by Empire Interactive
Just when you thought you'd seen it all with real time strategy games up pops a game like Hundred Swords to prove you wrong. Unusually for an RTS the game has a distinct Manga style and it looks very similar to Final Fantasy VII.
The game's heart is the campaign mode which is the best place to start as it contains important information on how to play the game. Stringing the campaign's missions together is a typical Japanese story line which, surprisingly for an RTS is actually quite appealing and definitely looks and feels like a Final Fantasy game. The action all takes place on a continent that is divided amongst nine tribes. These nine tribes are known as 'The People of the Empire'. One of these tribes, Nalavale, has been particularly brutal to the other tribes over the years committing diabolical attacks on them.
The problem is that the Nalavale now have a new, young, leader called Larf Nalavale and he is intent on repairing the damage that his ancestors have done and desires to make peace with the other tribes. Larf is not alone in this desire and finds an ally in Fals Lu Gran who is the 16 year old queen of the Gran tribe. Both Larf and Fals have been in constant communication through letters. The problems begin when another of the tribes, the Mascar, intercept one of the letters and learn of the supposed desire for peace. The Mascar's leader's heir, Rentze Mascar, is not at all happy with the plans for peace and desires to exact revenge on the Nalavale for all their past cruelties. You begin the campaign with control over Larf and immediately head into skirmishes with the Mascar.
As well as the campaign there are 17 stand alone missions which are grouped into three difficulty levels. These stand alone missions are quite enjoyable and don't take too long to play. One of the things you'll notice with both the campaign and the stand alone missions is that a number of them are time limited. This time limitation adds a twist of difficulty to your mission goals and usually means you can't afford to dawdle around like you can do in other strategy games.
OK, we know what it's all about, so what's it play like?
Well if you're coming to this from distinguished strategy games like Cossacks or Shogun then you may feel that this is a cut down RTS effort. There are no formations, the game has no ability to group all your men and in certain ways it feels like you're playing this game on an emulator. Your men are divided into groups and each group has a leader. You control the group by controlling the leader. The leader has an icon of theirself on the right side of the screen and clicking on the icon will give you control of the leader and automatically take you to them so you don't need to scroll around the map to find them. The problem is that you can only control one leader at a time which means that moving them all around the map can be a little cumbersome. You never have more than a handful of leaders to control though, so the situation is not as drastic it might have been and you can create a mixed group of units under a leader which helps relieve the frustration somewhat.
The units are basically categorised into cavalry, infantry, wizard and archer. Other specialist units such as the golem and artillery are also available. A few special units exist and these are the cavalry archer, the sly soldier, the seed healer and flying cavalry. The units appear well balanced with all of them having their advantages and disadvantages. Throughout the game magical items are gained through successful battles and these items, such as the Blazing Spear, can be attached to your units to give them an attack or defensive bonus.
Resource management and base building do exist in the game but they are kept to an acceptable minimum. There are two resources in the game - Dragon Steel and Dragon Oil. These are both gathered from mines. Base building is simply the building or upgrading of a barracks. Again this is a simplistic affair but the barracks are important as you can recruit more units there, as long as you have the relevant resources.
Graphically, as mentioned before, the game looks like a Final Fantasy game (in particular Final Fantasy VII). The game is in 3D but the game only uses a low amount of polygons and the look, while rather stylised, is rather simple. The game is very colourful but the interface is a little bit chunky and fails to hide its console roots (the game was originally a Japanese Dreamcast game).
The text feedback within the game is amazing and everything is text based. No vocal information/speech is given in the game and as you can see from the screenshots it relies on the beautiful Manga artwork and captions to relay the story line. In terms of text feedback and visual clues the game is perfect.
Is the game to be recommended? Well if you like a decent strategy game and appreciate the 'Final Fantasy' story telling style then I would definitely say a wholehearted yes. However if you are a hard-core strategy gamer who demands all the refinements of the modern strategy game, then you may find the lack of control disappointing. However I fall into the second category and after some adjustment I can honestly say I have enjoyed playing the game. As a strategy game it may not be at the top of the technology tree but it is enjoyable and refreshing and in the strategy genre that means a hell of a lot.
Overall Game Rating: 8/10 An enjoyable and refreshing RTS game. It could have done with a far better interface though.
Quality of text / Visual Clues : 10/10 Absolutely perfect.
Graphics: 7/10 Simplistic and console like but still has plenty of charm.
Visual Presentation: 10/10 Full marks on this account.
Interface: 5/10 The Achilles heel of game. More attention should have been given to improving the interface for greater ease of use.
Gameplay: 8/10 Simplistic but enjoyable.