At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date Screenshots
Unknown PC/Mac Strategy First Haemimont Games 1-2 (in the beta), LAN August 2002 Here

Celtic Kings: Rage of War preview

At first glance, Celtic Kings looks like your standard RTS. On closer inspection, however, there are many differences which separate it from the rest...

Celtic Kings (which had a working title of Druid King) is an RTS-cum-RPG game which puts you in the wars between Rome and Gaul. At first glance it looks a lot like Age of Empires II, and as such you may assume that much of the gameplay is the same. Once you delve deeper into the game, however, this assumption quickly vanishes. There are many differences between the two games which make them incomparable. So I'll stop trying to compare them now.

As mentioned before, Celtic Kings is a cross between an RTS and RPG; an RTS in that it's a strategy in real time ([razz]) and an RPG in that your units can advance levels via training, talk to various key characters and have some uniquely identifiable characters (for example 'Heroes' who are - essentially - army leaders). As briefly mentioned in the last line, armies are a major part of the game. Sure, you can send some units in with no formation and who are trained up to the maximum of - say - level eight, but don't expect them to beat anyone. Instead, assign them a hero - armies can be a maximum of fifty units large (excluding the hero) - and get them to train together. You can get far higher experience levels, then once you actually go into battle you will beat just about any amount of units not in an army (even with an untrained army of 35 I managed to slaughter over 100 horseback soldiers with about three losses on my side). Although you can only have fifty units per army, this is by no means the limit of the game; you can have thousands of units! Just think of sending forty fifty-strong armies to attack your enemies... Mmm... One drawback of this high amount of units allowed is that this can put a lot of strain on the computer on lower-end models.

One difference between Celtic Kings and many other strategy games (such as Age of Empires - I know I said I wouldn't compare them any more, but it's the only other strategy game set in the time that I can think of!) is that you cannot build buildings; you have to either capture them or destroy them. This is a welcome break from the norm since it means that you can concentrate on your military side without having to build a barracks, however it also means that once your town hall has been captured, you've lost. Full stop. Another major difference is that you do not actually have to send out peasants to gather resources - different civilisations have different methods of getting gold/food etcetera, but with all of them you can 'capture' small villages and get them to send mules with food or gold regularly to another village (in Celtic Kings resources are village-specific).

Anyway, this certainly looks like one game to look out for. If it is as good as this beta (And it should be better!) then you should get it - even if you aren't a fan of strategy games normally! Keep your eyes open for it (and a review here) in August this year.

Preview by Dave Wickham

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