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Reign of Swords: Episode II

For: iPhone

Getting mediaeval on your iPhone

Product: Reign of Swords: Episode II | Publisher: Punch Entertainment | Format: iPhone | Genre: Multiplayer, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.2
Reign of Swords: Episode II iPhone, thumbnail 1
Like many boys growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, I was rather fond of Lego. Among the different types that were around at the time - the pirates and the space stations - there was one variety that really captured my imagination: mediaeval.

It was the mixture of towering castles, armoured knights, crossbows and cavalry. Through those little bits of plastic, epic war was waged on a daily basis - until my Mum came in. Then the friendly knights were helping to take the horses to market.

As a clearly defined example of the various warring arts, though, the mediaeval period still stands out from the crowd. It’s why the makers of games like Reign of Swords continue to turn to the period as a setting for their games.

Whereas genre stable-mates such as Mecho Wars need to describe the role of each fantastical alien unit, we instinctively know what each Reign of Swords unit will be capable of. Perfect for a stripped back, no-nonsense strategy title.

Episode II continues directly from the popular original, with near identical gameplay and presentation. New to the package this time is a fresh eastern-tinged campaign, a smattering of new units and a much-improved multiplayer mode.

The game plays out very much like the aforementioned Mecho Wars and - in particular - the seminal Advance Wars series. You take it in turns to manoeuvre a selection of military units across each level, trying to engineer the best possible situation in which to engage the enemy.

This includes trying to use the most suitable units for the job (there’s no use sending crossbow wielding infantry in to engage a knight in close combat), flanking and - if possible - attacking from the cover of forests or houses.

Reign of Swords: Episode II wraps this simple-but-effective formula up in an entertaining (if rather short) campaign mode, which includes a nice variety of mission types. There are escort missions, siege scenarios and outright battles to contend with, prompting you to play right the way through to the conclusion of the story.

As mentioned, though, the main improvement here lies with the multiplayer mode. You can now play against a friend in real-time as well as the usual option to keep checking back to see if they’ve made a move (a bit like correspondence-chess).

The developer is promising push notification for a future update, which will improve things still further. Even as it stands, though, Reign of Swords: Episode II is a decent multiplayer experience and a definite step up from the original.

Sadly, there are other areas where improvement would have been welcome, but which have not been touched. Firstly, the controls still don’t quite feel like the finished article. It can be a real chore sometimes deselecting a unit so that you can, for example, look around. It just seems to take one touch too many.

It’s also irritating when you’ve sent a unit through a teleporter to have to scroll back to the rest of your army. When you’re sending multiple units through one at a time, the annoyance is multiplied.

The other area that needs improving is the presentation. I wouldn’t call Reign of Swords ugly, but it doesn’t leave the realm of functional. In fact, sometimes it fails on this account, too, with some of the infantry units looking far too similar to each other.

When you look at the visual panache of the likes of, again, Mecho Wars, you can’t help but feel that Reign of Swords: Episode II should have been a whole lot prettier.

Ultimately, though, these quibbles don’t stop it being top fun. It might be argued that players of the original will find this too familiar, but the option to import your army from the first game will provide considerable impetus to upgrade - as will the improved multiplayer mode.

If you’re new to the series, and are the sort that played with mediaeval Lego as a child rather than the spacy kind, this could be right up your street.
Reign of Swords: Episode II
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 8 August 2009
Mediaeval turn-based strategy with a compelling single player campaign and a much improved multiplayer element. It’s just a shame the graphics and controls didn’t receive the same level of attention
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