Sparta: Ancient War Impressions

Russian developer WorldForge has been hard at work on this historical real-time strategy title, and we got the first look at the fruits of its labour.

by

Sparta: Ancient Wars has been in development for two years now, but very little of the game has been seen so far. WorldForge skipped an appearance at the recent Leipzig Games Convention in order to focus on the finishing touches for its real-time strategy game, and while it still hopes to make the Q4 2006 release date, the developer admits that polishing the game may push it back to Q1 2007. Still, the game looks to be shaping up nicely, and thanks to a recent visit from publisher PlayLogic, we were lucky enough to see the game in action firsthand.

Set in the years 500 to 300 BC, Sparta lets you play as three different races, each with diverse abilities and strengths. The Persians are able to use animals such as war elephants, camels, and horses on the battlefield. Spartans are particularly strong warriors and are excellent in hand-to-hand combat. And the Egyptians have a cast of exotic characters, such as a priest that can train panthers to attack the enemy and women who can spray venom clouds over the battlefield.

Charge at your enemies with horses and they'll be sent flying backwards.

The development team took inspiration from Blizzard's iconic strategy game StarCraft when balancing out these three races. While you'll have to play as all three to complete the game, their individual strengths mean that different races will suit different playing styles. For example, Persians are able to heal their warriors very early on in the game, whereas Spartans have to wait until their research has progressed sufficiently in order to nurse people. On the other hand, the Spartans have access to better combat facilities and are able to utilise horses much earlier than the Persians.

As the game is set in ancient times, warriors have primitive weaponry. Sparta takes an interesting approach to character classes, allowing players to select from three levels of armoured warriors. These soldiers can then be equipped with a mix of short- and long-range weapons. While it's expensive to create a warrior with both a sword for short-range and a bow for long-range, it will allow them to be more efficient on the battlefield. These warriors are not completely automated, as you will need to tell them to change weapons as needed, but they are more likely to survive than those with only one weapon. If you choose to create a separate set of archers and a set of swordsmen, it will work out to be cheaper, but they may be caught by the enemy.

Soldiers can be given three levels of armour and equipped with long and short-range weaponry.

Thanks to the physics of the custom-built Ancient War engine, soldiers are pretty fragile creatures against the environmental damage they might incur. You have the ability to build traps such as falling rocks at the top of a hill, and if you try destroying your enemy's forts, the debris that drops will hurt any nearby soldiers. There's also interplay between wind and fire. If two farms are built in close proximity and one catches fire, the blaze will spread from building to building. Likewise, tailwind and backwind will really affect the way you can use your ships, and if you are able to sail a ship alongside an enemy vessel, your warriors can jump across and fight man-to-man. The Ancient War engine is also used to produce cutscenes between missions that will drive the story forward.

While some of the mild magic powers are obviously fictional, Sparta is fairly true to its historical origins. A constant supply of soldiers existed at the time of the Spartans, so the game opts to place tactical restrictions based on food, gold, and building materials instead. While you can easily increase the amount of warriors in your army, you have to make sure that you have farms to feed them and gold to buy them equipment. If your food rations become depleted, your men will slowly starve and lose energy. And if you don't have the weapons to put up a strong fight in battle, enemies will soon overthrow you, advance to your buildings, and start tearing them down.

Enemies will set use fire against you, and blazes can spread to other buildings in proximity.

In Sparta, workers and warriors are split into two distinct teams. Warriors will go out and fight enemies, but it's the worker's job to keep them fed by tending the farms. The workers are also able to collect armour and weapons from fallen enemies, so that they can be used to equip your own army at a later stage. Your workers can be used to move catapults and other projectile weapons when your army is fighting hand-to-hand, but their weakness is that they are incredibly vulnerable to enemy attacks.

While the 10 to 12 missions for each of the three tribes should result in a 20- to 30-hour game, Sparta also includes a multiplayer element. The game supports LAN and Internet play through GameSpy's online service, so you will be able to find international online games with other players. Currently, there are 10 multiplayer skirmish maps for up to eight different players, although the developer hopes to have more maps in the game in time for release. There will also be an online ladder system to help players match up with people with similar abilities and fighting styles.

