The RTS genre has died down a bit recently. Sure we've seen some high profile games such as Command and Conquer make a come back but there was a time when it seemed every man and his dog wanted to play RTS or, if they were a developer, create one. In a time where the gaming focus seems to be on action, action and even more of it, Gates of Troy is a title that probably won't get the respect it deserves. Slitherine software has created not only one of the best representations of history in a video game, but also one of the toughest.
Gates of Troy revolves around many of the early European conflicts between numerous sides that ventured the land. There were countries, but without sovereignty as anyone could and did invade each other. The storyline for each of the campaigns is historically accurate and you can either change history or recreate depending on how well you perform. The storyline aspect of the game is fairly lax and basically just says the victory conditions such as capture eight towns. This somewhat is quite a disappointment given the amount of time Slitherine has obviously put into historical research for this game.
Gates of Troy is an extremely epic game. We see it as a cross between Sim City, Civilization (diplomacy) and a real time strategy game. Your playing time will be divided between managing cities, conquering cities and defending cities. There is an insane level of micromanagement in this game and this is either going to really turn you off or really get you into the game. Having so much control can be confusing at times but there is a three level tutorial to show you the ropes of fighting, managing cities and eventually your empire. Managing the cities is quite a complex task but the game 'pauses' while doing so meaning you can't be attacked while fiddling around with new buildings or infantry. Each city can be ripe for a take over so it is vitally important that a second army resides within to back up the garrison units.
The buildings which are in your cities correspond to what actions you can take against enemies such as starving the field armies by buying all the food, demoralizing a garrison unit in an enemy city, start rumors of government betrayal which begins dissent etc. As you can see there is a lot more to this game than fighting and in fact fighting is the least likely way in most cases to win campaigns without help from diplomats and espionage. Along with this the University building will allow you to advance technology quicker. One thing which stands out with this game is the amount of time it takes to build structures. It's not click here and two minutes later it's done, it's more like a few turns which again gives it a very Civilization feel. The same occurs with research.
When managing a city you have to make a few decisions about what to include. Initially a city is a small township with limited area to build required dwellings such as homes, farms and a barracks to train soldiers. As you upgrade the size of the town you get more space to add buildings such as Universities which aid your town by making the occupants more educated. Another thing you must manage is supplies of items such as food and metal. This is all done automatically without having to chop down a tree etc but it still must be managed and shows that perhaps the micromanagement has gone a little to far in this game. You will constantly be wondering if a city is working efficiently and when you begin to capture more and more, spend a lot of time managing cities rather then focusing on action.
The other side of the game, the action, is the more impressive aspect in our opinion. As we mentioned before this game is epic and this comment partly comes from the size of the battles. One of the more interesting aspects of the game is that you can't control troops once the battle begins. Before the battle you place them on the battlefield where they will get to the enemy quickly and easily, but after that you just have to watch. You can tell them to retreat or charge but you can't control units or squads during the battle. The engine for the game is quite impressive and the characters are 3D but don't expect high detailed characters that you would see in a game like Shogun. You can resolve the battles quickly by using the automatic fight option. The game doesn't seem to favor either way in terms of a more likely win which is great because not everyone wants to watch people hack themselves to bits over and over again.
You may be starting to wonder with our few criticisms why we liked the game so much and it's because despite the micromanagement involved it really is quite an accessible game. Of course when you first start you will most likely lose a few times and you do have to be patient but the interface and how you go about expanding your land is really what shines in the game. Everything has an icon on the interface with no multiple menus to go through just to find something and they are all fairly explanatory. Anyone could really pick out that the hourglass means end turn or that the sword icons mean attack. Another great aspect is the naval combat which can occur in the game and offers something pretty much unique to this title. The level design offers something fairly unique as well via four terrains which are more suitable to different armies.
The multiplayer, which the developers have included, has been built quite well. You can play the game in a mode called Always Active Multiplayer. Due to the turn based nature of the game there could have been a process by which the player had to wait for others to move. Instead you gain control of AI units if a battle ensues making sure that you're always involved in the game and not just waiting for ages. You can also save multiplayer games which is a great feature.
Gates of Troy is a great game which combines three of the most popular series around today; Civilization, Sim City and Command and Conquer. The fact you also get to check out some historical campaigns, especially the Trojan Horse, really improves the game to a level that makes it a great strategy title.