Crown Wars: The Black Prince Preview
Assuming you didn’t entirely sleep through or skip your world history class, you’ve probably heard of the Hundred Years’ War. This century-long conflict began in the early 14th century with the death of the French king, Charles. His closest male relative was his nephew, Prince Edward of England. Eddie’s mom claimed the throne on behalf of her son, but the French had a problem with that. The Crown Wars: The Black Prince takes those early years of the conflict as its starting point.
An Alternative to History
If you’ve played Total War: Medieval 2, you’ve covered a little of this historical period in the form of a grand strategy game. But Crown Wars: The Black Prince goes in an entirely different direction. It’s a turn-based tactical strategy game with some RPG elements folded in. Instead of vast armies, you control a small party, picking away at the English forces in France.
Crown Wars: The Black Prince is built on pretty familiar mechanics. There is an overworld campaign map with branching paths from which you choose your next battle. There is a home base castle with seven unlockable buildings, including shops, a blacksmith, barracks, a chapel, a grand hall, and more. The real focus of the game is the squad-based combat.
The historical Hundred Years’ War was not as simple as “France vs. England.” Instead, it was a loose and sometimes uncomfortable alliance of families and territories on each side, fighting for supremacy. In The Crown Wars, you select from four families, each one with particular strengths, combat buffs, and vulnerabilities. Once you’ve chosen, you play out the campaign in that family.
No matter which family you choose, you pull your squad of fighters from seven classes. These are the usual medieval fantasy archetypes like archers, healers, heavy weapon users, and beastmasters. In my time with the game, I played in the family that gave extra points to the animal warriors and decimated my enemies with my ferocious black bear. Before each battle, you naturally have a chance to pick your squad, choose your weapons and consumables, and customize your characters. The Crown Wars departs pretty radically from history with its use of magic items. Or maybe I missed class the day they talked about knights throwing AOE destruction magic grenades.
Cover and elevation play an important role in combat, as does facing. Players have the usual movement and action points and in general, combat is easy to grasp and pretty intuitive. My biggest gripe was that the camera was less than precise and it was far too easy to end up with characters facing the wrong direction at the end of a move.
We’re still a ways out from the March 7 release date, so I expect some of the bugs and glitches I encountered in the demo will go away. The environments and short finishing move animations are well done but the character models in cut scenes are, as the kids say, pretty mid. I really liked the game’s music, which blended a bit of medieval color into an orchestral tapestry. The English voice acting is on the amateurish side and the interjections and responses in battle get repetitive.
Pre-release blemishes aside, Crown Wars: The Black Prince is still a game that fans of turn-based strategy games should keep their eyes on. What it lacks in triple-A production values it makes up for in engaging combat, interesting character classes, and lots of flexibility in approaching encounters. If I had known the Hundred Years’ War was so metal, I would have paid more attention in class.
Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.