Saturday, 4 September 2010

Castles II: Siege and Conquest Review

Castles II: Siege and Conquest
PC/Amiga – Real Time Strategy

Toolbox24

Castles II: Siege and Conquest – which from now will just be C2S&C – is a brilliant game. Unfortunately due to the crapness of the screen recording software I downloaded, videos won’t be available just yet. But hopefully soon.

C2S&C really doesn’t take long to play from start to finish – however takes ages to master to the point that you win the game. Ages. Absolutely ages. Reading on some forums online people have been playing it on and on and on without winning. On easy.

That’s right, on easy this is one mother fucker of a game. Compared to Hard though, easy is a piece of piss. But anyway, we start the game by watching the opening video, a tale that King Charles of Bretagne is dead. Dead without an heir. Oh bollocks. That means that the King must be chosen by the Pope, but not just any old Pierre, Francois or Jacques, oh no, this guy must show that he is ruthless, cunning, a man of the people, among other things. Oh yeah, and he must be able to build some mother funking castles baby. That’s just how the Pope rolls.

Basically the object of the game is to become King. Duh. However you can only become King by having enough sway to do so. In other words you need a score of 7000+ to claim the throne. Obviously.

Hang on, I’m jumping ahead of myself. C2S&C is a brilliant game. It would have to be to attain a review on the prestigious MonkeyBoxGaming website. And as I sit here, munching on my 09:39 Babybel and sipping my lovely coffee, I think to myself, where the fudgesticks to I start?

I’ll start where you’ll start, and walk you through the wonders of C2S&C





The Castles II main menu. Where the magic…begins.
On C2S&C there are a few different options:
• Reference Videos – a historian guides you through the aspects of real life Castles. Even the guardarobe – the Constables Toilet. Apparently, to attack a castle, some poor gimp would be made to wriggle up the toilet through crap and wee, and then walk through the castle to open the gate, letting in his army.
• Designs – Castle designs, each castle design is based on an actual castle, such as Caerphilly, Harlech, Windsor and even the Tower of London (called the White Tower).
• Tutorial – to help those in need of help. • Game – the actual mother funking game itself.



Classic. The historian wafting around at the thought of someone crawling up the shitter.


I’m going to go ahead and explain a little bit more on the great game itself. It is a RTS, which could well have had some hand in influencing a lot of more recent games – lets remember, C2C&S was made in 1992. 18 years ago at the time of writing. But it was a RTS, with real video references, audio tutorial, cutscenes (of a sort), a plot, mini-games (combat and castle building), and resource management. This is a game that is almost 20 years old, when the most sophisticated games involved Italian plumbers, hedgehogs or a crazed POW killing every Nazi in sight! (no guesses to the 3 game refs…)


Very advanced for it’s time, very playable, even to the fact that since being suggested as a review, I’ve loved playing it. I’ve preferred playing it to the Command and Conquer 1st Decade box set that I bought a couple of weeks ago.


This game is readily downloadable online, but it’s a DOS game, and requires DOSBox or other similar software to play, and you still need to pay to play this, I paid the sum of $5.99 to download this, and it was worth every cent. (American website, GOG.com, also includes Castles I).


Anyways onto the game. As mentioned previously, King Charles of Bretagne (France to you and me) is dead. Dead without an heir in the year 1311. The news spreads as quickly as a plague. To quote from the games intro anyway, and you, yes YOU, get to be one of 5 nobles of Bretagne. Choosing between:
• Aragon – Light Blue – South West
• Albion – Purple – North West
• Anjou – Dark Blue - West
• Burgundy – Brown – South East
• Duke of Valois –Red – North East

The main game screen of Castles II.


There were no distinct advantages or disadvantages of playing as any of the 5 families, apart from playing as Anjou, because you don’t have a corner, you cannot cut off un-captured territories like the other 4 families, which was a distinct advantage of being in one of the 4 corners.


There is also 1 more player, which is always the computer. The Pope. He is yellow on the game, and like the above screenshot has a little icon like the purple one, but it’s yellow and almost always got a Castle on it. The Pope as I say is the guy who will announce who is King at the end of the game. Unless you opt for the much harder strategy of taking everyone over – pope included. Then you get named king by the Anti-Pope – apparently. I’ve never done this, because it really is just too darned hard.


Of course, you could look at it this way, you’ve only lost, if you’ve gone and gotten killed. If you go through the game, but stay chummy with a bigger player – if they’ll let you, then if they become King, you could be one of his trusted allies in the epilogue. Obviously, it’s not King, but it’s not a chopping block either.


You may have looked at the screenshot and thought, “Hmm, what the chuff is the big “I” for?”


Well Timmy I’ll tell you shall I? Each territory has a letter. That letter will be F, G, I or T. These signify whether you can gather Food, Gold, Iron or Timber! Clever eh? No, not really. But delightfully simple. So simple that it doesn’t take long to realise this, and know that to win, you’re gonna need ample amount of all 4 – mostly Gold and Food.


Food is obviously a very good way of feeding your troops, also helping in a couple of side plots which come along in the form of a guy or a gal or a knight coming up and chatting with you. It’s also essential to feed the builders who will build your mighty Castle and is used when building a knight unit my liege.


Gold is the daddy, lots of gold means lots of good! Again simple, but effective. You need gold to pay your troops, create your troops, pay spies and diplomats, build castles, forge alliances, effectively complete side-quests, and build things like knights, ballista’s, catapults and siege towers, police the realm and also – keep the people happy!


