Warlords Battlecry III is the third edition in the RTS/RPG hybrid series, which is itself a spin-off of SSG's Warlords turn-based strategy games. Like its predecessors, Battlecry III is set in the swords-and-sorcery world of Etheria, a land populated by humans, orcs, elves, and other fantasy races. Players choose a hero character who will lead their forces through a series of real-time missions, full of combat. Heroes develop as they move successfully through the campaign, enjoying custom improvements earned through experience.
Warlords Battlecry III offers more playable factions and hero types than earlier games in the series, with a total of 16 races and 28 character classes. Heroes can now keep retinues, who will follow them dutifully and offer support in battle. The human faction from previous games has been split into two separate races, the Empire and the Knights, and new races include the Saurians, the Plaguelords, and the Swarm. Hard-working heroes can now progress to level 50, and level up in the middle of missions.
Etheria had been enjoying a rare era of peace. Traders were expanding their routes when their ships came upon the forgotten southern continent. They found the land brimming with gold and silver and to claim these riches, they had only to slay a few of the primitive, obsidian creatures that seemed to populate the area. Yet soon enough they would realize their error: these "Ssrathi," as they call themselves, are far better organized than it first appeared, and capable of wielding powerful magic. And now, they are very angry.
Once again, war has come to the land of Etheria. Once again, the fate of the world will be determined by the one great hero who can lead his forces to ultimate victory.
If you're primarily a single-player gamer, then it's easy to recommend Warlords Battlecry III. The basic game hasn't changed all that much -- at its core, you still create a hero, build bases, harvest resources, and conquer your enemies -- a formula similar to most traditional real-time strategy games. This latest installment is basically a much-improved version of Warlords Battlecry II with a lot more goodies, tweaks, and refinements tossed into the design. However, if you buy your real-time strategy games with the intent of battling it out over the Internet or a LAN, you're probably going to find Battlecry III a major disappointment.
There's plenty of variety in Battlecry III. With the addition of the new races (Plaguelords, Ssrathi, Knights, Empire, and The Swarm), the grand total of playable races is up to a whopping 16. Even better, there are very few repeat units so each race is different in terms of abilities, look, and required tactics. If you use the same strategy when using the High Elves as you do the Dark Dwarves you're dead meat. Thankfully, some of the old races received needed tweaking to help balance things out a bit. It's impossible to say with complete certainty that the game is perfectly balanced with so many races and units involved, but it is certainly more balanced than Battlecry 2.
The new hero system adds even more role-playing aspects to a game that has always taken a more personal slant in terms of heroes and units. The new system allows you to upgrade your hero during a scenario; there are also new attributes and starting professions available to help personalize your leader even more. You can take your hero into skirmish battles where he will continue to gain levels and acquire items and retinue. This portable hero system is a fantastic idea and helps you to get attached to your alter ego. The hero may also take part in the grand campaign that allows you to travel the land of Etheria as any race you wish.
On the multiplayer side, the problems run the gamut from simply being unable to connect to the Enlight servers to full-fledged crashing during LAN play. There is an option for direct TCP/IP games, but the disconnect rate is frustratingly high, so getting a multiplayer game to even work is a matter luck, and with the Enlight servers having so many problems it makes matchmaking a nightmare. The Warlords Battlecry series has always been a more "niche" game than massively popular titles like WarCraft or Age of Empires, and when you take such a crucial element out of the loop it places the game squarely behind the eight ball. Enlight and Infinite Interactive would be advised to get this fixed -- pronto.
Adding to the frustration is the terrible documentation that ships with the game. Finding out what the skills of the units do in game terms is impossible. Thankfully, there are PDF files now on the Enlight website that share this vital information, but the average consumer may not even realize this is available. There's just no excuse for it being absent from the original packaging. It's a shame that it shipped in such an unready state because behind the issues is a fantastic fantasy-themed real-time strategy game that is significantly improved over earlier versions.
Battlecry III is both hit and miss aesthetically. The audio is first rate, with a wonderful musical score, unit command sound, and combat noise. The visuals are a bit of an issue. They're functional (albeit with poor unit models), but the problem is that on certain maps the units have a tendency to blend into the scenery. It can be extremely hard to see some of the smaller units on a jungle map, for instance.
There's a lot of quality content in Warlords Battlecry III from the massive campaign, customizable skirmish battles, a random map generator, and a scenario editor. As a play-alone game, it's well worth the download.
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Warlords 4: Heroes of Etheria, Warlords Battlecry 2, Warlords Battlecry, Warlords 3: Darklords Rising, Warlords 3: Reign of Heroes, Wizards & Warriors, Warhammer: Mark of Chaos, Warlords II Deluxe
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