The memory of jubilant Scottish fans hanging off the crossbar like Caledonian chimps at Wembley following the home side's 1 -0 reversal in 1988 is still cause for much anti-tartan feeling south of the border. But frankly that's nothing compared to the animosity felt by many of those north of Hadrian's Wall for centuries of brutal subjugation by their imperialist neighbour. Well, whichever side of the halfway line you stand on this field of simmering tension, it's payback time, as Highland Warriors lets you play the role of Scottish patriot or Sassenach invader in a recreation of medieval combat set among the hoarse and heather of the highlands.
Cull of kintyre
Loosely based on history, this fully 3D RTS runs from the founding of Scotland in the 9th century up until the struggle for independence from the English yoke in the 14th and 15th centuries. Another rigorously accurate historical strategy game then? Erm, no. Not unless the clansmen of the Middle Ages really were superhuman heroes with the power to throw dazzling spells and magical pyrotechnics around like a haggis from a whiskey barrel.
And fair play too. Rather than aiming to be an authentic Medieval: Total War-style battle simulator, Highland Warriors pitches itself somewhere between the plot-driven heroics of Warcraft III and the comic book history of Age of Empires.
There are five sides (four clans and the English) to play as through the game's four campaigns. Each has its own special units and powers. Wicked William I, for example, can cause opponents to flee from his radius of fear, or can torture enemy units to glean vital information. The Cameron clan, on the other hand, is blessed with berserker units that can create whirlwinds of death on the battlefield, and standard-bearers that whip up nearby units into a frenzy of bloodletting.
Monarch Of The Glen
From the missions we played, gameplay veers between basic build and battle, to more cut scene-heavy manoeuvres in which smaller bands of heroes wander from one scripted incident to another. Seasoned RTS gamers should feel at home pretty quickly, as Highland Warriors adopts several genre-standard features such as the 'select idle villager' button, the handful of unit formation orders, and the fog of war black veil that shrouds the map. A nice touch is the ability to move all the buttons, mini-maps and status displays on screen to create a dashboard you're comfortable with.
Thanks to its nifty 3D engine, the action can be viewed from practically any angle. You can pan, rotate, zoom and elevate the camera so that you can go from a top down Eagle's-eye view, to practically looking up a clansman's kilt (and believe us, Martin was quick to try just that).
Worthy of mention in this department is the eyebrow-raising level of detail in the units, structures and environments. Rabbits scamper, trees and flags sway in the wind, shadows match their casters exactly, and buildings get burnt to the ground with an impressive, fiery flourish.
When the fighting starts you can zoom right in as druids unleash walls of flame, unkempt, hirsute berserkers clash with chainmailed knights and spearmen brace themselves for cavalry attacks - all in glorious 3D. The only problem being the fairly ravenous demands it all makes on your graphics card.
However, with more than 50 missions, a skirmish generator and eight-way multiplayer battles, there'll be plenty for everyone in Highland Warriors. Our only worry is that sustained play may reveal yet another generic RTS dressed up in a 3D engine. And kilts.
Download Highland Warriors
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
When You look at the actual concept of Highland Warriors, there's not much wrong with it. Let's face it, what Scotsman wouldn't want to step into the shoes of legendary warriors like William Wallace and Robert The Bruce and give the English a good kicking? But what looks promising on paper translates into a bit of a disaster in practice.
Despite the appeal of the subject matter, this RTS suffers from so many problems we're going to be hard-pushed to cover them all. Still, we'll do our best...
A Bit Of Make-Up
Graphically, Highland Warriors is about two years behind current technology. The landscapes are blocky with poor textures, the buildings are drab, and the walking animation for infantry and peasants is abysmal. If you can imagine a mime artist torn between trying to moonwalk and ice skate then you'll have a fairly accurate idea of what to expect.
This indecision also manages to filter into the unit Al. For some reason units are extremely slow to respond to commands - if they respond at all. The reality is that they're more likely to do whatever they want.
For example, during a town assault your army can be merrily ripping the English to pieces when suddenly your entire force will turn around, run out of the gate, and chase down a lone peasant who happened to return home at the wrong time. Alternatively, your rowdy bunch of Scots will march into town arc and just mill around grunting and looking aggressive - not unlike a Saturday night in Glasgow.
All this is infuriating, but what's probably more disappointing is the way HW blatantly rips off Age Of Mythology's entire resource management system. The only difference being that there are five resources instead of four, meaning you spend more time than ever tinkering with your economy. Frankly, it's the last thing you need when seeking respite from the random behaviour of the axe-wielding maniacs on your front line.
A Short Time Ago
The irony is that if, through some miracle, your troops actually do what you ask, then disposing of the enemy is surprisingly easy. In fact, all four game campaigns can be completed in less than two days on the hardest of the three difficulty settings. Now, it doesn't take a Scotsman to realise that shelling out 30 quid for something with a life-span of 48 hours is obscenely poor value for money. Obviously there's multiplayer, but if you can find someone to play against, then good luck to you.
Ultimately, Highland Warriors looks bad, plays bad and, well, is just plain bad. For more enduring and enjoyable Highland entertainment, try sucking up porridge through a set of bagpipes instead.