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Game Over Online ~ Rival Realms

GameOver Game Reviews - Rival Realms (c) Digital Integration, Reviewed by - Rebellion

Game & Publisher Rival Realms (c) Digital Integration
System Requirements P133, 16MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 61%
Date Published Sunday, December 13th, 1998 at 10:32 AM

Divider Left By: Rebellion Divider Right

Just when you thought the oldstyle, classic RTS was dead, Digital Integration hits you with Rival Realms. Now lemme just start off by saying, it's not a true classic RTS, but the flavor definitely branches off the same tree as Warcraft.

Rival Realms is a world of knights, wizards, mercenaries and thieves, your usual medieval mix. You have land, sea, and air units at your disposal. There are three races to choose from: the versatile Humans, the magical Elves and the belligerent Greenskins as you take your armies onwards to victory across a fantasy backdrop of mythical beasts, unexplored worlds and uncharted waters. It sums up to be quite the typical sterotyped Warcraft clone.

Adding some no-so-typical features, Rival Realms offers you the chance to build up armies whose troops all have their own individual characteristics. Every single one of your, and your opponents', troops gains experience in battle, and can advance up to a maximum of five experience levels - this way they live longer and their hits are stronger and more accurate. Sounds a little more like an RPG now doesn't it?

Graphically, Rival Realms hasn't come a long way from Warcraft II. The ingame animations are smooth, but they just aren't entirely interesting. The buildings lack the charm that buildings from other games have had. I missed seeing animation in buildings that you get from other games like Knights and Merchants. Some flagwaving or smoke or anything to increase the atmosphere would have been nice. It has its share of burning buildings and explosions but they're just not enough to enliven the atomosphere. You have the resolution options of 640x480 and 800x600, but these still aren't high enough resolutions to really make any game shine. Granted, if you're standing a little ways away from the PC, the graphics do look really nice, but at a normal playing distance, they're a little too blocky and too unrefined to hold interest.

The audio is a direct theft from Warcraft. I've got to say I'm very disappointed with Digital Integration for trying to basically copy the Warcraft dialect. In addition to the audio being cloned, it's annoying! Each character has two phrases, and let me tell you, the human serfs are the most annoying voices I've heard in a while. The greenskins (aka Orc clones), are no where near the humorous level that they were in Warcraft, half the time you can't understand what they're even saying. The battle sounds are pretty run of the mill for a real time strategy game. I was also annoyed by sounds not changing based on distance. I'd be in a battle in one corner of the level, and I could hear my peasants chopping away loud and clear from the other side of the level. It got to be very distracting at times and lowered the realism factor.

The game is interesting, since you gain the ability to develop your characters. Each character can carry up to four items which range from potions and scrolls, to armor and weapon boosters. Each unit gains experience from each hit in combat and can progress through five levels. After each mission you have the chance to save all your characters so that you can use them again. There's some very bad points to this though. You have to "hire" these characters before each mission. The game only allows you a certain amount of money to spend for these hires, so if you've got a character you've been working with, suddenly you don't have enough cash to hire them. This seemed rather stupid to me. When you save after each level, it doesn't update the existing characters, it makes new ones. This means you'll end up with ten or so copies of the same characters all in different levels of development. That really takes away from the concept of "character development" when you have clones of the same guy running around.

The artificial intelligence isn't very advanced either, the missions very seldom placed you under attack. It primarly came down to going after the enemies instead of defending yourself. Enemy troops did not act as a group, therefore it made it easy to pick them off one at a time. I could take out a group of three with two other groups standing nearby and no reaction from them at all.

Unfortunately, Warcraft's haphazard pathfinding makes it's way into Rival Realms as well. The terrain in most of the levels is full of trees or mountains so my units frequently got stuck or seperated while trying to find their way around the level. This is a common flaw to many RTS games and Rival Realms did not end this issue. It's not particularly worse then any other RTS, but it's far from being better.

Rival Realms' units themselves are remotely interesting. The humans are definitely a rehash of Warcraft, with knights, archers, and mages. There are more units in Rival Realms, like the priests. There was very little difference between the units abilities between races, other than some of the spells. This somewhat hampers the replayability, because once you've played one race, there's really not enough of a difference between the characteristics of the other races. The spells themselves aren't all that interesting either. The character which I thought was the most creative was the Fire Master. He was similar to the lively Goblin sappers, except he didn't blow himself up. He had the ability to make bombs, traps, create lakes and fill in lakes. They couldn't fight very well, but they were extremely useful. The mages also had a mana shield which I also thought was a great idea, it gave them a lot more versatility.

The storyline for the game is pretty bland, following once again in the footsteps of its big brother, Warcraft II. Elves are looking for a homeland, and the other two groups that are already at war don't want the elves in their homelands either. Yes, another "everyone for themselves" saga. I've got to say, whoever wrote the storyline for the greenskins needs to be executed. It looks like they tried to use Ebonics for the languange. "We need to kill da boss guy in da evenin." I mean, you need to make a much better effort to create decent written storyline. The in-game voices don't even match up with the theme the storyline puts forth.

The missions themselves were also quite bland, with a few exceptions. The beginning four or five levels of each race didn't even allow you to build buildings. You were given a group of units and basically did seek and destroy missions where you had to kill everything on the board. Sometimes there were "imprisoned" units or units you could buy to replensh your forces, sometimes you'd find buildings where you could generate your own. I happen to like the classic "build your own kingdom" style, but you don't get the ability to do it until later on in the game. The missions weren't totally limited to seek and destroy, others included finding a captured unit or an artifact and making it to the X on the map in order to complete the level. Overall, it was not exactly an intellectual mission campaign.

Rival Realms does, however, come with its own level designer. I'll have to say great job here. It is virtually identical to Warcraft II's, but nonetheless, it gets the job done and allows you to make your own boards.

It has multiplayer and lets you use your own maps. You also can bring in saved characters from the single player. It's a nice feature, but sort of makes the game a little weighted if one player brings a 5th level guy in, whereas the others bring in a few smaller characters. Rival Realms plays a lot like Warcraft II did, the interface even looks similiar. It also supports TCP/IP which gives it a slight step up from Warcraft. This gives the game the ability to pass as a suitable alternative to playing Warcraft without a LAN or Kali/Kahn. In addition to TCP/IP, it suppports IPX, modem, and serial connections.

Plain and simple, this is a Warcraft II clone. There are no if's, and's, or but's about it. It does add a few "new" features/ideas to give it a somewhat fresh face. However when it's paired with mediocre graphics and speech that tarnishes the classic feel that made Warcraft such a success. If you're in the mood for an RTS and really want a Warcraft II clone, by all means this is the game for you. If you're looking for a revolutionary RTS, go elsewhere. This one does not have enough to set it apart.

Highs: Character development, a couple interesting units, low system requirements

Lows: Terrible ingame speech, dated graphics, way too much of a Warcraft II clone.


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