Highland Warriors


posted 2/3/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
Platforms: PC
A few years ago, Eidos released a strategy game based on the film Braveheart. It featured a few neat elements but in the end, it was a pretty weak and unsatisfying affair. Now thanks to Data Becker there is a new hope that a quality retelling of the adventures of William Wallace is indeed possible, but trust me folks, that hope wears thin quite quickly.

The game follows the tale of the struggles between the English and the Scottish. When you begin you’ll unite the country under the rule of a sole monarch and from there you’ll have the opportunity to control both sides of the battle, eventually culminating with Robert the Bruce’s efforts to claim independence for the clans. The single-player campaign is pretty large and will do well to entertain you for awhile but there’s a slight problem, it’s just too damn easy.

The gameplay is your standard RTS fare. Start out with a small handful of units, mine resources, harvest food, build up army and attack opposing army. Lather, rinse, repeat. You’ll have to use base units, peasants in this case, to do the brunt of the grunt work. What’s nice about Highland Warriors is that it gives you multiple means of building up your resources. For instance, you can choose to harvest food or ranch cattle to feed your villagers. This is definitely a welcome surprise.

Look kids! It's Santa! And he's here to- ow! My Leg!

Unfortunately, most of the time it’s not even necessary to build up your army. Rushing the enemy with your starting units will usually net you a victory, ending the scenario in a matter of minutes. While the single-player campaign is indeed vast and expanse it unfortunately ends all too soon as a result of the game’s relative simplicity. The enemy AI doesn’t really impress us either. It seems like the opposing armies really don’t take the prospect of having their villages burned and razed too seriously. What the game really boils down to is finding the enemy stronghold and disposing of it with the slightest of effort. Combat isn’t really too inspiring either as you will be very limited in the way of tactics or scheming.

The path finding AI pans out like something from a late 90s RTS. Units tend to get lost far too easily, trapping themselves behind a small grove of trees and such. There’s also a bit of lag time between the time that a command is given and the moment that the unit executes the order. It reminds me of the olden days when I was playing Red Alert over a 28.8 connection, except now I’m in 2003 and the game is offline.

This game isn’t very much to look at either, with all of the advertising that Data Becker did for the game’s graphics, the end result is nothing short of disappointing. Characters look pretty generic and the terrains and objects are just average. What’s even more baffling is the game’s power-hungry nature. On our review system (a P4 2.4Ghz, 512MB DDRAM, GeForce3 Ti500) the game ran well below our standards. This is on a system that can pump out silky smooth frame rates on today’s most graphically demanding games, yet for some reason, Highland Warriors brings this system to its knees. Scrolling and movement around the environment is sluggish and unacceptable. I will admit that some of the larger battles are rather impressive-looking but it’s not a worthwhile sacrifice for performance.

Where Highland Warriors doesn’t fail to disappoint is in its usage of today’s audio hardware. Making full use of your 3D sound card, the game’s sounds will emit from your front and your rear speakers. It’s an effect not unlike that of Warcraft III’s that’s pretty neat, especially when you zoom in and get personal with your village. What’s not great though is the unit sounds themselves. When you click on them and give them order they respond with some random and incoherent babbling. Sure it may be accurate for the time but it’s unintelligible and more importantly, downright annoying.

The problem with Highland Warriors is that it’s far too generic. Yes it follows the storied history of the Scottish and the English but it’s far from original. The game seems to be interchangeable with any of the other RTS games that are on the market. It lacks a defining gimmick that could help propel it above the competition. It’s an entertaining experience, but not an engaging one and while it’s ten times better than Eidos’ earlier attempt at recreating history, it’s still not nearly as great as it could have been.

It’s nearly impossible to fault the game’s storyline for its deficiencies. There is an amazing wealth of historical accuracy here but unfortunately, it can’t compensate for the game’s generic gameplay and horrid graphics. Avoid this by-the-numbers RTS at all costs.

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