Warlords: Battlecry is a promising fusion of Heroes of Might and Magic III and Warcraft II. Like the former, you create a hero and select the race of the army you control. Your hero gains experience with each victory, and you select the character trait that will increase once your hero gains a level. In battle, Warlords plays just like Warcraft II. You train workers, build buildings, recruit units, research upgrades, and then send out a large number of troops to kill the enemy. Similarly, strategy revolves around the micromanagement of your units, as most have melee attacks and are only effective in large numbers.
Although SSI has not yet perfected the gameplay or developed the storyline, it has created nine unique races and provided great voice acting for the units. The designers also have good ideas on how to make gameplay more interesting. Specifically, SSI lets your heroes and unique characters fight in multiplayer. However, your hero is only effective in combat after reaching a high level and will undoubtedly be the primary target for opposing human players. Nevertheless, the hero feature would be good in letting players create their own multiplayer identity.
The designers are also automating the resource gathering so the number of mines you control determines your income rate. Workers function inside the mines, thereby minimizing the overused tactic of peon-killing. However this idea is not currently handled well because a mine can easily be destroyed with your workers inside. In addition, the designers will provide an option that lets a player select his starting units. This provides flexibility in the early game, which is often dominated by rushes. If you believe you are going to be rushed, you can select units that protect you. If you want to rush, you can select the appropriate units as well. If no one plans to attack early, you can select workers.
Warlords' storyline is the weakest aspect in the alpha version. The tutorial is obviously incomplete, and the single-player missions lack excitement. There are no in-between videos, so going in and out of a mission is anticlimactic. However, SSI could very well change that as the game continues its development. Currently, the hero characters do not converse in the game, so if the designers want to make us understand the hero's motivations and personalities, they will definitely need to remedy that omission. The briefing is always to the point, making the campaign feel laborious. Again, such voice-overs and briefings could very well be incomplete. The early missions don't currently show a lot of variety and usually just involve killing people that get in your way. The graphics likewise look as though they are still in the development stage.
The most important issues SSI will need to address in the beta are game balance and the storyline. Nearly as important will be refining the campaign, missions, and graphics. The game is currently slated for a spring 2000 release. As we play more of the game, we'll bring you a more in-depth preview.