The three mechanics mesh well. The between-battle Management Phase gives the player the opportunity to load-out their army for the next battle. This is where money can be spent, troops recruited, and relics can be acquired. It works well tying the various elements together without interrupting the flow of play. It is obvious that the game was designed with all three elements in mind rather than tacking one on at the end when the game seemed thin.
In addition to the common game mechanics, the two sides have some different features to make playing both sides worthwhile. The Europeans have to deal with factions – the French, Germans, Templars and Pope. Each faction wants the player to do something. Maybe the Pope wants a monastery seized, while the French want to take the castle. Pleasing one faction may anger another, but happy factions provide benefits. Pleasing the French, for example, might lead to free troops for the next battle.
The Saracens, on the other hand, spend money and Upgrade Points to advance on a tech tree. The techs provide Legendary Leader actions (magical abilities leaders can invoke in battle), unit upgrades and new unit types.
That's a lot about mechanics and not much about how the game feels when played. That is intentional, as the game will stand or fall on how well it blends its various elements. Some words on the gameplay experience are in order, however.
Playing the game is enjoyable. There is nothing here that stands out and says “I am SO AWESOME!!!!” but what is here, is well-crafted. The various mechanics work well with each other. The sides are different enough to make playing both interesting. Controls are RTS-standard and the graphics are informative (if kinda brown) so the game can be picked up and played quickly.
So what's wrong? Well, it doesn't really feel like the Crusades. There is nothing about the Acre map, for example, that looks much like Acre. The game could have, with sprite changes, been labeled Orcs vs. Elves without losing any feel. This is hard to quantify – after all, there is lots of Crusade-y stuff here (Templars, Saracens, sand) – but it just doesn't feel like a gigantic clash of cultures. The contrasting goals can't really carry the load of conveying how fragmented the Europeans really were.
In addition, the unit AI could use some work. Perhaps the greatest threat to your melee units are your archers. Units can also wander off on their own, fatally attracted by some enemy they can't possibly hurt. Last but not least, expect a fair share of bugs.
To sum up, Lionheart is a solid hybrid turn-based/RTS/RPG style game which does a good job of integrating the various styles. If you are a fan of medieval-style RTS's this would be a good addition to your collection.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Standard game mechanics are well-integrated to produce a solid game. RPG and RTS elements are combined into an enjoyable experience. Not great, but not bad, either. Competent.
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