Great War Nations: the Spartans is a recent real-time strategy game developed by World Forge and published by DreamCatcher Games. It includes two campaigns, in which you get to play as the Spartans and the Macedonians, and each contains seven missions. While this sequel seems fun for a while, it suffers from being terribly generic, while offering nothing new, and it looks indistinguishable from the first installment in the series. Add to that the buggy AI and lag that can be caused by a large number of units on the map, especially the ship/naval maps, and what you get is a game on the below-average list.
What may be the most confusing about this game to many people is how it differs from World Forge’s previous game in the series, Ancient Wars: Sparta, which was released approximately one year ago in April 2007. I have not played Sparta, but after looking at some of the screenshots and videos, the graphics, classes, and many other aspects of the games look identical. Even though it may be hard to believe, Great War Nations is the sequel, and it’s not an issue of one being released as another name in a different country. This sequel was, however, released as Fate of Hellas in Europe. Now, I’ve probably confused you, but you can just blame JoWood. They bought DreamCatcher Games/The Adventure Company back in 2006, which is why the game was published under the DreamCatcher label here in the States.
"...it was a fairly fun game for about the first three to four missions."
I don’t want to come out and completely slam Great War Nations; it was a fairly fun game for about the first three to four missions. The gameplay is about as standard as RTS gameplay gets. You build up food production, weapons, gold, etc. in order to build an army that is capable of defeating the enemy on the other side of the map. To a gamer like me, who hasn’t played a large number of strategy games, it was fun and addicting for a while. However, I’m not one of those strategy fans who like to spend a lot of time building up a base only to start all over again, from nothing, in the next mission. Either start me with a standard set of buildings, or make the building process rapid. So, after building things up for the first few missions, which took me about 2-3 hours apiece to complete, I soon became bored and frustrated with the game but ventured on in order to write a fair review.
Great War Nations: the Spartans tries to present a historically accurate storyline, but it this basically just turns out to be a set of small dialog segments at the beginning of each mission. A few people will say a few lines giving you a reason to attack the enemy for Sparta or Macedonia. I found these snippets to be very skippable and just wanted to get into things in each mission.
As far as units and buildings go, things are pretty standard. You begin with an acropolis (or Megaron in the Macedonian campaign), a gold mine, a few soldiers and slaves, a couple of heroes, some lumber, and that is usually about it. You immediately have to start hiring helots (slaves) to collect lumber, farm the land, build a barracks, build other military buildings, structures, and traps, etc., etc. Units and buildings are slightly different when comparing the different campaigns, but one side doesn’t really have an advantage over the other. Each gold mine is usually worth approximately 40,000 gold, which supports a relatively small-sized village and army. After the first couple of missions, it is apparent that you will be needing additional gold reserves as you move on to face larger enemies, and you’ll usually be able to find one or two other mines (occupied by the enemy or not) on your side of the map. Towards the end of the campaigns, especially the missions that involved ships or required many expensive military items such as catapults or siege towers, I found that it was hard to scrape by with multiple gold mines, at times. Right from the beginning tutorials, weapon collection from battles is promoted as being a less expensive way of building your army. The automatic collection button with the slaves didn’t really work very well for me, which brings me to my next topic, the poor AI.
First of all, unit path finding isn’t the greatest. They’ll usually make it to the desired location but will walk along odd paths and will get stuck on things. Ship path finding is wretched. Not only will ships turn around when they reach the location you clicked, they will also stop and charge an enemy when in proximity to them, even after you instruct to bypass them. After the main Spartan ship mission, my wrist was sore because of having to click so many times to get the ships at my intended destination. Great War Nations already suffers from being very generic, but the bad AI aspect also really impacts the quality.
As I mentioned in the beginning, Great War Nations looks the same as Ancient Wars: Sparta, and there isn’t any evidence that there have been any visual improvements. The graphics are fairly good, but when comparing it to other recent strategy titles, it falls a bit short. The only real complaint I have here is with the lag that I experienced on the ship maps, which may or may not have been because of the graphics.
Sounds and music are good for the majority of the game. The voice acting could certainly use a big improvement, but this is mostly only heard during the mission intro dialog. Music plays throughout all missions and is good and subtle enough that the repetition of it doesn’t become annoying.
Average gameplay, average storyline, average graphics, average sound… you get the picture. This is a generic strategy game that could be fun without the AI problems. It also wouldn’t hurt to add a touch of originality here and there to make things more exciting or unique. Great War Nations also includes a multiplayer component, but it’s only LAN multiplayer, so there’s nothing very exciting there unless you can convince your friends to buy this worse-than-average game. It is definitely playable, and can be enjoyable for a while to newer fans of the genre, but most strategy fans should pass on this title.