The successful formula of merging strategic and tactical gameplay in real time by the Total War series has undoubtedly triggered a wave of similar games such as the King Arthur series and The Kings’ Crusade, but each have their own unique touches with varying degrees of success. Russian publisher 1C Company in conjunction with developer, Unicorn Games Studio, released the second game in its Real Warfare series, Real Warfare 2: Northern Crusades. Real Warfare 2 continues the series of historical real-time strategy titles depicting various periods of civilization and its development – from the Dark Ages to the modern era.
Players will play as a knight commander in the Knights of the Teutonic Order, one of the Christian military orders of the 13th century during the Crusades. Sent to tame the pagan wilderness of Prussia and the outskirts of Russia, you and the Teutonic Knights will have to raise and train armies in order to conquer the land for Christianity and gain glory and riches for your order.The game features a single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode of up to six players.
However, the downside is the inability to enjoy the campaigns cooperatively. In the main campaign, players will begin with a knight commander and several missions allowing you to gain experience, money, loot, and supplies in order to expand and improve your army. The structure is very similar to the Mount and Blade series as it allows players to free roam the map and incorporates a system of war fighting and rudimentary economics in the form of trade and trophy hunting.
As the story progresses, the difficulty of game quests and the complexity of battles steadily increases. The larger and more experienced your armies become, the more epic the battles. Players will have to find small groups of enemies to fight in order to train and level up your hero and forces before certain missions due to the size and experience of a targeted army. This alone consumes countless hours. Episodes of the game take place in different times of year, on different terrains and in different lighting conditions making each battle truly unique.
Once experience is gained, players can choose to upgrade unit attributes including unit strength, morale, weapons, and individual initiative. Depending on the level of your leader, you can also choose to upgrade them to a different class altogether. Players can upgrade individual attributes of their hero such as being able to hire units cheaply or gaining more experience per battle.
The battles are similar in style to the Total War series as you are put on a 3D map with various terrain features that allow you to orient your army to a preferred strategy and formation. Battles can also be accelerated, to cut down on marching time. Once engaged, some units require a bit of micromanaging as individual soldiers may choose to stand around rather than fight; this is where the subtleties of upgrading the quality of your units comes in handy. The higher the initiative rating, the more likely the AI will respond by itself, which makes sense realistically. Higher training yields a more effective force.
The graphics in Real Warfare 2 helped win us over. From the strategic map with its multiple castles and towns dotting the landscape to the 3D battlefield maps with highly detailed units of knights in shining armor, makes this one of the most immersive experiences away from the generic formula of the heavy-hitting Total War series. Its unique setting and time period puts it in a category all on its own and the attention to detail reflects that.
Overall, Real Warfare 2 delivers a fresh experience by incorporating a combination of questing, RPG elements, tactical combat, and trading. At first glance, it may seem like another Total War knock-off, but the subtleties of adding commerce and unit management and upgrading, are what make it stand out. We were only disappointmented by inability to play other factions and the lack of a cooperative campaign. Those sore points aside, this is a game that will provide countless hours of gameplay between questing and exploration.
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Name: Real Warfare 2: Northern Crusades
Available on: PC
Developed by: Unicorn Games Studio
Published by: 1C Company
Release date: November 18, 2011
EG Score: 4 out of 5 / “Worth Buying”