Reviewed: December 4, 2003
Released: October 20, 2003
In a market glutted with Roman and WWII-based RTS games, CDV software throws something a little different into the mix. Now available on store shelves is No Man’s Land: Fight for Your Rights, a new RTS that is all about becoming master of the New World. Screw Columbus, and Geronimo can go sit on a bull, because this land is your land. Rife with dangers but rich in valuable resources, the Americas has tremendous potential, and now you can lead your forces to victory, and the life of kings.
You have six forces to choose from: English, Forest and Prairie Native Americans, Patriots, Settlers, and the Spanish. Like all RTS games, each culture has its own technology tree and special abilities and units. Here was the first surprise. This game had all of the earmarks of a secular game, or one that doesn’t have magic or other powers at play due to its historical basis. Well, the folks at CDV must have figured that the game without some neat tactics was either dry or unbalanced. It seems quite likely, because the Native Americans were outclassed, so adding some nifty spell-like abilities to their arsenal keeps the natives worth playing.
There are also three campaigns to play (four including the tutorial), and here No Man’s Land really comes into its own. One really frustrating things about RTS games is their total focus on multi-playability. Knowing full well that multiplayer mode attracts a lot of players, developers almost negligibly throw in the single player mode as a concession to tradition. First-player modes tend to be short, trite and uninteresting. Gak. Well, the writing staff at CDV should get a medal for this game by writing the best storyline in RTS games since Warcraft III. The story will captivate you; you will actually beat the levels in a desire to see what happens next, rather than seeing how badly you can crush your enemies.
It seems like a lot of RTS games have lately been forgetting to utilize keyboard commands. Thanks the heavens that this is not the case with No Man’s Land. While still having the mouse as an option, all of the building can be done via keyboard. One absolutely horrific thing about this game’s controls is the mouse pointer. It lags behind you like a boat in the water; when you stop it takes the pointer a half second to stop. There are no settings to fix this, and it is especially frustrating in the heat of combat. In other matters, the controls are simple and easy to figure out.
The graphics for this game are very easy on the eye. Artwork for buildings and terrain is very nice, with good detail and color. Even more impressive is that the terrain layouts are good with space. Too many games clutter boards up with stuff—open areas help players appreciate the things that are on the map, and make the map easier to comprehend. Nothing is worse then building up an area, thinking your west flank is secured by a nice cliff, and having your opponent march a nasty force right onto your head through a hidden valley. Another nice thing is that each force has unique artwork. The buildings are different, so there should be no confusion at all about who owns what.
The still frames and movies; however, are considerable worse. It’s pretty obvious where the graphics team put their efforts into - all in the gameplay. While it’s good that their priorities are in order, the movies should still be of better quality. The artwork for the still faces of your special leaders are especially bad. This doesn’t really affect the game at all, but in solely judging graphics, these facts bring down the overall score.
Like practically every RTS on the market, No Man’s Land relies on the unobtrusive, repetitive classical music to accompany the game. There is simply not much to say about the music; if you’ve ever played other RTS games just anticipate that it is the same as the game you’ve played already. One distinctive thing about this game is the voices. The quality of the voices is excellent, but the accents are terrible. Think Schwarzenegger in “Hercules in New York” terrible. The native voices are as bad as they were in the oldest John Wayne movies.
On the lighter side, the Spanish accent isn’t too bad, and you can almost hear, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” The sounds of battle are good though, but that is hardly surprising. After many RTS games, CDV must have quite a library of sounds to use at a whim.
Retailing at $29.99, this game is definitely worth opening your wallet to purchase. The campaigns are lengthy and interesting; you will easily log 40 hours completing them. Additionally, any multiplayer action you care to get started will get you even more time on the game. Considering that most games retail at ten or twenty bucks more, this is certainly more economical than some of the bigger-name titles on the shelf.
One of the quotes on the box says, “…the game should offer something new and different to fans of real-time strategy games….” This may or may not be true, but having a storyline worth playing for is new and different among recent games. In many respects, though, this game is very similar to most RTS games, but with a new focus on the New World. All in all though, it is a quality game that should attract you if you like RTS games.