War gamers return to the tumultuous medieval time of the dreaded Black Plague, in this period-focused extension of Paradox Entertainment's Europa Universalis series. Two Thrones is a middle-ages turn-based strategy revolving around the relationship between the thrones of England and France in the period between 1337 and 1490, when the royal families struggled for control and the Church wielded its power over all. As in earlier games from the developer, a high level of importance is placed on historical accuracy. Players can lead the nations of England, France, Burgundy, or any of several smaller factions involved in the period's War of the Roses. Maintaining the balanced support of all the country's people, including wealthy, peasant, and religious interests, will be crucial to survival. A strong economy and influential diplomacy are invaluable, as is a well-supplied army of experienced spearmen, archers, and knights.
Developer Paradox Entertainment and Publisher Strategy First team together again to release the PC title, Two Thrones. This title follows in the vein of Europa Univesalis, being a high-level strategy. The game spans from January 1337 to December 1490. It covers those years of turmoil between England and France, which drew the whole of Europe into conflict. The title is an expansive game covering from the realms of Ireland to Province.
Game play happens across a colorful of a map of western and central Europe. The player controls provinces scatted across this map. There are several icons on this map. They are armies, fleets, markets, cities, farmlands, city walls, martial grounds, churches, and castles. With these icons, there is also the device, the coat of arms, of the nation that controls the province.
The first thing, there are two methods of winning the game. First, the player can conquer Europe. This is a hard task. No one actually accomplished this task in history. With the game play slightly over 15 hours, I found it easier to win by gaining the largest amount of Victory Points. The player gains points by doing things like upgrading buildings, conquering a province, winning a battle, joining a alliance, per month at peace, and eliminating a faction. The player losses points by doing things like losing a province, losing a battle, having a rebellion, breaking a royal marriage, insulting a faction, and declaring war. My personal strategy was to play England. I made peace with France, joined into a military alliance with anyone who would have me, upgraded every building, kept the peace, and beat the snot out of the Scottish. I did very well and won. Everyone was happy, except the Scottish perhaps. The warpath method theoretically takes less time. If the player can defeat France, if playing England, or defeat England, if playing France, then they have it made. It is my personal opinion playing one of the smaller countries would not be the easiest of times, since the player would have to defeat both England and France. Either method of winning is not easy. Both takes work.
The weighted comparison of numbers within the armies is how the title handles combat. The combat is handled through a weighted comparison of armies. The weighted part comes from how certain units deal with others and how they deal with terrain. Knights and Squires are better on plains while Men-at-Arms, Pike men, Crossbowmen, and Longbow men are good on woods and mountains. Sea combat is a more simplified combat. It all comes down to numbers in the end no matter if it is on land or sea. Having a great disparity in numbers in the player's favor virtually insures a victory. After a victory in a province, the army has to siege the province. This takes a significant amount of time. The three things that can lift the siege are that the army leaves because of some good will, something makes them leave, or they all die. The best example I have is my taking of Scotland. I showed up with a huge force, eliminated the army, and laid siege. No mess, no fuss.
Popularity, Silver, and Grain make up the economy in the game. Any action besides moving the army costs one or more of these. Farmlands produce grain. Taxes from towns and castles provide silver. Popularity is the rating that the peasants, the burghers, the nobility, and the clergy love (or hate) the player. There are various actions and events in the game that can change the popularity amount the various groups. Fiddling with the popularity is tricky. I found it easy to make everyone mad at me.
Building units is very straightforward. The player clicks on the martial field and selects the unit to build. It costs silver and grain to create that unit. Then the player just has to wait until the unit is built. There is no queuing to construction. I think that is an annoying flaw, especially as the player's empire grows.
Several actions affect the relationships between countries. The giving of gifts, making of alliances, insults, marriages, divorces, and declaring war all effect the relations between nations. To attack a province, the player must be at war with that nation.
The little events in the game are a nice touch. The player can make the same or different choices in the game as historical figures did, which can affect one or more things in the game. The windows that come up show the effects of each choice by a tool tip that pops up when the mouse pointer hovers over the button. This makes the events easy to decide on, so it is a nice touch. I found the events educational. I learned some things about what happened in this period. This impressed me since I thought I knew it pretty well.
Clicking on the unit and then left clicking where the player wants the unit to go moves units through the game. The unit then takes the time to travel between areas, which vary on the distance. Units can even travel through allies' lands. Only real trouble is crossing the sea. It is required for the unit to board onto ships. This was difficult for me to due since it took so long to build enough ships to move large formations of troops.
Graphically, the game is flawless. The game has a rich and deep pallet. I found it soothing to the eye and fitting to the time-period it represents. The animations were appropriate, as was the sprites. The only issue I had was the markets sometimes hard for me to see.
The game lacked in the way of any decent music. There was a music setting but I heard some fan fair but that was about it. I found this disappointing. I was expecting some chamber music or something. I kicked up my MP3 player (with my legal collection). I personally think Linkin Park makes great chamber music.
The game had no errors or flaws technically in it. I never broke the scripting or crashed the title. It worked the first time on my pc, with no configuration. Simple installs are the best. There is inaccuracy in some of the hints and tips in the game. That fact is very annoying. This should be able to correct with some patches.
The multiplayer section is a little disappointing. Paradox Entertainment's Valkyrie system allows players to find and play other players. I never did find anyone playing Two Thrones on the Valkyrie system. They did not even have a room dedicated to Two Thrones. I would have imagined that they would have created a room by the time that the publisher, Strategy First, released the game. I never had the chance to test the multiplayer section due to this.
Two Thrones is a title with a lot of potential. The developer, Paradox Software, specializes in this type of game. Unfortunately, there are some minor issues too. They are not any real showstoppers. If these grand strategy titles were your cup of tea, I would recommend this game. The complexity of the game makes it a poor choice for twitch gamers.
People who downloaded Two Thrones have also downloaded:
Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun, Tzar: The Burden of the Crown, Warlords 4: Heroes of Etheria, Stronghold: Crusader, Tropico 2: Pirate Cove, Wooden Ships & Iron Men, Stronghold
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