Warlords Battlecry II Review

Warlords Battlecry II is a real-time strategy game set in a Tolkien/Dungeons & Dragons inspired fantasy universe of dragons, elves, and orcs.  Players lead one of twelve different races in an attempt to conquer the mythical world of Etheria.  Etheria is divided into 67 different regions, twelve of which serve as the home territories for each race.  The player selects a neighboring territory to attempt to conquer and is transported to that territory for a real-time battle.  Winning the battle wins the territory for the player's empire, along with spoils of war in the form of money and future combat bonuses.

Central to the player's success is the hero character.  The hero can build structures, convert resource locations (more on this later), cast spells, and provide moral and combat bonuses to nearby troops.  Before beginning a campaign, the player selects a hero from one of the game's twelve races.  The race selection is important because the hero's starting abilities, statistics, and available classes are all affected by race.  As the hero progresses through the game, he/she will gain experience from the battles fought in each territory.  As experience is accumulated, the hero will gain levels, allowing the player to spend bonus points improving the hero's statistics or gaining new skills and spells.  After the hero gains his/her first level, the player must select a class for the hero - either a warrior, priest, rogue, or wizard.  The class affects the hero's ability in combat and spell casting, as well as other bonuses.  After another level gain, a specialty within the class is selected.  Defining the hero's class and specialty sets the direction of the hero's future development, but there is so much room for customization with ten spheres of magic (each with their own set of spells), statistics, skills, and special abilities.  

The heroes add a role-playing element to the game and players will probably find themselves becoming attached to their hero as the game progresses.  The degree of customization available for heroes increases the player's strategic options, and adds to the game's replay value.  A brutish minotaur hero will call for a different tactical approach than a spell-slinging, but frail, elf.  Heroes also have the advantage of being able to carry a 'retinue' of units with them to the next battle.  This allows the player to begin the next fight with a starting group of higher-level, veteran units, which can be a big help to surviving the early stages of some of the tougher fights.

What happens when a hero dies?  That's up to the player.  When a hero is created, the player can select a difficulty level which gradually increases experience rewards at the cost of penalties in the event of the hero's death as the difficulty increases.  At the lowest level, a dead hero is available in the next battle without a penalty.  At the highest, more experience is rewarded for battles, but a dead hero is gone for good.  The player can still win a skirmish or the battle for a territory without the hero, but it is a definite handicap to winning.

Like most strategy games, players collect resources, and use them to build structures which in turn are used to create units and research bonuses.  To capture a resource site, players must use a hero (or special high-level units called generals) to convert it to their side.  Once a site has been captured, it will produce a steady stream of resources for the player, without the need for gatherers or laborers, although some races can place workers inside resource sites to increase their production.  There are four different types of resources, and some are more important to some races than others.  This makes some of the sites strategically more important than others, as various races try to capture key sites and deny important resources to their enemies. 

The game's races all have unique structures, although many are analogous to those of other races.  Most of the units are unique, although a few are shared between related races, such as the wood elves and high elves.  The choice of race does have an effect on the tactics needed to succeed, as some races excel at archery or magic, while others are strong at frontal melee attacks.