HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval is a Real Time Strategy game set during the Hundred Years’ War. It features different conflicts between England and France and allows you to play as either the English or the French. The English campaign is designed for beginners and you have the opportunity to fight as the Black Prince or Henry V. The French campaign is for experienced players and allows you to command Joan of Arc or the King of France.
HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval is available on three platforms: Xbox, Playstation 3 and the PC. This review is for the PC version. The minimum requirements for the PC is Windows XP or Vista, 1GB of RAM, 128Mb of video RAM, DirectX 9, a DirectX compatible sound card and a DVD player if you have the physical media (a download-able version is available). I first played the game on a Windows XP machine with 3GB of RAM and a video card with 128Mb of RAM. While the game was playable, it did lag during some of the battles and in-game movies. My main PC is running Windows 7 with 8GB of RAM and a 1GB video card. HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval performed flawlessly on this rig. I expect the system RAM has less to do with the performance of the game as the video RAM. Playing the game with a minimum setup and a mid-range 512Mb video card should alleviate any video problems.
Game play in HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval is broken into four major sections and each one serves a unique purpose. They are: the Campaign map, the Army Camp, Battle Cards screen and the battlescape. When you start the game, you must complete a tutorial campaign that walks you through troop deployment, battle tactics and general game play. Once you complete the tutorial campaign, you choose whether you want to play as the English or French and the level of difficult: Easy, Normal, Hard and Insane.
The first stop is the Campaign map. It is a bird’s eye view of Western Europe where all the major battles of the Hundred Years War take place. The campaign map is dotted with different coat-of-arms and as an area becomes available, a red banner waves over the location and rays of heavenly light illuminate it. After you raid a French village or plunder an English supply train a major Battle of the Hundred Years’ War like the Battle of Crecy or the Siege of Calais is unlocked. As you complete the minor and major battles, more areas of the map become available allowing you to march your army across Europe.
The Army Camp is where you equip your men and acquire new skills. In HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval you can control up to 20 squads, varying from peasant archers to mounted Knights. As you recruit new units they show up in the Army Camp screen. One of the better features of HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval is the option to equip each squad differently. You can make one infantry squad pike wielding cavalry killers while make a second infantry squad an outstanding anti-infantry corps equipped with sword and shield. The same is true for all 20 squads you command. Each can be equipped with different weapons, armor and skills to fully customize your army. To gain skill points and unlock new weapons your army must gain experience. The only way to do that is kill the enemy. Each squad advances at different rates depending on how much action they see in battle. In the Army Camp you can upgrade your weapons, armor and skills. You will spend a lot of time on this screen customizing your army. It is setup in an intuitive manner and streamlined so it is not a tedious endeavor.
The Battle Cards screen is accessible from the Army Camp and the Campaign Map. Battle Cards are the intangible factors that occur during battle. You can use them to target either friendly or enemy units, depending on the card. You start with two cards and card slots. As your army becomes more experienced more cards and card slots are unlocked. The number of card slots indicated how many battle cards you can take into any battle. I was able to progress quite far into the game without relying heavily on Battle Cards. While they seemed to have some effect on the troops, they didn’t seem to change the tide of battle.
The battlescape is where all the action takes place. When you start a battle you arrive at the battle screen, a smaller, more detailed version of the quest map. This is where your specialized squads come into play. You can deploy each squad anywhere on the map but you will want to rely on your strategy to deploy your anti-cavalry units against the charging, mounted knights and the archers against the poorly armored peasant infantry units. Terrain also comes into play on this screen. Send your troops through a muddy bog and they will slow to a crawl. However, position your archers across a river and watch them annihilate the enemy without taking much, if any, damage.
After the initial deployment and the battle begins you can pause the action to redeploy your troops by clicking the mouse or pressing the space bar. This is an excellent feature in a Real Time Strategy game! For me Real Time Strategy games are like Reality TV, not even remotely real. The ability to pause the action to redeploy squads adds an intelligent and tactical element to the game. This feature is the equivalent of battlefield communications. While fighting engagements in other RTS games I always have units sitting around doing nothing while I am engrossed in a fight. However, not in HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval, while squads are fighting on one side of the battlefield you can direct another squad to flank an enemy or withdraw. Moreover, no squad needs to sit idle while you are trying to fight a major engagement. Once again, it’s brilliant! While on the battle screen you can view the action from a bird’s eye view or zoom down to ground level and view the action first hand, or pick an angle anywhere in between the two.
HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval is a collaboration between Slitherine and The History Channel and uses footage filmed for The History Channel. While the footage content is great the video quality is poor. I am not sure if they did this for artistic reasons or if The History Channel only provided low quality footage. Either way it doesn’t work. In today’s age of HD and Blu-Ray, in-game movies that are grainy and pixilated are subpar and a real turn off.
HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval is a very enjoyable and absorbing game. During one session, I sat down to equip my army and fight a quick battle. I emerged four hours later, battle hardened, wondering where the time went. While the game is easy to play, it is difficult to master. You will use all of your strategic and tactical skills to win the Hundred Years’ War. If you are a fan of medieval warfare, the Hundred Years’ War or just beating up the French this game is for you. (And to keep things fair you can play as the French and pommel the English as well) I would absolutely recommend adding this game to your library. If you live in the United States you will have to wait awhile as the game is only available in Europe.
Head over to Slitherine and purchase your copy now. You will not be disappointed.
Medieval Archives gives HISTORY™ Great Battles Medieval a solid 8 out of 10!