Lords Of The Realm AGA (Second Review)

Title		Lord of the Realm AGA (Second Review)
Publisher	Impressions (1994)
Game Type	Strategy
Players 	1-6
HD Installable	Yes
Compatibility	AGA only - Requires 4Mb RAM (ECS version also available)
Submission      John Burns (john@jgb.abelgratis.co.uk) Profiled Reviewer

Although generally designated a strategy game I'd say it is more a
management sim as this is what you will spend most of the game doing. The
only real strategy, of which I have some doubts, is in the manual control
of battles. Being an AGA game it utilises 256 colour screens and although
I haven't seen the ECS version I would imagine that apart from a reduction
in colours the game will play the same though doubtless more slowly
without at least an 020.

The aim is to take control of all the counties in England and Wales
thereby becoming Lord of the Realm (therefore, wouldn't it have been
simpler to call it King?). You start the game with the usual picking of
difficulty settings etc. and are given a starting territory. Here, comes
my first gripe. Of the 30 or so counties there are only the same 6 in
which you can start so once you learn some of the management lessons/got
to know the game a bit you can use this oversight to your advantage. The
main map screen takes you to a close up view of your county which shows
pretty little sprites of corn waving in the wind and cattle and sheep
ruminating depending on what you actually are farming of course. Clicking
on the county screen brings you to the management menus for that
individual county and lets you manipulate it's production, agriculture and
building status by allocating manpower to individual tasks from your
population. Once satisfied with your choices it's a case of ending your
turn and waiting for the next season to roll by.

Control using the mouse is simple enough either by clicking on the main
screen or by the various icons used throughout. This is all very well and
good but where I feel the game is let down is in the tedium which all this
management entails. Okay there is a steward offered to you when you have a
couple of counties under your control but as an assistant he has some
serious shortcomings (his allocation of manpower is such an example). This
means you basically have to check each county yourself, which sort of
negates his whole raison d'etre and the fact you are paying for his poor
services. Whilst it doesn't take long to check a couple of counties, as
your realm grows this problem becomes more and more time consuming and,
quite frankly, irritating. This is certainly a problem which should have
been spotted by the play testers and fixed before release, so no excuses.

As mentioned there is some strategy involved in the battle sections. Here
you can either choose to have the battles resolved automatically or take
manual control. Given the fact that the automatic mode always results in
either you taking heavier casualties than manual mode or in your being
defeated I have to doubt the AI involved. Okay there are also a couple of
bugs/oversights which make it easier for you to win in manual mode but
forgetting these you still can triumph at less cost. Apart from these
battles there is also the opportunity to lay siege to a castle in which
you either decide to blockade them or actively build and attack the castle
with siege engines. Again I have doubts about the AI here for whilst I can
see the sense of your taking casualties in directly attacking the castle
walls how come you also take casualties when utilising more indirect
weapons such as catapults. I can see the point if the catapult broke and
injured your troops but since you don't have to rebuild a catapult then
this doesn't equate.

There are many other annoyances with the game such as each and every
county having the ability for equal resource production  Sorry but this is
ludicrous to suggest that a predominantly mountainous county can produce
the same as one with mostly arable land. The fact that other counties seem
able to build up armies and castles very early on in the game long before
you have either the resources, manpower or money to reciprocate is
another. Also, why can't you use your foresters, quarriers, etc. to
temporarily help out with the harvest without losing their experience
levels. There are many others but I'm getting bored and feeling somewhat
guilty of being over critical now so I'll leave it at that.

From the foregoing you may have surmised that I hate the game. Well,
actually I don't, though nowadays I tend to only play it to the point
where I control about half the counties, as after this it is just tedious.
Graphically it is probably the finest strategy game on the Amiga and is
undoubtedly a well produced product with good documentation. However, in
spite of all the nice touches I just feel the overall product is marred by
inclusion of too much micro management. My decision therefore is that it
is a game which whilst having it's moments is denied being a classic by
having too many silly flaws and attempting to do too much, in a similar
way to Campaign 2.  Hmmmm, if only they'd asked me or one of the regular
AGDB reviewers to beta test them. Oh well, C'est la vie.

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