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The game Castles 2: Siege and Conquest takes place after the death of France's King Charles in the year 1311. Normally, the king's heir would take his throne, but King Charles didn't have an heir. This is where you come in. Your task will be to take over as much of France as possible, and then try to claim the throne. If the pope agrees, he will make you king of France.
You start out with one province in a corner of France. In order to advance into other provinces, you will have to build castles and form a good relationship with the pope if you want him to proclaim you the king of France. Spying, scouting, attacking, building, gathering, and diplomacy are very important parts of the game.
Except for that, you will also have to take care of your people's happiness, the payments for your soldiers, stop provinces from revolting and facing random encounters which add a story element to the game. To make things worse, the pope repeatedly comes to you, saying that your sins will be forgiven if you give him gold.
The biggest drawback of the game is the combat system which does not really have much strategy involved. The only thing you do in the battle is place the troops and tell them whether to destroy, go to melee battle or retreat. When you are defending yourself, you get to choose where the battles take place. Also, since they are fighting on known terrain, your soldiers will be twice as strong as soldiers of the attacking team.
As the name tells you, castles are also included in this game and they are a very fun element. Building the castle is pretty entertaining, but sadly the options are rather limited. You can choose between square or round towers, high or low walls and gates. I think that they should have added some other elements like dungeons, barracks and guard stations in order to make the gameplay even more interesting. Castles are also essential in keeping the provinces safe from revolting, but you will only need to build one for each 4 or 5 provinces under your command.
The music in Castles 2 is truly amazing. It's in middle Ages style, and really catchy. When you are in battle, you can hear O Fortuna from Carmina Burana! Even The Pope has his own "Darth Vader Theme March" kind of thing which is played whenever he comes into play. The music is not of the kind that annoys you after being played over a couple of times, but it's more the music you start singing along with (off the record, we did). This is without a doubt one of the best game scores I've ever heard!
The Graphics are pretty good in the castle design mode, but in battle they aren't really a thing to talk about. Battle graphics basically come down to a lot of tiny 2D soldiers and archers running around and fighting. The fighting style is mid-eighties like hack n' slash style, not really much work involved. On the other hand, a nice cut scene is played whenever something major happens, like a castle being complete or the attacking force reaching its destination. These cut scenes are shown in grayscale mode in a tiny rectangle that appears in the lower right corner of the game screen. Not much but they really add some nice spice to the game ;)
All together this game is great fun! Castle building is great, and so is getting rich and claiming France. The music is wonderful, and though the graphics aren't spectacular, they are not a drawback that makes the game less enjoyable. This is a game that definitely deserves a pure five mark. Our advice to you is to get real comfy in your chair, press the download button, turn up the sound and enjoy!
It is hard to believe that Castles II: Siege and Conquest is now 15 years old. This was one of the great strategy games of the early 1990's and required combined skills in resource collection, resource management, strategy, tactics and just a touch of imagination in order to win.
The graphics and gameplay were considered excellent for the time, with full VGA colour, reasonably realistic battle sounds and easy-to-use resource and battle interfaces. The players take the role of a noble house - from the provinces of Albion, Anjou, Aragon, Burgundy, or Valois. The aim of the game is to become King of Bretagne.
As well as the 4 opposing noble houses the Pope controls a number of territories. If a player gains control of sufficient lands they can petition the Pope to endorse their claim to the throne. Alternatively the Papal territories can be conquered as well as the territories of the other nobles. The Anti-Pope would then endorse the player's claim to the throne.
The player engages in three tasks: Administrative, Military and Political. Administrative tasks includs collection of resources - this can occur only in territories controlled by the player and the territories differing in the resources available (Gold, Timber, Iron, or Food). Players can trade surplus resources for those they have less of. Military tasks includs recruitment of troops and construction of siege weapons. Political tasks are a great addition to the gameplay and allow a clever player to advance their cause even if militarily weak. Diplomats are useful in ensuring that relationships with potential threats are strong, thus reducing the risk of attack from these threats. Scouts and Spies are also political options and essential prior to invading neighboring territories.
Play is limited in the early stages so that you can only engage in one task of each type. As you progress you can engage in more simultaneous tasks - a significant advantage, but also increasing the complexity of play.
Of course, as the title suggests, the construction of castles is a central feature of the game. The castles hold multiple functions. Primarily they defend a held territory against attacks from external sources, but they also allow the player to ensure that there is no internal revolt. Players have to ensure that a territory have a castle worth at least 100 points - if no castle is constructed, the populace will revolt and the territory will be lost.
A castle of course is useless without a garrison, and the armies are made up of soldiers, archers and knights. Creating each comes with a cost. Infantry costs one unit of iron and one of gold. The iron represents their weapons and armor, and the gold, their pay. Archers require one timber and one gold - timber for the bow and arrows and gold for pay. Knights require one iron (weapons and armor), one gold (pay) and one food (fodder for the horse).
The cost doesn't end there. The army require food or gold in amounts commensurate with its size. This pay requirement occurs about every 6 months in game time and failure to provide pay or food results in mass desertions from the army which can be crippling in the event of an attack.
If the game is not going well it is quite likely that a player would be resource-poor just when an attack occurred which means that the combinations of pressures from internal and external forces could result in the sudden collapse of the territories held by the player.
This game requires a balanced approach and rewards players who can pay attention not only to their own realm but also take the opportunities offered by changing circumstances in other territories.
Castles II: Siege and Conquest is part of the heritage of games that still influences strategy and conquest games today and at the time of its creation was a leading example of the progress made in Artificial Intelligence. It still retains its charms - even in the face of the advanced and dramatic games that are descended from it.
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