Lords of the Realm III Review (PC)

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Lords of the Realm was a game series that I really enjoyed. Knights, castles, battles and running a medieval kingdom and its economy involved me deeply into its game play. I was excited by having the next LOTR on the table and I wondered what has been done since the previous LOTR2 from 1996.

Having installed the game, and the patch that came out at the same time, I fired it up. Well almost. The first time you start the game expect to wait a while before you are ready to play as the game has quite a loading to do – but it gets faster after the first few times (smoking habit comes in handy here). The waiting is rewarded each time with a beautiful intro movie showing a medieval castle attack in all its glory, making you forgive the coders for the load time. The movie prepared me well for the task ahead.

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Being a 'learn the game by myself' junky, I skipped over the tutorials and went straight into it, finding my self up against conquering Ireland. Loosing all my units fairly quickly worried me. Initial panic on discovering there's no pause button led me to quickly realize that the game works in a full real time world and as such everything in it is done in real time. This means that you will fight 2 or 3 battles while upgrading castles and assigning vassals to your lands at the same time. This is an interesting and innovative concept that really does add a new element, and no pauses! Reminds me of the Total War series and the concept of having a military part of the game where you do battles and a strategy map where you move your armies and build up your territories. The difference being that with Total War the map is paused while the battles are fought and only then you can continue with the game itself. Comparing LOTR3 and Total War I should also mention that though they have similarities, Total War is by far the stronger game then LOTR3 is. I decided to surrender and go for the tutorials.

The tutorials taught me in minutes how to prevail in a LOTR3 world. Later on, I realized it wasn't just my genius that allowed me to learn it quickly but the simple fact that there really isn't much to do in the game. Everything in the game is simple and basically all you are left with doing are these 4 things: moving your troops around, fighting battles, paying for castle upgrades and assigning vassals to your land. I found diplomacy useless as you will always be attacked when facing stronger opponents, whether at peace or not. Their pesky attacks will leave your farms and cities burned and you'll be setting vassals on them once again. I found it just too frustrating. An auto-set-vassal button would come in handy.

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The battle engine is a good piece of work. You will nearly always fight siege battles with towers, ballistas, catapults and your men in between. It is fun, but often I just couldn't give the right commands to my troops on the walls to advance on the enemy which left them milling around getting shot to pieces. A castle editor comes with the game, giving you the scope to create castles of your own and apply them on your land in the game that makes it more fun. Castle attacks are one of the more enjoyable parts of the game - attacking wooden forts with fire arrows makes them burn down slowly with any attackers caught within, finally vanishing, leaving you space to charge in and retake it. Huge stone castles are tougher nuts as they have more levels of walls and won't burn down. On each level your men will be slaughtered and only a massive force with enough siege weapons will be sufficient to break through and win the day.

You can jump in and out of battles as much as you like, leaving control to A.I. knowing that it will make good work on the enemy ranks (in fact it often seemed that sometimes it was doing a better job than me). In general the A.I. in the game is a a good piece work, so expect to be attacked on your weak points. What frustrated me was the fact that you can not reinforce any army that is engaged in combat. This means that you can face 10 enemy units with 2 of your own and you wont be able to throw any additional units inside to help your lost mates even if you have 100 units sitting next to it on the map. «Why?!» «Ok whose idea was this», «mine», «ok why did you do that?» *slap*, «oh well I» *fist in the stomach* *slap*

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Don't expect to use a great deal of tactics as you will mostly just group units without checking what type they are and send them toward the enemy land in the hope of a success. Even though unit types makes sense in battles and your knights can and will make easy work of peasants, I found I did not have the time to effectively group the right units, not that it appeared to cause any noticeable problems.

Gaining control over enemy territory is done by conquering his main land on that territory. When it falls you get control over all the land assigned to that territory and you can then move vassals in and start ruling it.

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So finally to explain the vassals, there are 4 types: 1. Farmer – build farms and produces food for maintaining your armies 2. Burgher – builds cities from which you collect automatically gold for upgrading castles 3. Clergy – builds churches and armories for luck and army upgrades 4. Knight – fortifies your land and automatically recruits units.

This is basically all there is to micromanagement. You just assign them as you conquer new territories and they will automatically do all the dirty work for you, leaving you to focus on battles.

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Game visuals and sound are adequate. Graphics are based on cartoonish style thematics but with enough medieval violence. Music and general sound reflects the age game is set in well.

Looking at the game for the final verdict it seems too stripped down and simple. After only 2 hours of playing it I was already presented with everything it had to offer. And that was it, everything beyond that led to complete boredom. The cheap price of the game delivers its own verdict. Being a huge fan of the previous versions I just can not recommend it. Newcomers may find its simplicity tempting but veteran players will have nothing but disappointment.