Conversions from home console ports are increasingly commonplace in the mobile sphere thanks to the growing power of mobile chip technology, but most of these versions are cut-down shadows of their former selves – a way of forcing big brands onto the smaller screen.
Great Battle Medieval didn’t take the home consoles by storm when it was first released last year thanks partially to the fact that it’s a real-time strategy game (not the most popular genre on that system). It also saw a very limited release in shops.
So this new Motorola Xoom launch release is unique in that it’s both a chance to get the game played by a more receptive audience, and is arguably looking like the ideal platform to play it on thanks to the form factor of the Xoom and the tech inside it.
Taking place during the Hundred Years War between France and England, Great Battles Medieval gives prospective virtual generals the chance to relive historically accurate major battles on both sides of the conflict.
There are three game modes to choose from, including a full Campaign mode (unique to each side so you don’t end up repeating the same battle twice), Skirmish with customisable armies, and local wi-fi multiplayer.
Each Campaign mission is prefixed by a short introduction video supplied by the History Channel – complete with actors, voice overs, and all that jazz – setting the scene for the conflict to come and adding a bit more authenticity to proceedings.
Once in the battle starts, the look of the game is similar to that of the Total War series on the PC, with individual characters grouped into infantry, cavalry, and archers.
Controls seem deliberately designed for the touchscreen, despite their actual origins. Orders can only be issued when the game is paused and only to whole units at a time, which means there’s no faffing about with bounding boxes as the enemy tears your army to pieces.
Tapping once on the ground lays a contextual order (move on open areas, attack on an opposing unit), with waypoints simply activated by tapping elsewhere after an initial order.
There’s also a row of squad buttons for the larger battles, that allows for instant selection should you be in a rush to get things moving.
It’s when the action is unpaused when Great Battles really starts to utilise the power of the dual-core processor.
Every character animates asynchronously, meaning that when moving or fighting they all look like individual soldiers rather than one solid unit performing actions at the same time.
Blood clouds splatter away from bodies as blades strike their victims, hundreds of arrows pierce the sky, and cavalry thunder across the turf. When two large armies meet, it actually looks like two large armies, fighting to the death, rather than robots swinging swords in unison.
While we only had a short time with the game, it’s shaping up to be an impressively fully-functioned RTS. There are upgradable units, customisable uniforms, special battle cards like ‘Rotten Food’ that can swing a battle, a morale system, and a rock-paper-scissors feel that requires more tactical nous than simply running blindly at the enemy.
Great Battles Medieval will be available to download at launch of the Motorola Xoom.