One of the most underrated strategy games of all time, Impressions' Lords of the Realm II is in my opinion the best game designed by David Lester, prolific designer and founder of Impressions. This medieval empire game improves on the already superb Lords of the Realm in numerous aspects, adding both complexity and replayability. |
Your objective in LOTRII remains the same as it was in the first game: The king of medieval England is dead, and it's up to you to fight the other nobles for the throne and succeed him. Again, like the first game, you are put in charge of both the strategic level (i.e. making decisions for your entire kingdom), and tactical (i.e. taking control of troops in combat) – although you can have the computer handle the combat for you. At the strategic level, you view the action in the attractive isometric map, where you can move armies, adjust economic parameters, manage your resources, and engage in diplomacy with other noble houses. As in the first game, your success hinges on proper resource allocation and maximizing farm output. Each county in your empire has a fixed amount of arable land, which you can use for farming wheat or raising cattle to feed your peasants. Sufficiency in or a surplus of food supplies helps increase the population, which in turn will increase taxes and the size of your army (recruited from peasants). Some peasants must also be assigned to gather other useful resources, build castles, and produce weapons of war. You can also hire mercenaries at the mercenary guild, but they are costly and not always co-operative.
When armies clash, the game switches to a tactical real-time battle mode, which looks similar to Mindcraft's Siege series, and is quite fun to play. Armies consist of peasants, archers, macemen, swordsmen, crossbow troops, pikemen, and knights. Each type of troop has its own strengths and weaknesses, although an army of knights usually is practically invincible. What should prove more interesting to an armchair commander than simplistic open-field battles are the sieges, because you must decide how many siege engines, catapults, and battering rams to use, and where to position them. The computer players are reasonably challenging – they are very easy to beat in the first turns of the game, but become worthy opponents in the later stages. Advanced options such as a hidden map, advanced farming and army foraging, and others make the game more complex, and help increase the replay value.
In addition to the standard campaign play, LOTRII includes a nice custom scenario builder and a few multiplayer modes including DirectPlay support. On the downside, there is no variety in terms of victory conditions – you simply must conquer every county to win. This rigid condition, coupled with the level of micromanagement required for each county in the later stages, makes the game tiresome toward the end (especially when you are clearly going to win, but must first tolerate the tedious process of crushing the last counties of the last enemy). Also, more castle types would have been nice (although you get those in the Siege Pack add-on).
All in all, LOTRII will please fans of the first game, as well as anyone who likes turn-based/real-time gameplay based in the medieval period. The game is not very original, but it is still a lot of fun and surprisingly replayable. Highly recommended to anyone who likes strategy games. And if you like the game, make sure to download the Siege Pack expansion pack also. Two thumbs up!Reviewed by: Underdogs