Clearly, the focus behind Sparta was to create a game that would improve on the best parts of the RTS genre, rather than creating anything revolutionary. At this stage, it seems to be a refined and balanced strategy game that will appeal to Age of Empires fans and those with a penchant for old-fashioned, hand-to-hand combat. The game looks polished, and with a few more months of refinement, it will be an interesting proposition for strategy enthusiasts. We'll bring you more information on the game in the run-up to its release.

Discussion

32 comments
dx900
dx900

Wow! That new game engine looks interesting. I love age of empires so cant wait to read the review for this one. Hope the game is not broken and full of bugs when they release it, like Medieval 2 total war, which i am playing now.

rrts
rrts

AAAAA juhu At last one game of mine stile. I hope that it will be more of dose kind of games in the future.

zormark994
zormark994

Ehm well it looks good. It´s just that some thing in the game is making me angry. Oh yeah now I remember. it´s a copy of the game "Rise and fall civilization at war" only better. if they put in the hero mode on it and make it more balance instead of stamina it would kick ass. The part that´s making me angry is that I **** bought the Rise and fall game for 2 days ago. It cost me 50£ and I have **** forgot my purse on the buss with the Contract that shows I have bought it so I can´t return it !

pauldarkside
pauldarkside

Good timimg bringing this out around Frank Miller's 300. I'm impressed with the visuals so far - hopefully they'll release a demo soon :-)

KingKoop
KingKoop

KINDA REMINDS ME ON THE 300

Mehfuz
Mehfuz

going to be an awesome game

danny_323
danny_323

sounds good, hope its all that it seams

Col-Neil
Col-Neil

Well unlike other ppl im waiting to see if this game will be good or not

Bruno-K
Bruno-K

Hope these axes are egyptian-picked weapons... or... this game sucks

mitsoulas
mitsoulas

i think is very good, ill wait for it! spartans own all the races

wuzgar
wuzgar

I'll try to remain optimistic about this one

Lord_Bedwyr
Lord_Bedwyr

umm yeah ... spartans with giant axes ... this games officially retarded.

jwalker9876
jwalker9876

looks like its gonna be good. can't wait for the demo

cmhiggy
cmhiggy

based on the graphics pictured it looks great but looks can be deceptive other games have looked good but played bad so it will be interesting to see the balance

hrah
hrah

if it is as good on gameplay as it is on graphics, then its gonna be great !!!

captainspork87
captainspork87

Im looking forward to seeing how the game plays.....Be waiting for the demo....

7004560
7004560

it looks pretty good, eye candy wise atleast. hope it turns out ok :D after playing so much totalwar series games though (cant wait for mtw2!! :D), saw the screenshots and it sort of didn't have that massive battle feelng for me, but yes i read they had to place the food limit i think thing they mentioned correct me if im wrong. anyway looking ok game so far.

pathock3
pathock3

i agree with alijib. could be good, so i hope they dont screw it up. gamespot says q3, so it should come out this much, but we still dont know much, so its release should be interesting. i hope they can make it different from similar games like rome total war.

alijib
alijib

Sounds Impressive,Lets see , how it turns out to.

_Sam_
_Sam_

I hope they make a good game

dygel
dygel

I stopped paying attention after the second paragraph, where the Egyptians were introduced as a playable race. That might be totally interesting to people who haven't studied any history. To those of us that have, that automatically renders this game as another pointless RTF mishap of reality. Why not just throw the Romans in the mix and call it a day, huh? Or just give up the historical angle and make a worthwhile fictional RTF? =P P.S. Spartacus was a Roman slave, kkthx.

jonny32
jonny32

rta,spartacus has nothing to do with sparta....

rta
rta

can i be spartacus?

captainspork87
captainspork87

Looks very impressive....I'll be monitoring this game..:)

danyjr
danyjr

looks promising. Persians for the win! :)

roemin
roemin

can't wait for it!

TintedChimes
TintedChimes

Nice, it'll probably complement 300 the movie pretty well.

coolcon2000
coolcon2000

Lookin good, nice gameplay. Better than AOE, hmmm, might be.....