Warlords Battlecry is the last and undoubtedly most underrated entry in SSG’s celebrated Warlords series, long heralded as the best fantasy wargames for die-hard wargamers everywhere. Battlecry marks a sharp departure from the previous Warlords games in two respects: real-time play, and narrow tactical-level scope. The game has more in common with Warcraft than, say, Heroes of Might and Magic which are comparable in scope and style to the earlier Warlords games. The hallmark of Battlecry is the importance of heroes, unique characters who lead your armies. Heroes exert a circle of influence in which all friendly units gain combat bonuses. They can cast area spells that can also boost friendly units (or harm enemy ones). Bonus spells don't have to be cast individually on units. The 83 spells are split into nine spheres, such as summoning and healing, with certain heroes able to "major" in each, raising ability and spell casting chances for spells in that sphere as they go. Spells have prerequisites, so you have to learn the simpler ones first. Warrior-type heroes can concentrate on building their combat and command skills and abilities. Each hero has four primary stats (strength, intelligence, dexterity and charisma) and these add to the skills (common to all hero classes) and abilities (which depend on class and race) that shape the character. Certain units can induce effects such as fear, chaos, awe, poison and disease. It's important to recognise these and know how to deal with them; getting your hero diseased is a big pain with no cure spell. Cheap infantry and good ranged units are often the way to deal with poison and disease-carrying enemies. The most powerful units, such as the dragon, take a long time to build, but have strong bonuses that make them truly devastating in combat. But nothing is invulnerable, when tackled by the right tactics. The ability to pause the action to issue movement orders is most welcome when you see a horde of disease-carrying enemies swarming towards some of your best units.
So how does the gameplay feel? Surprisingly very similar in spirit to the old turn-based games, but with many nice touches. Owning the mines is the key to victory, just as holding cities was in the old games. The AI isn't the work of Roger Keating this time, but his influence can be felt as the computer plays much “smarter” than most other strategy games. While most designers are attempting to take RTS gaming into new 3D lands, it's a pleasant surprise to find a traditional 2D contestant that manages to offer something new to entice a jaded wargamer. The bottom line: if you love fantasy wargames and don’t mind real-time play, Battlecry is a must-have. It is to real-time fantasy wargames what Fantasy General is to turn-based titles. Two thumbs up, way up!Reviewed by: Underdogs