Also available on PlayStation 3, Android, iOS, and Windows
I went into this game not expecting much. The final product was about what I initially expected, but I still ended up disappointed because the game starts off fairly entertaining and - for history and strategy game nerds like me - pretty addicting. The problem is that it doesn't stay fun. It's like if you started playing a game where the first level was Super Mario Bros 3 but the rest of the game was Math Blaster. I felt betrayed and lied to.
No one should really expect anything when you see that History Channel is the one sponsoring and directing the game. Okay, so maybe you should expect an informative game - and, in fairness, it does a decent job of portraying the Hundred Years War's major turning points - but that's ALL one should expect. The gameplay is like a blend of real time strategy and almost-but-not-really turn based strategy with some light RPG elements. The battles themselves take place in real time, but you have the ability to pause the action to issue commands to your units or use command cards. Then you resume the battle, and tiny little people start hacking each other to bits again. The RPG elements involve the stuff you do between battles. After each battle you win, you earn a certain amount of gold that you can use to either upgrade your units or buy new equipment. When in battle, your units gain experience, and with each level they gain, they gain a skill point. These can be put into general skills, like sword mastery or bow mastery; into attack skills that (obviously) boost your attack; or into defense skills that (also obviously) boost your defense. The problem is that the experience gains slow down more abruptly than Ys I on Master System.
So in the early battles, it's not too difficult; archers = victory. Your enemies just march steadily towards your army as they drop like flies against your relentless volley of arrows. Later on, it gets a bit tougher when they start using shields, and your archers end up having to defend themselves in melee combat. It's alright, though, because they have a melee weapon as a back up. No shield, granted, but they can at least defend themselves even if they won't be winning any major sword fights. Around Chapter 10 or so (at least in the English campaign; I'm not sure about the French campaign), the difficulty spikes to the point where the game just stops being fun. After eleven consecutive attempts at Chapter 13, I threw in the towel. It just wasn't fun enough to warrant the difficulty. I was outnumbered 3-to-1, and while I could make the French cavalry retreat by taking a certain command point and get that number down to being outnumbered 2-to-1, it was on the far end of the map; I had to fight my way past half of their infantry to get there, by which point their cavalry had probably almost gotten into a flanking position anyway. My archers could have cut through their infantry fast enough to manage it if they hadn't had giant ass shields making my arrows virtually useless. To make matters worse, most of them had spears and lances, making my own cavalry units useless against them. It was just a pain in the ass that I decided wasn't worth my time anymore.
Those who know me know that I'm not usually one to get my knickers in a twist about visuals, but the graphics in this game were straight garbage given the platform its on. It seriously looks like a PlayStation 2 game. Given that this is the same console that gave us the beautiful Halo Wars, it was just....ugh. Disgusting looking. Honest to god, Age of Empires II - a game that came out a full twelve years before this - looks about the same in terms of texture and animation quality. It looks like moldy ass. Before each main battle, there's a cut scene explaining that part of the war, and about half of it is live actors (probably pulled straight from a previously aired documentary on the Hundred Years War), but I've legitimately got FMV games on my Sega CD with better video quality than those cut scenes. It's just....inexcusable.
Honestly, the game isn't COMPLETELY horrible, but you've seriously got be a hardcore history AND strategy game nerd to get any real enjoyment out of this, and even then, don't expect it to last. Even on the Easy setting, the game has two modes - bend-over-for-you easy and going-in-dry hard. There is no in between. If you can find it for, like $5 or less, then sure, maybe it's worth some shits and giggles, but under no circumstances can this game ever be considered "good." It may seem like it at first - I got fooled - but it's mediocre at BEST, and that's being generous.
My Rating - 2 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.