E3 2001 Hands-onBattle Realms

The latest version of Liquid's Battle Realms looks and plays great.

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After covering the game and its clans for the last six months, we were finally able to sit down and actually play Liquid Entertainment's 3D real-time strategy game, Battle Realms. We were surprised to find how smooth the game runs and how clean the graphics look. Screenshots don't do Battle Realms any justice, since the game has to be seen in motion to be appreciated. Like many of the high-budget first-person shooters coming out, Battle Realms uses animation-blending technology to smooth the movement of all its units, so when a Wolf Clan mauler goes from a walk to a sprint, that action is done seamlessly without any snapping or jerkiness. Pathfinding has also been "smoothed," resulting in units that start changing direction well before they come upon an object in their path, rather than waiting until they bump into that object first before correcting their trajectory--a sour issue with some other RTS games.

Liquid President Ed Del Castillo gave us a demonstration of the game behind closed doors; however, Crave Entertainment had several stations with Battle Realms running on the show floor for all the public to see. While all four of the game's clans are done, our demonstration centered largely on the Dragon Clan. The first thing we noticed about Battle Realms is how large the units are and how robust the game's engine is. The game's units are all modeled with a high number of polygons, and the three environments are all extremely colorful and do a good job of presenting a sense of a living world. You'll often spot snakes scurrying between blades of grass, frogs jumping across tiny ponds, birds flying from tree to tree, and fireflies hovering around riverbanks. While it's still too early to pass judgement, it wouldn't be inaccurate to say that Battle Realms looks as good, if not better, than Blizzard's Warcraft III, a game that's been in development for much longer than Battle Realms.

Our demonstration focused on Kenji, the leader of the Dragon Clan, and a group of Dragon peasants. Del Castillo quickly built a peasant hut to produce more peasants, which he promptly put to work harvesting rice and fetching water. Soon thereafter, Del Castillo started construction on various training structures and shop buildings, and before we knew it, we had a veritable army of first-, second-, and even third-tier Dragon units, some of the most powerful units you'll be able to train in Battle Realms. Additionally--and this is something that we haven't covered in our previous clan profiles--you'll be able to build a hero's keep, from where you'll get to summon one of four heroes per clan. Depending on what clan you're playing with, these keeps will also produce ninjas or monks at a steady rate--Dragon and Wolf clan keeps produce monks, Serpent and Lotus clan keeps produce ninjas. Both ninjas and monks are very powerful, and they'll often be the last units standing at the end of a skirmish. Monks are excellent melee fighters, while ninjas are adept at sneaking around. In fact, when they're not attacking others, ninjas are completely invisible to every unit except for the monks.

We were also shown nearly all the Wolf, Serpent, and Lotus clan units, including the high-tier warriors and the rare heroes. The game is certainly coming along nicely, and from what we saw, it will certainly be one to look out for this year. Battle Realms is scheduled to ship in early October.

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