by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Expanding your nation (cntd)
In that light, it feels somewhat contradictory to complain about the AI's lack of I. In short, it is utterly stupid but it means that, with some exceptions, deal with your nation's internal issues at your own pace. Quick expansion may trigger nervousness in neighboring rulers up to the point that they will attack you. If one nation wars against you, you will often see a cascade of war declarations by other nations as well. When their armies are tripping over each other to take your cities, you may feel you have been defeated already and this may certainly be true. Interestingly enough, the AI will usually throw their entire might against you, leaving their cities lightly defended or not defended at all. If you manage to take all of the cities of your opponent (often only one), his armies will leave the field. Problem solved.
You will have to take "field" figuratively however. There is no field on which armies do battle. In fact, there are no strategically or tactical decision to speak of. When two armies meet, a screen pops up that lets you either "watch" the battle or just get the results. Watching is boring. Icons of your units are placed on a simple grid, to their right the enemy's units are placed in a similar fashion. The battle is depicted as units flash up when being attacked or carrying out an attacking of their own. Your input on the proceedings? None, other than fast forwarding to the result. Stronger units and unit enhancement can be researched with Knowledge points gathered through schools and other education centers. These points can also be traded or used to unlock new buildings or civic advancements.
While 26 factions with unique units, starting locations and goals seem to offer an exciting range of variety. I hate to have to curb your enthusiasm though, because you won't experience it as such at all. Units aren't all that unique, simply because they are an icon with stats that will only be able to view when you order them 'built' in one of your cities. Rulers are generic and can have any variety in special abilities that you pick for them as they gain experience. The same is true for generals, governors and other specialists. Confusingly enough, some specialists are recruited through the city interface while others can only be recruited if a town-recruited specialist has a particular ability.
Missions of varying type pop up randomly, telling you a plague needs to be contained, a heretic expunged or a spy being thwarted. While a plague and getting rid of a heretic may sound like a very different task, in reality they only differ in name. If you don't have one already, you hire a specialist, give him the required ability and push a button. To be fair, diplomatic missions are a little different and require a diplomat to be created and sent to a particular territory to start negotiations. Furthermore, revolts or rampant bandits need to be dealt with by the military, though that action is the same as any attack on an enemy army or city.
Hmmm, just, hmmm...
Reign: Conflict of Nations isn't a bad game. It just makes it difficult to like it. From the above it is easy to read that I am not overly enthusiastic about the game. Apart from the poor AI and the generic factions and specialist, selecting a unit can be a frustrating affair. The number of times that I needed multiple clicks to select a unit would have driven a less patient man insane.
The trouble is that there is a highly atmospheric game underneath it all that is crying out to be loved. The graphics are uniquely done and make you feel like you are playing on a 14th century painting rather than your PC screen.
It wouldn't be that difficult to change the game into something worthwhile for a larger audience. Some minor graphical tweaks could make the map easier to view for example. I also readily forgive the game for its poor AI because of the fairly high difficulty factor imposed on the player because of the flood of events one has to deal with. The generic factions and units are harder to deal with but I can't help but think that something could be done here too.
As it stands, I suspect that for many players - including myself - the balance barely tips towards the positive. Recommended only for hardcore strategists with masochistic inclinations.
Unique looking, beautifully rendered game world.
Poor AI, clickfest, too many sharp edges.