Castles II: Siege & Conquest
How do you take a subject such as this and produce an enjoyable game? Well Interplay did it in '91 with Castles and had a surprise hit with it. So, like any other software publisher that knows when it's on to a good thing, it expanded the scope of the game and released the more strategically oriented Castles II. This cd version of that second game is positively bursting at the seams with a whole load of extra goodies. However, before I elaborate on what is, after all, only icing, I'll give you a quick rundown on the story so far.
Castles II is a strategy game whereby you have to conquer a country, piece by piece. The country in question is France. That's not unusual; France does have more than its fair share of castles after all. What is rather bizarre, however, is that the designers of the cd version of this game have chosen to prefix it with an introductory film on the history and design of castles in general, which is largely set in England and Wales!
Pope on a rope
The ultimate aim of the game is to rule France. To do this you have to steam-roller all the local communities, build castles to safeguard the areas you control and suck up to the Pope (as most European Kings did at that time, except Henry viii, who didn't really give a toss about much except trading in his wife for a new model).
You start the game in one of five areas: Normandy, Calais, Bordeaux, Lyon or Paris. They've got different names in the game, but mine are easier to visualise. France itself is divided up into 35 separate regions and at the start they are ruled by local barons. To append them to your realm, you send in the army who make short work of the locals. You can choose whether you want to play an active part in the battles or whether you want the computer to do it automatically. I skipped this section quite often because, although I was running the game on a 486, it was so slow as to be painful. The graphics for this section are limited and, to be honest, there's not much you can do once it starts running. This would have been impressive about five years ago, but it's a bit lame now.
Architects with attitude
Once you've conquered a few regions, it's castle-building time. Select the region in which you want to build your castle, and then design it. The design process isn't too tricky. There are six separate pieces: towers (both round and square), big walls, small walls, gates and the keep.
You can either design the castle of your dreams or select a castle from real examples that exist in Britain (not France, because apparently the French don't know how to build castles any more than they know how to play decent Rugby). The castles themselves come in two flavours: large and small. A small castle will only protect the region it's in, while a large one will protect the adjacent areas that you own as well, thereby preventing the locals from rebelling, which they do from time to time. Once you've designed your castle, you simply click the Build icon and leave the local brickies to it. You can go back and see how they are getting on a little later and you'll be treated to a vision of lots of little pink blobs acting industrially. This bit of the game is almost identical to the equivalent bit of the original Castles, and taking into account that that was created some years ago, it's rather disappointing.
Eventually, you are going to run into another would-be king, and here's where the strategy element becomes more apparent. You have to send diplomats over with various bribes of gold and try to be friends, while you simultaneously and secretly, of course, amass an army with which to steam into his territory when he least expects it.
You also have the option of sub-plots. These vary from the widow Twanky, demanding a bit of ready cash, to a map of Africa turning up. Being future king, it's up to you to make the right decision in each case.
Naturally, no kingdom can function without money, food and other commodities, therefore, each region has it's own resources. Once you own these, they are collected and used at various stages throughout the game for feeding the troops and the like. And, naturally, the more regions you conquer, the more resources you can collect.
The Pope doesn't play much of an active role, just smiles a lot and stops you from installing condom vending machines in the castle loos, but you do have to be pretty nice to him as later on there's the chance to claim the throne, and he's the one who makes the decision. You can butter him up with gifts of gold, but if you really want to get into his good books then you can give him one of your regions and he'll love you forever (maybe).
Throughout the game there are clips from the film Henry VIII. In the cd-rom version these are now complimented by an impressive collection of facts, figures and film clips on a sizeable collection of National Trust and English Heritage properties. If you're a castle fanatic you'll love this section of the product, but sadly, the game itself hasn't really moved on since it's disk-based release. The strategy element of the game isn't too bad, but the action sequences are very limited and the general game structure is far too simple. To release a game like this in '94 is rather disappointing and at around $50.00 your money could be better spent elsewhere.
Download Castles II: Siege & Conquest
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP