There's no doubting that Warlords: Battlecry held a special place in computer gamer's hearts when it was released almost four years ago. A strong community has generated due to Battlecry's reputation for depth of game-play and sheer amount of replayability. Warlords Battlecry III is the kind of sequel that doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, instead it adds a lot of new features, spells, and units into an already well established design.
Set once again in the land of Etheria, the massive Campaign mode transports you into the ever-changing continent known as Keshan, where allies become enemies and provinces are disrupted, captured, and ruled through the ceaseless struggle for dominance and control. As I said, the gameplay mechanics remain similar to those of previous games. Battlecry III has four resources that you collect - Gold, Stone, Metal and Crystals. As you accumulate resources, you can purchase buildings, upgrades, armies, etc. Meanwhile the enemy is constantly trying to slow you down by sending troops in to destroy you. Also you'll have to keep an eye on the map to prevent enemy heroes from walking up and seizing your resource locations from under your nose. Enemy AI is not bad, as is usually expected with a Warlords product, but the pathfinding is a bit worse than Warlors Battlecry II. In most of all missions, the sole aim is to build up your armies and flatten the enemy. As you complete missions, other cities on the map open up to you, and you can travel between districts, making friends or enemies, shopping for magical items and recruiting mercenaries. The campaign is claimed to be non-linear and dynamic. Actually, there's a critical path of scenarios you must complete and then a number of side scenarios. You can do them in a few different orders, but the scenarios you see today will be the same you see tomorrow.
Warlords Battlecry III features 5 new races (for a total of 16 playable races). There are the Plaguelords (a group of monstrous and twisted creatures specializing in disease), the snakelike Ssrathi, from the southern Jungles with their priests and dinosaurs; and the insectoid Swarm - servants of the Lord of Famine. The old Human side has also been split into two separate races - Knights and Empire. Knights are all about cavalry and upgrades for cavalry, while the Empire not only have the massive War Elephant, but also have the ability to instantly hire mercenaries when required. Each race has a unique set of advantages and disadvantages that requires you to take a different tack with each one.
Like the other games in the series, Battlecry III has a strong focus on developing a single character - a hero. The heroes are upgradeable units that level up with combat experience and can carry magical treasure located in chests. The ability to level up heroes from within the game gives the game much more of an RPG feel, because you are constantly watching the XP bar, and playing to get that next level. Besides, you can take your hero into skirmish battles where he will continue to gain levels and acquire items and retinue. Heroes have 130 different spells that they can cast. These are divided into 13 spheres of magic. Most hero classes can specialize in 1 or 2 spheres of magic, though some classes like the Archmage can learn more. The 13 spheres cover everything from Necromancy, Pyromancy and Summoning, to Healing, Divination and Illusion.
The weakest part of the game is multiplayer component. I had numerous problems connecting to Enlight's matchmaking service. There is an option for direct TCP/IP games, but the disconnect rate is frustratingly high. Besides, the Internet play requires one person to set up as host, and then distribute his IP address to the other players. So, if you plan to buy the game with the intent of battling it out over the Internet or a LAN, you're probably going to find Battlecry III a major disappointment.
Overall, there's a lot of quality content in the game - a massive campaign, customizable skirmish battles, a random map generator, and a scenario editor. For players who have enjoyed the previous two games in the series, Warlords Battlecry III should be a good choice as well as Infinite Interactive hasn't changed the basic gameplay much. However, if you're a longtime Battlecry player hoping for a revolutionary improvement, Warlords Battlecry III will be a disappointment.
Related links: demo
Minimum: Pentium 3-450Mhz with 128Mb RAM
Recommended: Pentium 3-600Mhz+ with 256MB RAM (TNT2 or better card recommended)
Graphics: Supports the following resolutions in 16-bit colour: 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024, and 1600x1200
Multiplayer: Internet/Modem play will require a 28.8 or better modem, LAN play requires either TCP/IP or IPX and requires a 10Mbit network to run.