choose from in the Saracen campaign may seem like a disappointment. You could claim it cuts down on replay value, but I wasn’t bothered by it. Regardless of the campaign you’re playing and the faction you choose, battles feel very contrived. Before heading onto the field, you know exactly where you’ll be and where the enemy will be. You know your exact army composition and how you want to use your units. For the most part, you have a predetermined plan of attack, and there are never any surprises to make you deviate from that. It’s all simply a matter of execution.
In that regard, Kings’ Crusade again feels more like a party-based RPG than a real-time strategy game. Battles are more like dungeon runs or raids. You vanquish monsters – or in this case, armies – to gain experience and loot and improve your characters, and then you move on to the next dungeon. Or battlefield. If you find yourself completely outmatched in a certain dungeon, you reload and tackle a different, easier one. And then you run through a third one and maybe a fourth, until you’re powerful enough to return to that first dungeon. Or battlefield.
The lack of spontaneity on the field does seem like a missed opportunity, but it doesn’t detract from what makes Lionheart so enjoyable. The game’s depth and replay value aren’t in the battles themselves; they’re in how you manage your army.
Neocore’s newest game also includes a basic multiplayer component: You can go head to head against another human. After choosing a map or scenario, you both spend a set amount of money to recruit an army and upgrade units, and then massacre each other on the battlefield. I suppose it’s a good test of your micro, but the multiplayer lacks the mission-to-mission unit management and progression that makes the single-player campaigns so enjoyable. I don’t think it’s worth the time, but nor do I think it weakens the game as a whole. Just pretend Kings’ Crusade is solely a single-player game.
What does weaken Lionheart: Kings’ Crusade is its currently unstable nature. Through both campaigns, but more so in the Crusader campaign, I experienced temporary freezes and complete crashes to the desktop. The crashes were especially tragic when they occurred towards the end of a prolonged battle; I had to start over on a few too many occasions.
Neocore has assured me they’re aware of the stability issues – the crashes seem to be related to a memory bug in some Windows 7 display driver versions – and they’re going to let players know which drivers are best for the game while working on fixes. It’s a shame that the game is marred by such issues at release. Here’s hoping Neocore takes care of them quickly.
Bringing It Back
In these genre-meshing times, we have RPGs that look like First-Person Shooters and First-Person Shooters with RPG elements. Neocore’s created an RPG that’s disguised as a Total War game, first with King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame and now with the improved Lionheart: Kings’ Crusade. I don’t know if that was their intention, but it certainly makes me happy.
Enjoyable blend of RPG mechanics and RTS aesthetics
Stability issues that need to be adressed quickly