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Great Battles Medieval

For: iPad   Also on: Android
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The Hundred Seconds War

Product: Great Battles Medieval | Developer: War Drum Studios | Publisher: Slitherine Software | Format: iPad | Genre: Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Great Battles Medieval iPad, thumbnail 1
As a period piece, there's much to like in Great Battles Medieval, which documents the Hundred Years War between England and France.

As a game, there's rather less to praise it for – this is a lightweight historical strategy that might feel at home on a mobile platform but which can't compete with the giants of the genre.

"Wars take spark for reasons many", we're told in one of the live action story sequences that precede each skirmish, in a line that says much about the game itself. It's a historical recreation that takes itself very seriously indeed, right down to the olde worlde language.

As a History Channel production, that's hardly surprising, and these scenes are nicely produced, even if the picture quality is lacking. They offer sufficient narrative motivation for the battles that follow without overstaying their welcome.

Fighte! Fighte! Fighte!

Once you're into the fray, you'll quickly grow accustomed to a smart, accessible, and intuitive control scheme that simply sees you tap a unit and a destination to move there. Tap an enemy squad and your group will charge into battle.

Combat is governed by a number of variables, including the strength of your units, the weapons and armour they're carrying, and the territory they occupy. Archers won't be particularly useful against shielded units protected by a forest, for example, but if your enemy has left a squad of foot knights on open ground they're sitting ducks for a volley of arrows.

You can drop battle cards onto the field as temporary buffs (so the game isn't a complete stickler for historical accuracy, then). There are plenty of these to unlock, but it's easy to stick with the basic battle cry, which gives you a brief attack boost, which is usually enough to quickly defeat a particularly troublesome enemy unit.

No time for heroes

Sadly, while it's a good job the Hundred Years War isn't recreated in real time, Slitherine has gone too far the other way, with battles often over in the blink of an eye.

If a unit is being overwhelmed, it's almost impossible to change tactics – he'll retreat automatically if morale falls too low, but usually he'll be hacked down as they flee.

You could argue that it's more authentic for forcing you to commit to a battle plan, but without pausing regularly to refresh and read just your strategies you've little chance of success - particularly given the steep difficulty curve.

You can always grind for experience, but that's hardly the most elegant solution in a game that claims to prize tactical ingenuity rather than overwhelming force.

There's satisfaction in pulling off a successful flanking manoeuvre, which can wreak havoc upon your opponent's morale, but such opportunities are all too rare given how often you face uneven odds.

Battle scarred

Such failings would be less of an issue if the combat wasn't so tedious to watch. Great Battles Medieval is an ugly game, with units awkwardly clashing in a manner that doesn't so much suggest a mighty conflict as handbags at 12 paces.

If you're desperate to engage in a bit of historical warfare you may be able to forgive these flaws, but for our money you'd be better off with one of the many better strategy games on iOS.
Great Battles Medieval
Reviewer photo
Chris Schilling | 3 July 2013
Great Battles Medieval has history and accessibility on its side, but in the end its weak points are too visible to stand up to stronger opposition.
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