Battle Realms

Moby ID: 5326
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Battle Realms is a fantasy real-time strategy innovation inspired by kung-fu movies and Japanese mythology. Players assume the role of the hero Kenji as they develop a village of peasants into a clan of highly specialized warriors. They must defend their village against barbarians, evil magicians and deadly ninja. The game puts the focus of gameplay on the battlefield and features detailed 3D environments, realistic weather effects and a unique battle gear system to advance the abilities of your warriors.

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  • 魔域帝国 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Average score: 84% (based on 32 ratings)

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Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 28 ratings with 1 reviews)

The predecessor to Warcraft III, and in many ways it did more

The Good
For it’s time the graphics in Battle Realms were fantastic, particularly the animation. The cartoonishly disproportioned (some VERY large swords going on in this game) troops had superbly realised motions. Hair bobs nicely. Aforementioned giant swords sag wearily. As an added bonus these idol animations sometimes have an effect on the game play, Kabuki Warriors juggling little balls of magic to entertain peasants. As a nice touch wounded soldiers actually look wounded, stumbling slowly across the map dragging their weapons.

This game could well be the first time that an RTS created a world rather than a sort of interactive diagram. Resources aren’t big obvious chunks of crystal or whatever. With your peasants you harvest rice or water in order to raise buildings and train units. The water is the nicely animated rivers and pools. Rice fields react to over-harvesting adversely, though bloom when watered or if it rains. The environment is alive. Squirrels move about the forest floor and butterflies and insects populate the fields. Move units swiftly through the forests and a flock of birds is disturbed, alerting the enemy to your presence. The occasional rock can be pushed by a unit to roll (with proper physics) about the battlefield and cause Indiana Jones style havoc. There are wild horses in the game that can be tamed by peasants and mounted by your soldiers, making them much more powerful. Fire plays an important part in attacking bases. A building (or tree) on fire will spread to others, causing slowly escalating damage, and can be put out with water.

The selling point of Battle Realms is this coherent mechanic. Peasants are the only things that seem to appear out of “nowhere”. To train a unit you move a peasant into the appropriate dojo. More complicated units require moving different units into additional dojos. For example, a spearman is trained in a spear dojo and an archer is trained in an archery dojo. However to train the Dragon Warrior, a soldier with both ranged and close combat abilities, you then send a spearman to an archery dojo or vice versa. Each race has three soldier dojos (and an additional special dojo) and so have several different units they can produce, including the most powerful made by combining all three. You often find yourself linking together different rally points for buildings to maximise training efficiency. It presents a nice alternative to the prosaic tech trees present in nearly every RTS game ever.

There are more innovative features.

The game favours frequent small skirmishes and raids before outright attacks. Successful combat grants you Ying or Yang points (depending on your race’s moral standpoint) to be spent on upgrades or heroes. Heroes work in a similar way to Warcraft III, namely being powerful individuals with a special “power” and unit buffs. This simple system helps combat rushes, yet also places emphasis on attack rather than turtling (there is only one defence tower, which “attacks” with that of whatever unit occupying it).

My favourite aspect of it all however is the setting. While the story is no Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it has a pulp, anime-like oriental style to it. Your armies are populated by truly eclectic units, from sumo wrestlers with giant cannons to undead-raising necromancers to packs of wolves and werewolves. Best of all each of the four civilisations are truly distinctive! All of their units function and act differently, and all are wonderfully stylised to their race. Watch as the Lotus Clan’s infected suicide bombers and upgradeable sorcerers battle against geisha and brilliant kabuki warriors.

The campaign features a slightly non-linear function to choose your battles. You advance across a map, making decisions on who to attack and when. Attacking one race will often result in the other being much stronger later in the game.


The Bad
I’ve mentioned that the units are very well animated. Unfortunately their lack of detail really becomes apparent in the frequent cut scenes, where you realise they’re often just a bunch of geometric shapes.

These cut scenes as well are a bit lacklustre. The manual gives us a long and dramatic back-story, but when it’s presented in game, with the game engine, it just comes across as a bit pants. The voiceovers aren’t rubbish, but nothing truly memorable happens, no real drama to keep your interest. When one of the central characters is killed, his body put up on display to the protagonist, it all looks a bit daft. Which is really a shame. The whole story itself suffers because of this. We are being asked to sympathise with a bunch of oddly shaped marionettes. A game with such superb combat and movement animation could perhaps spare some for the cut scenes, which often consist of two characters standing next to each other blabbering on.

I’ve mentioned that Battle Realms has a unique system for balancing out battles. However, much like Warcraft III, the endgame still suffers. This is mainly due to the peasant recruiting system. Peasants arrive automatically at your base at an ever-decreasing rate. You often find yourself with more than you know what to do with at the beginning, but by the time many have been recruited into your army you really have to think carefully how to use them, and to react to whatever resource needs attention. This is all good but every first large-scale assault is almost invariably going to fail, particularly if the enemy hadn’t attacked you first. By the time this force has been wiped out you’re left completely vulnerable, though with a significant amount of Ying or Yang points. It then becomes a frantic rush to retrain an army before the inevitable counter-attack.

The worst point I had with the game was that I could never finish the campaign. This has nothing to do with the quality of the game, but every time I played I reached a point where I had a choice between two extremely difficult missions that I just couldn’t beat.

At the beginning of the campaign you’re given a moral choice between joining a noble clan or a dastardly clan. Upon joining the eviller of the two your character becomes almost insufferable, cackling, spiteful… and actually kinda boring. As you progress through the (choices of) levels in an identical way as the good side there’s really not much choice beyond testing your tolerance of a deeply, deeply irritating character.


The Bottom Line
A very solid and unique RTS experience, far superior to many in its ambitions and style. It's just a shame it wasn't picked up so much as its bombastic, but ultimately empty nephew Warcraft III. whilst the multiplayer is a very well crafted and enjoyable experience, you'll be pressed to find anyone still playing this forgotten gem. A pity.

Windows · by Curlymcdom (44) · 2008

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Game added by NeoMoose.

Additional contributors: Rebound Boy, Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, phlux.

Game added November 9, 2001. Last modified February 20, 2024.