posted 7/7/2004 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
My favorite part of any RTS, the defensive buildup, is the high point of Besieger. Building walls is simple, just a click and drag. There may be an initial confusion, as walls have an “outside” and an “inside”, and it’s easy at first to accidentally point those defensive towers inside, rather than out. Walls can be given little ramps to allow ranged units to greet the enemy with pointy death from above. A few different kinds of towers can be constructed along the wall, armed with either heavy arbalests or exploding heavy crossbows. Once fortifications are in place, the business of setting up the rest of the town can begin. Building and gathering resources is very similar to just about every other RTS—send workers to the tree/rock pile/iron mine, and have them haul out the goods. Various buildings allow for researching tech upgrades or training soldiers. In a slightly unique move, military buildings don’t create soldiers from scratch. Instead, a worker unit must be ordered to enter the building, and after a time, the soldier is trained. This seems at first to be a neat addition, necessitating a balance between worker units and offensive units, but it tends to get old after a while. And since most RTS games have a population limit anyway, meaning you’d need to balance military units with workers in the long term, the worker-to-warrior shtick just means an extra step in building up the army.

The graphics are quite good in Besieger. The terrain is fully 3D, complete with varying elevations and slopes and such. The buildings look great, and are nicely detailed. The units themselves look good, although when the camera zooms too close things get a bit cuboidal. The game could stand to be a bit more colorful, though. There is a day/night cycle, and everything tends to get a bit washed out and difficult to see during the evening. I wasn’t nearly as impressed with Besiegers audio, however. The unit voices, while not the most annoying I’ve ever heard, certainly aren’t anything to brag about. Everything else, from battle sounds to background music, was decent enough, but the lack of voice quality was a disappointment.

While everything looked good, the camera control was lousy. I was often losing site of my units at very important times, especially while fighting in a canyon pass. The camera would leap and spin around dizzyingly, I’d no longer see and be able to baby-sit my units and they, left to their own feeble AI, would stand there and be mauled by the enemy. After a while I was able to deal with the camera, but camera control should never be that large a part of the learning curve. One thing that I never got used to was the terrible path finding. When ordering any army larger than a few units around, they would inevitably get bottlenecked somewhere, and just refuse to move. Many times I tried a spirited charge into a breach in the enemy wall, only to find that the army would split apart, about half deciding they just didn’t want to go in, the other half trickling in a few at a time to be conveniently mowed down by enemy troops. There was absolutely no way to order an army to march across a large map unattended—they would end up spread across the entire battlefield.

Besieger tries to be more than “just another real-time strategy”, but doesn’t manage to pull it off. While there were some fun moments, most of the game just felt like any other generic RTS, albeit one with questionable controls and less-than-impressive AI. With so many other great RTS games on the market, there’s just not enough here for a recommendation. Unless you’re just frothing at the mouth for a Viking-and-Barbarian real-time-strategy, give this one a pass.

Just another fantasy RTS, this time with Vikings. Shoddy pathfinding and clunky camera controls don’t help much, either.

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