Iron is again essential for castle building, but also for building infantry, knights and siege weapons like catapults and siege towers. Timber is the same, but used in the creation of Archers and the siege weapons like catapults and siege towers.


Also if you find yourself in abundance of timber say, but no gold, then you can send a merchant to neighbours to trade or dabble in the black market. I never bother, I just find territories that have them and take them.





The erm, useful…inventory and unit bar!

In the screenshot above, you can see 3 sections. Since I’ve already mentioned the resources, I’ll point them out first. They’re the 4 piccies to the right, that look like a loaf of bread, a tree, a pick axe and bars of gold. You need to keep an eye on those, since you’ll need to keep plenty of them to succeed.

The middle pics are of a shield, an arrow and a helmet. The shield is your infantry, the arrow signifies your archers and the helmet shows your knights, again you need to keep plenty of these to hand!

On the right is the task manager I suppose. They are split into Admin, Military and Political. The bottom number shows the total amount of…erm units that can process each task, and the top number shows the amount free. These will go up as you expand.

The admin slot is where you gather your resources and build your castles, the military slot is where you attack or sabotage your enemies, build units or police your realm to prevent spies or saboteurs from damaging you, and the political slot is where you scout, spy, send diplomats, go to the council and increase your peoples happiness. Aww.

As I say though, the idea is to become king. To do this, you need to fight. And fight lots. If not you’re chosen family is gonna die. The fighting takes place on a separate little mini game, although there isn’t a lot to it. If you’re attacking somewhere your units double (except knights) and if you’re defending, your units half – this is good so that if your units all get killed you’ve still got a force to mount a counter attack!

Your little blue guys killed the little red guys! YEAH!!!



In combat you are always blue. The enemy always red. Again simple, but you know where you stand. You take over different territories and kick some bum this way. The screen where you build a castle is also like this, but with no people just a landscape, and your outline of a castle – as I say you could build your own castle or build a template one based on a real castle.


This castle design is based on Harlech Castle.
The points a castle has shows how strong it is. If it’s a strong castle it’ll keep the territories around it feeling safe and they wont revolt and leave you. If it’s a small little castle, then it’ll only keep itself safe from revolt.

Your castle, your strong hold, where you oversee your troops and from where you command your legions. Wanna see it?

You. In all your Kingly Glory.

When a visitor or messenger comes along to give you some news – start a subplot – then you’ll either see the above giant empty throne room or a massive dining hall with you at the head. Then you see your messenger.


Scarface’s great-great great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great- great-….you get the idea.
Wow! A real knight in your court, who sounds a bit like John Cleese but isn’t. Apart from when you say to him to send Arinseault a gift, when his voice goes from quite a posh-ish voice, to a more squeaky, squirmy voice when he says “It shall be done.”

These little subplots affect the outcome of the game still though, for example the demagogue Arinseault, with the mob at his beck and call. Depending on what you do, he either goes missing because he’s accused of murder or he comes to see you with his followers. If he comes to see you, he asks you a few questions, to determine if you should be king. If you pass, you get his blessing and some points on your score, if you fail he does not bless you, and you lose points.

There are also subplots involving a dark secret society, sick villagers, a disgruntled ex-Queen, a piece of sacred land and a traveller who claims to know where Atlantis is – to name but a few.

Despite these interesting subplots, the main game is still a difficult bitch to tame. It is still so hard it makes you think it’s been staring at nudey snaps of Des Lynam.

Some of the other parts of the game are very fun as well, such as sending spies, only to find out that your spy has fallen in love with your enemies niece and abandoned you, or when you receive diplomats, who you can improve relations of your neighbours with or kill. And of course the Pope likes nipping in to take you for as much gold as you can give! “The Pope is willing to grant you an indulgence…for 4 gold!” Yeah well stuff off Popey! I’m not Catholic!!

But basically it’s a game where you need to keep your friends close, and you enemies…well dead. You need to make sure you build a fair few castles, and that you keep your people happy. Don’t behead the Popes diplomat, and woo the demagogue, Arinseault. Be tactical, don’t just barge in. Plan your game as much as you can, but most of all, have fun!! This is an old but amazing game that can have you hooked for hours on end much like Civilization II, Football Manager, Mass Effect and Grand Theft Auto. It is a revelation, it is a great starter for the 90’s so far as games go. It’s got actual voice actors telling you things, and a real-time engine that really makes you wonder what is going on w
ith the other barons and counts. Remember that this game is almost 20 years old, but that doesn’t matter! It’s gameplay, in game music (midi music but so catchy and listenable!), it’s storyline and subplots are all absolutely amazing, and make C2S&C one of the best games of the 1990’s. When you think it’s in the same decade as Half-Life, Doom, Sam n Max, Monkey Island, Jedi Knight, Sim City and others like it, you know it must be a great game. Oh by the way, if you do fuck up, and I know you will. You’ll most likely be treated to what is displayed below.

Gulp.

Yes this is the usual ending for C2S&C, a bitter and sorry end for someone who might have been king. I would post a screenshot of the good and happy ending where you’re king…but that would mean waiting for a review for weeks…months…maybe it’ll never happen!

This is definitely worthy of a place in everyone’s game collection, and is such an epic game, that must have played a part in the inspiration for other games after it, that to not play it or dismiss it would be a crying shame!

Rating: 5/5 – a masterpiece of gaming.