The History Channel: Crusades -- Quest for Power is a real-time strategy game developed by Zono that transports players to the time of the Crusades. Players will control infantry, archers, priests, and crusaders, each with a special attack mode. Tackle challenges in one of two campaign modes (each with eight missions), using weapons available during the time period such as fire arrows, oil drums, swords, and armor. Players will fight to hold back enemies from taking control of their land, while trying to recover stolen artifacts such as the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant.
Despite the connection with The History Channel, Crusades lacks anything even close to being historically noteworthy. There is no background on the conflict, with not even a mention of important figures like Saladin or Richard the Lionhearted. Instead, what you get is something that would make for a reasonable mobile phone game, but certainly not something we'd expect at this stage for the PC. Even worse, there aren't any of the extras that you'd imagine, and the only History Channel tie-in seems to be a link to the website -- and you certainly don't need to spend your time or money on this title just for that.
The quasi, real-time strategy gameplay is especially weak, and almost a chore to play, especially considering recent the advances in the genre. Crusades takes a major leap backwards with two utterly generic factions. You can play through the game as either non-descript European knights, who just barely sort of resemble the Order of the Knights Hospitaller, or even more non-descript Islamic warriors (which the box refers to as Saracens in passing).
Besides being nondescript, the game suffers from what it lacks. There's no resource management behind finding bags of gold and various relics on the battlefield, while the building aspects are just as bad and revolve around three tent structures that you can create that in turn build your different units. Each side gets exactly three combat unit types from these tents, including infantry, archers, and crusaders/holy warriors to do the fighting along with a fourth unit of priests/holy men. That final unit type can't be built, so you'll need to protect your holy men, as they're the ones who can heal your army. The combat is mostly of the hack-and-slash type without any regard for tactics.
There are no formations, and trying to control your forces is tedious and awkward. Your units will gain experience for their efforts and fight a little better, but because highlighting individual men is almost impossible, you really don't get to use these veterans to any major advantage. There is some variety in weapons and priests, or holy men can provide some divine intervention, but for the most part the game is a click-and-kill sort of affair.
At times, Crusades is almost painfully reminiscent of the Army Men series and offers the same type of dull gameplay. This is made worse by the fact that the settings are bleak, the graphics extremely dated, and the situations just utterly unrealistic. Where Army Men at least had some campy moments and wit, Crusades tries to be serious, and the result is a game that never even begins to be fun.
Topping it all off is that there is nothing historically correct or relevant in Crusades. The packaging promises authentic battlegrounds and magnificent sacred artifacts, but instead delivers locations and battles that aren't remotely accurate. Having objects like the Ark of the Covenant and Holy Grail show up is almost an affront to what the real crusades were about. The final injustice is that the game is extremely insensitive and is full of insulting Arab stereotypes.
The best thing about Crusades is that it doesn't take long to finish, although that's not meant as praise. With two campaigns, the game can be practically finished in a single evening.
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