Highland Warriors

By Scott Parrino 08 Apr 2003 0

Introduction

In 843 AD the first Scottish King Kenneth McAlpin unites the Pict and Scot empires to become the Kingdom of Alba.

400 years later Edward I, also known as the "Hammer of the Scots" engulfed the land in a great feud. It was not long before Edward I controlled most of Scotland. The Scots, led by William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, are left to fight what seems to be a futile war for freedom. This is the time when legends are born?

- From the official Highland Warriors web site.

...And, in 2003, the release of Highland Warriors is released to mixed reviews, mostly on the low side. A shame, really, because more than anything else Scotland evokes a taste of drama that bites like a good nut-brown ale from the Highlands themselves. Even downing several pints of whatever is handy won't change the negative factors of this game, which barely edge out the positives.

Introduction

Set in, as the introduction goes, Scotland circa 1243 A.D. (about 400 years after the unification of the Picts and Scots), Highland Warriors is presented as an historically based tribute to the bloody past of these lands, with all the mayhem and chaos one would care to create in such an environment. Unfortunately, if it didn't feel so much like playing Age of Empires or any of said game's successive clones, it would actually have been a powerfully good title. As it is, games that go the RTS path must stand out from the chaff and cattle, so to speak, of all the other Age of Empires wannabes. Another unfortunate fact, especially considering that any game following Age of Empires will suffer from comparison.

Presentation

Bare chests, claymores, beards, long hair, and kilts even?this game has the mood down. Attempts at making a historical game end there, however, the instant the player realizes they can actually manipulate magic-using units. What the real William Wallace could have done with a Clan MacKay druid or two, with their natural Invisibility, Teleportation, and Death Cloud skills! Even the heroes themselves are imbibed with unnatural powers. For example, James Fraser himself can fire a "magical arrow" to kill just about any unit in his sight. But be that as it may, it is a game, and trying to convince oneself otherwise is not a means to an historical end.

An enemy Commoner is blithely ignored by my Claymore Fighters and Axe Warriors.

Life is cheap in this game, as the peasant-pushing begins and the player gathers resources, builds new buildings, strikes up an army, and slaughters the opposition. Repeat until done. Judged merely on this standard alone, Highland Warriors falls far short of the mark.

However, as I've mentioned in past reviews, RTS games are going to suffer from the comparison mentioned above, so it is really the method and means that the developers use to convey their game that has any appeal at all. And while there's a bit of Scottish in me, I cannot help but to feel imbued with a sense of pride with playing this title, even though it barely peeks through. I do not take this game as a pure representation of what it was like to be Scottish so long ago, but bringing an appreciation for a historical period to the surface in any player, to the point of bringing them to search for resources and materials to learn more about it, means there is some degree of success.

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