Knights Of Honor
Instead of wilting in the dark and heat of the vast E3 conference centre, German strategy specialist Sunflowers -previously responsible for Anno 1503 - was positively blooming, showcasing several new titles. Among these was the prehistoric 3D RTS ParaWorld, plus the announcement of the new Anno War. But it was the medieval Machiavellian machinations of Knights Of Honor that continued to whet our strategy appetite.
Since we last saw the game in September last year. Sunflowers, along with co-developer Black Sea Studios. has been gathering feedback from internal QA. press tours and fan forums to add features and tweak existing code. It hopes this will ensure that Knights Of Honor becomes one of the must-have single-player and multiplayer empireconquering sims for 2004.
Knights Of Honor begins in one of three medieval periods ranging from 1000AD to 1350AD, each with different political situations and national borders. You start in one country as king and use diplomacy, espionage, war, economic and trade management through the power of your knights to be crowned emperor of Europe. As monarch, you concentrate on the overall running of your countries and provinces within, while employing up to nine loyal knights to carry out your good/evil commands on a local level.
Knights can have six different professions, including marshal (for raising and commanding armies), landlord (managing food production and tax collection) and cleric (converting local populations to your chosen religion). However, the most intriguing role for a knight is becoming a spy, as you can then plot to overthrow a rival king by taking over his armies and forcing him to give you a town's keys without a battle. Or, you could murder him in his sleep just after he's 'coincidentally' married one of your lucky daughters, thus presenting you his entire kingdom on a silver platter complete with plague-free trimmings. Every successful task completed by your knight gives him experience or fame points, which you can use to spend on useful skills, such as healing, tactics and leadership to boost your troops' morale.
Once you've developed your towns, using the extensive tech trees and economic system to increase population learning, prosperity, happiness and wealth (somewhat reminiscent of Civilization), you can really start causing medieval mayhem by waging war against your neighbors.
Using our English marshal knights, we decided to create a grand army made up of burly peasants, skilled archers, masterful cavalry and siege equipment to take a leisurely pop at the King Sancho of Navarr.
Zooming into the close-in Battle view we arranged the formations using a simple regiment-based tactical system that enabled us to position the troops on the battlefield with a few taps of the left mouse-button. Within minutes, the Spanish king's castle was breached, his troops fleeing in terror, many screaming and burning alive in a hail of fire arrows. Hilarious.
Knights Of Honor's graphics may be lacking a little when compared with an RTS like Rome: Total War, but there's no doubting the game's potentially intoxicating mix of empire building, political intrigue and warmongering. Watch out for a bigger preview later in the year.
Download Knights Of Honor
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
You Know globalisation has got out of hand when a developer from Bulgaria drops the u' in honour, US-style. And while America has nothing to do with this European-set medieval empirebuilder, at least the goal of having to achieve domination over the known world will ring true the other side of the pond. For as regent of one of Europe's feudal kingdoms, your task in Knights Of Honor is to bring the entire continent under your sway.
The game plays in real-time and revolves around territories, each of which are controlled by a town run by one of your princes or a knight. To emerge triumphant, most of your time is spent tinkering with your vassals (ooh, missus!) to get the right man in the right job at the right place. Of course, sooner or later, some maggot is going to challenge your power, at which point you can slip into the tactical battle engine and direct your metal-clad forces to a well-earned victory.
While it's true that it's old-school fixed-view isometrics all the way, the look of Knights is fairly charming. The pottering peasants, streaming banners and massive game map are perfect for the genre, even if the battles themselves are a tad lacklustre. Generally either ambushes of armies at camp, attacks on castles or straight meeting engagements, these slightly rudimentary clashes certainly won't be threatening Medieval: Total War.
Bush Is A Knave
Which is fine, as the real meat of this game is what happens between the fighting. Your progress as a leader is measured by a power bar. Representing both the strength of your realm and the support of your populace, it lowers when you do unpopular stuff like launching unprovoked wars or raising taxes, and any leader would find it hard to do both of these at the same time. When low, corruption is rife and your income suffers, while at the same time peasant revolts are more likely. To raise the bar, you must take decisions that please your serfs, such as winning wars and expanding your empire, by fair means or foul.
After all, as any proto-Machiavelli will tell you, there's more than one way to skin a cat. You could grasp it in your mailed fist before hacking away its mangy hide with a crude dagger (that's a metaphor for using force, by the way). Alternatively, you could get the cat to marry your daughter, (which is where the feline allegory starts going awry), or even place one of your spies in its court, hoping that one day your agent rises to become heir to the moggy's litter (throne).
We like the way this is shaping up - a sedate, cerebral foray into the Dark Ages - and if you like a little more kingdom-making and a little less tank-rushing, keep your eyes firmly on it.