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    Hundred Swords
    Author: Drew Lanclos
    Date Posted: March 22nd, 2002
    SLRating: SLRating: 7.5/10
    Bottom Line: A very fun experience for only $20, but it leaves you wanting more story, more improvements, more jewel cases, and more hard disk space.

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    Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6
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    The style of Hundred Swords will be somewhat familiar to Warcraft III players, as Hundred Swords focuses less on amassing armies and more on strategic management of those armies. Instead of the usual "power overwhelming" technique, you'll actually have to employ some tactics in battle, as you don't have direct control over your troops.

    Hundred Swords will actually have you dealing with small groups of fighters, each under control of a particular commander. Each commander will have his own class of units to recruit, and so generally you'll have a commander of cavalry soldiers, a commander of mages, etc. You can reassign troops between individual commanders if you see fit,

    but the differences in movement speed and the difficulty/annoyance in doing this rarely makes it worth the effort.

    The problem lies with some difficult control choices that Sega had to make with the game. Generally speaking, the control style is the same as a Blizzard game - Left click selects, right click assigns context-sensitive orders. Since the emphasis lies with controlling the commanders instead of the individual troops, the game goes out of the way to ensure that you select your commander. If you click on one of his/her assigned troops, the game interprets that as a selection of the commander. If you want to select an individual unit (for whatever reason), you'll need to actually hold the mouse button down and draw a capture box around the unit/units you want to control.

    The game's style tries to make it so that you don't need to select individual units, but unfortunately, the very poor pathing AI the game exhibits often forces you to either manually direct some of the units, or to set very strict waypoints for them in hopes that they'll manage to work their way around the obstacles. It's a shame that the pathing AI works in such a way, because the enemy AI is uniquely designed. I've seen the computer employ any number of different tactics, such as a two- or three-pronged attack, a hit-and-run, or a chicken defense. I can't recall seeing Starcraft or Red Alert 2 do that...

    To further develop the commander-style play scheme, your characters will develop stats and skills as they level up, which helps to differentiate them. You may have two infantry commanders, for instance, but one of them may know the Formation skill, whereas the other knows the Defend skill. Skills are special command assignments that instruct your commanders to perform a particular task. For instance, with Defend, your troops will stand their ground against the enemy, while other skills will have your commanders chase and hunt every single enemy down they run across. These can help diversify and strengthen your gameplay - I went on largely without it.

    Hundred Swords doesn't focus as much on structure building as many other RTS games do. You primarily only deal with four structures: Your command headquarters, barracks, dragon steel pits, and dragon oil pits. Instead of the traditional gold and timber, Hundred Swords will have you mining dragon steel and dragon oil for use in your ventures. Dragon steel is primarily used in unit recruiting, whereas dragon oil is used more for advanced units and structure building/upgrades. Really, however, resource management and structure building will take a backseat to army management - You'll generally have enough resources from the outset to recruit your first few waves of troops.

    Frequently, you'll find yourself haunting your barracks. Barracks not only offer recruiting opportunities, but also healing for your commanders. Your commanders generally have around four times the hit points of your soldiers, and since they directly influence the actions of your soldiers as a group, it's important to keep them healthy. Since Hundred Swords doesn't force you to build within proximity of your headquarters, you can theoretically build a barracks on the edge of the frontier, and use it to send legions of troops in to harass your opponents. This is generally an unsafe tactic, however, since there is no fog of war to obscure your devious actions, and thus you're not likely to get the barracks built, let alone keep it for long.

    Finally, you receive items after each successful battle depending on your performance. Each battle is prefaced with a description offering useful battle tactics and outlining the specific factors the game will score to determine your rank for each battle. The Shells, as they're called, appear to be commander-only equippable items such as weapons and armor, but they're just special "spells", if you will, that can be periodically used to aid your troops. For instance, Blazing Arrow grants the archers under the command of the wielder a strong flame arrow attack for a short period of time. Shells drain Shell Points, which are recharged slowly as you fight battles. Stronger Shells will use up more SP levels, so they're almost like Super Combos in Street Fighter. Perform more attacks, and you'll be able to use the Shells more often.

    Personally, I'm kind of sitting on the fence as far as the pre-battle warmup goes. It's nice to have the situation analyzed as it is, but generally, the tactics demonstrated aren't tactics so much as specific recommendations on what to do and what not to do. Quite a few of them will have you smacking your head in disgust if you've played an RTS before. "Archers on a cliffside have a height advantage and defense against ground troops below the cliff." Really? I'm glad they told me...because I'd have never figured it out on my own...

    One last note - The gameplay *is* changed from the original Japanese version. In the Japanese version, instead of the regular plot progression, you actually were supposed to pick dialogue choices through the game. These choices wouldn't really alter the flow of the story, but the choices you make will boost your leader's skills in one way or another. Make decisions that are in line of those a king would make, and your ability to control more troops at once would go up. Make decisions relevant to the man and not the kingdom, and your own personal stats would go up. This gameplay mechanic, similar to the Sakura Taisen game series (also from Sega), is rarely seen in American games outside of RPGs, and it would have made a very interesting twist on this RTS.

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    1. Introduction
    2. Gameplay
    3. Plot/Presentation
    4. Graphics/Sound
    5. Considerations
    6. Pros & Cons/Conclusion

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