Battle Isle 3: Shadow of the Emperor
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Flick through the Battle Isle3 manual and you'll see liberal sprinklings of the words 'hex' and 'heavy tank' - but not the word 'gorgeous'. Now take a look at the screenshots - what the hell's going on? Is this a wargame or what? Well, Battle Isle 3 might have the guts of a good old-fashioned strategy wargame but there's also a liberal sprinkling of video cut scenes and a story that almost, almost resembles a plot. Wargame, adventure, interactive movie? It's just gorgeous -gorgeous, that's what it is.
For those familiar with Battle Isle 2, the Drulls have started getting stroppy again, led by Ben Harris, son of Battle Isle 2's hero Val Harris. Caro, leader of the Kais, is out to stop him. Quite how she's planning to do it is anybody's guess, but luckily her plane crashes and she stumbles across a secret tunnel full of battle robots, battleships, assault helicopters and tanks - the usual sort of thing you encounter in caves. Oh, and some bloke called Emperor Punt Vassius appears and gives her some useful advice, like how to waste the Drullian armour, free her people and save the world. That sort of thing. Plot 3B, variation a, I think it is.
Anyway, this Emperor turns out to be a bit of a Punt, and he's ready to enslave the world, but I can't tell you any more because it would completely spoil the plot. Suffice to say that it's a rare old excuse for Blue Byte to put together a campaign consisting of 20 different scenarios, each with different objectives (annihilate the enemy, annihilate the enemy or annihilate the enemy, with the odd strategic goal thrown in).
In case you hadn't guessed, you take the role of Caro. She's a hard-looking so and so, but you'll have to be equally tough to get through the campaign -it certainly isn't easy. Then again, given the game's price-tag you don't want to finish it in a hurry. Some scenarios really take some careful planning and timing can be critical. Weather too plays an important part. In one scenario you have to push light units across a frozen river at the critical moment...
Battle Isle 2 owners will be familiar with the way the game works, but the interface has come on in leaps and bounds since then. The game runs under Windows 95 (or Windows 3.11 with the 32-bit extensions), so it can be played in any standard resolution. The windows are all resizeable and movable and to some extent you can alter the magnification by specifying small, medium or large hexes. That said, the game seems to play best in 800x600, but you could quite happily stretch to 1280x1024 if your pc's up to it. There's none of the sluggishness you'd expect under Windows, thanks to Windows 95's WinG graphics system.
The game looks gorgeous. I normally reserve that word for Michelle Pfeiffer but I've been told to let my true feelings show a lot more and not to bottle things up inside. I've also been told to smear the ointment regularly on the infected area, but you probably don't want to know all that personal stuff about me. You want the game, right?
Game it is then. Start with the intro: 11 minutes of well-produced video provide the background to the plot and then it's straight into battle. Okay, the videos were originally in German and have been dubbed into English with predictable results - but so what? It does look gorgeous, doesn't it?
Battle Isle 3 will use any Windows-installed sound card, and also takes advantage of enhanced cards like the AWE 32 and the new avi accelerators for full screen video. The game accesses the cd a lot (actually, there are two cds) and a quad-speed drive or faster will be a big help. There are a few options for tuning the detail level down; if your hardware is at the minimum level but on a fast 486 or a Pentium, the game flies along. Be warned though, at the toughest level and on the larger scenarios, the computer moves can take up to an hour. That's seriously heavy wargaming, boys.
There's a network option too. Up to six players can play on the same side or against each other using the alliance system, and several dedicated multiplayer maps have been included. The campaign game is the main option for standalone users and individual maps can be accessed again by entering codes once they've been completed. There are eight tutorial maps, with matching sections in the manual, which take you through the various combat options and unit types one by one. There's more to combat than gun versus gun - options include 'hemming' which reduces a unit's effectiveness by surrounding it with threats on more than on side, and 'blocking' which is the counter move to hemming.
Most sequels tend to be tired old rubbish because nobody has been able to come up with anything new. Luckily, Battle Isle 3 isn't tired and it certainly isn't crap. On the outside it's a glitzy interactive movie-style thingy. Deep on the inside it's a solid wargame. And it's brilliant. Not just gorgeous, brilliant.
Download Battle Isle 3: Shadow of the Emperor
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP