Set during the bloody conflicts of feudal Western Europe, Medieval Kingdom Wars puts you into the boots of a lordship entangled by domestic and foreign politics. Using a combination of governmental and military forces, you are in charge of ensuring your rule goes untested and your people can survive the imminent conflict.
Reverie World Studios are an Ontario-based studio and have developed several real-time strategy games under the Kingdom Wars banner before. The studio hopes that Medieval will provide a refreshing take on the genre. “[We are] redefining Medieval Grand Strategy, by combining historical accuracy, a huge living and changing world, and historical quests, all in a real-time environment,” Reverie says in the game description. While many games of this type such as Age of Empires and Hearts of Iron have had a tendency to prioritize fun over realism, it seems that Reverie want to try balancing both.
One of the more impressive features of Medieval Kingdom Wars comes in the form of its beautifully crafted dynamic world. Covering all of Europe on a reduced scale, you can take your armies to any corner of the continent, provided you can deal with the opposing forces encountered along the way. When you run into the enemy, the game will throw you into a smaller map where you must conquer or defend against the enemy.
In my first skirmish, I chose to defend the British coastal town of Dover against advancing French troops. Altogether, there were two opposing teams on the map comprised of four players overall. I began by building a farm to rack up my food supply which would then fund recruited soldiers from the barracks. Being on the defending team, I was already protected by a large palisade wall that surrounded the city. Therefore, it was important for me to place my archers on the walls whilst my spearmen held their ground behind the gate.
This preparation did well for me, as the enemy was quickly advancing on Dover within ten minutes. They had archers, swordsmen, cavalry and siege weapons such as rams and towers. It was an intimidating force, but years of learning about medieval battle strategy in school had taught me that a smart tactician in a well-fortified stronghold can defeat an opponent of ten times as many numbers. For example, the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 had the English placed at a huge disadvantage against the French army, yet they won the battle with only around 600 soldiers dead compared to the French losses of up to 10,000.
I wanted that very same practice to happen here. The French advanced their militia infantry first, which was a huge mistake due to how vulnerable they were to my longbow units. As they were getting torn apart, their archers were stationed near the back and fired upon my own. For this, I decided to bait the enemy by sending out my weaker swordsmen, and as the archers diverted their attention to this, I returned fire from the wall and managed to quickly dispatch of them.
They did not give up. They would then send in heavier swordsmen and battering rams. I told my remaining units to retreat back inside as I built up the battlements on my fortress. I upgraded to a stone wall with pots of burning oil atop the gate. This was an effective defence for castles that were expecting a siege, so when the enemy was close, soldiers could pour the pot of flaming hot oil over their heads and watch them burn to death.
But no matter how well I defended the wall, the French army eventually broke through. My spearmen were ready, forming a wall of spikes to meet the enemy as their cavalry advanced through the wreckage. And so began the bloody affair. It would be a battle that lasted for the rest of the skirmish. The French army would not let up, while I struggled to keep my forces replenished. It seemed that whenever a battalion of melee units were defeated, another one would be right behind them. I persevered, and eventually managed to hold them off until they finally withdrew, handing me and my ally the victory.
Despite how engaged I was with that skirmish, Medieval Kingdom Wars still has a long way to go and should soon provide answers and features that are desperately needed. Firstly, the tutorial is long and hard to decipher at times, with many objectives remaining non-descript and sometimes even hidden from the player. There’s also a lack of a save option which can be problematic when playing levels that can go on for over an hour.
A fully-voiced narrator presents the story and historical context to you, which I appreciate for a genre that requires foreknowledge on the setting between different levels. The problem is that there are still characters that speak to you during these moments that will present a giant wall-of-text to you, which can be tedious during the more intense play sessions.
With the incredibly beautiful environments, there is also that problem with many CPU and memory-heavy games where a noticeable performance slowdown occurs when the battles get very meaty. During my few games, frame rates would often drop below thirty once the battle had gotten underway. This is a problem with a lot of real-time strategy games, as the amount of units and other factors in-game can be straining on the PC’s resources.
It’s clear that Reverie World Studios are sitting on a gem here. Medieval Kingdom Wars provides a gritty portrayal of brutal siege combat combined with critical strategic planning. Its attention to realism is how I found it to be a revitalising take on medieval warfare, and while it is still quite mechanically rough around the edges, I believe it will become a solid contestant amongst the other popular real-time strategy games of today.