Reviewed: April 26, 2005
Released: May 10, 2005
A week or so ago I noticed a rather large box on my doorstep. Curious, I examined said box to discover a great press-edition package, complete with a spiffy black t-shirt displaying Knights of Honor across the front and back. The very next day I wore that same shirt to a Blazerís game, and needless to say I was the talk of the Rose CityÖwell at least it was a free-and clean. Either way, if they spent that much time to send out a fancy wax-sealed envelope and the aforementioned shirt, they must have put a decent effort into the gameÖright?
Knights of Honor comes from European based Black Sea Studios, and combines elements of real-time strategy with nation building and conquest. In simpler terms, itís a mish-mash of Civilization and Age of Empires.
Knights of Honor features:
Knights of Honor takes place in the middle ages, a time rife with conflict as feudalism reigned and lords and their kings ruled from a heavenly mandate. You can choose from over 100 different nations to lead, from the Netherlands, to even Arab kingdoms of Africa, the scale is not limited to just your classic medieval Western Europe, a detail highly appreciated.
Each nation is split into different time periods, Early, Middle and Late, so you can have definitive areas to call your own, along with the correct technology and feudal ties. From here you pass down leadership to your lords, or knights, who can do a variety of roles from farming resources to providing military and even espionage, you donít have to micro-manage every detail thankfully. Keep a careful eye on your affairs though; it will take keen skill to lead your nation to victory.
An interesting feature is the aspect of life and death, and with that, a blood lineage. You can choose successors to the throne, but be wary for existence is very fragile in this archaic time, your preferred heir may fall ill or perish in combat. Speaking of which, Black Sea has crafted a fairly deep, yet simple combat engine that factors in such details as flanking, morale and a host of siege weapons. The latter isnít limited to just the attacker unlike most games, Medieval Total War comes to mind as one frustrating example. Where are my flaming buckets of oil? Or the giant boulders to be cast down upon the heathens?
Well thankfully in Knights of Honor the defender has the ability to hastily construct stonewalls, archer towers and huge bulkwarks to fend off would be aggressors. Units themselves are somewhat varied and historically accurate; archers, knights, pike men, cavalry etc, along with the added siege equipment. A key note-there is no unlimited ammo here, ranged units will run dry and be forced to fight it out in close-quarters, quite deadly for archers with noting but cloth or thin leather armor, one reason a cavalry charge through their ranks usually proves deadly.
A key figure on the field of battle is your marshal, usually surrounded by an elite cadre of troops. He can be very important in swinging the battle in your favor, especially with issues of morale. The A.I is definitely capable and shrewd, but at times if you loaded your troops in certain areas, they didnít seem to relocate fast enough to counter-attack, and the same tactics work again and again. I think the A.I does better in the grand scope of things such as economically or politically, but fails a bit in the war zone.
Once you conquer a realm, which usually is through sheer military might, as much as it was in those bloody days, you can offer a peace treaty with a list of demands ranging from money, land or even romantic obligations. Itís pretty exciting to absorb these nations and their resources into your fold after every success, and becomes addictive very soon-you just want to gobble up all the territory you see before you. Be careful though, you donít want to spread your forces too thin and not pay enough attention to other matters.
Navigating menus was also a bit confusing at times, there is a LOT of information on the screen and 3 different view sets to toggle from depending on your current focus, itís too bad itís so clunky.
Overall, the graphics here looked dated, yet effective. The map screen is well displayed, including interesting terrain features in a hand drawn style. Everything is 2D here and a bit blocky as well, although the collection of varied units and colors adds something positive to the mix.
The animations of the various soldiers and whatnot are a bit stiff at times, mainly due to the small size I would think, which also makes telling one unit from another difficult at times. Black Sea did a good job of touching on aspects of daily life, such as peasants milling about, animals in the wild and other fine details that help breathe some life into the game world. As I often say in relation to these strategy games, most people who like them arenít that worried about graphics in the first place, as they champion thought over fluff. And if you have a modest rig like mine, you will appreciate modest graphics even more.
Knights of Honor does a good job of creating an ambience of medieval times. The musical score is typical medieval fare, light and fleeting during map screens, but thunderous during battles. Surprisingly Black Sea used a lot of voice in this title, from your advisorís helpfulÖwell advice, to your knights have certain voices depending on what they do, for instance merchants deal with gold and other business matters while spies speak in a more sinister tongue.
Battlefield sounds and the like are well done but a bit muddled at times, and could have used some more time focusing on clarity, rather than sheer cacophony of sounds. But they at least get the job done and convey the chaos of warfare well enough. Its also nice to see the voices are carried over here, even in correct dialect and accent.
As with most strategy titles, there is always great inherent replay value, and itís no different here. With the wealth of nations and three different time periods, you should have oodles to do just with that- monthís worth in fact. Add in an expansion pack or two with new units, nations and features, and you should be busy for a long time.
Also included is a decent multiplayer mode, although compared to single player depth, itís not very intriguing to just beat up on 5 other people with no real long-term consequence. Remember, the combat system alone isnít the strong point; itís all things in between that add up to a fine game. A nice addition would have been an online ďconquest modeĒ of sorts, but considering how long that would take; I can see why the developers opted for a limited death match of sorts.
With a host of similar games out there like Rome: Total War and Lords of the Realm, Knights of Honor has some hefty competition stacked against it. Thankfully, the best thing that Black Sea Studios did was combine elements from the aforementioned games into one unique and solid strategy game, one that incorporates authentic historical aspects along with time-tested battle elements Add in a plethora of replay options and multiplayer, and Knights of Honor should find an honored place at someoneís table.