Slitherine Software’s History Great Battles: Medieval is a title that’s in possession of a significant amount of genuine charm, and the game’s usage of some of the History Channel’s very own documentary material in place of cutscenes plays no small part in that. Each filmed sequence is murkily lit and stars a combination of non-actors and professionals mercilessly hamming it up – pretty standard practice for all historical documentaries, in truth – but the overwhelming historical accuracy of them supersedes both of those minor complaints, and the video clips serve to make the experience thoroughly endearing.
But this much more focused narrative framework works wonders for your involvement too. Rather than allowing its plot to sprawl completely out of control, History Great Battles: Medieval keeps its focus on the Hundred Years War, and uses each piece of History Channel footage to give you a bit of perspective before each battle commences. Regardless of whether you’re playing as France or England, a short piece of footage always kicks things off, and they couple extremely well with the similarly authentic avatars, their clothing, and their weaponry.
The visuals aren’t massively arresting by any means, although it scarcely matters. Everything runs faultlessly, and irrespective of how much action is taking place onscreen at any one time, a whip-fast zoom function can make sure that you’re able to keep on top of everything with ease. Flanking is a key aspect of the gameplay here – and it’s a technique that you’ll have to master pretty quickly. The RPG side of things is very well realised too, and levelling up your army into an all-encompassing behemoth is every bit as engaging and addictive as you’d expect.
Some initially unusual rules are put in place from the off. The one that involves the most getting used to is the fact that you can’t command your entire army at once – you have to move small groups of units around one by one. This seems like an oversight at first, and fans of Medieval: Total War and its sequel are going to be forced into playing this game in a completely different fashion to that one. Although initially stressful and confounding, after the first couple of missions are licked you’re sure to have adapted to what is actually an efficient and rather unique system. Battle cards can also be used to influence your troops, but they’re scarce and are best used as a last resort.
History Great Battles: Medieval may be most ideally suited to the PC platform at heart, as the sheer wealth of essential menus that you need to trundle through (often at speed) are almost certainly easier and faster to manoeuvre around with a keyboard and mouse. That said, both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 control pads both work more than well enough, and the best recommendation of the game comes simply by highlighting the single best thing about it: it’s just really fun.
Watch the History Great Battles: Medieval trailer here: