A preview of the Crusaders in Lionheart: King's Crusade

We've fought long and hard as the Saracen, but now our attention turns to the more popular winners of the Crusades, not to mention the far more popularised Christian army that reigned terror upon the Muslim-controlled Middle East in an attempt to recapture the Holy Land for Christian control.

Much like the Saracen, the Crusaders’ ideals are based strongly in faith and religion; however the way that you handle faith to control your army is slightly different for the Crusaders. With Richard the Lionheart in your stead you will have the option of sending religious relics to the Papal Court for religious favour. However just as you do in the Saracen campaign, you will level your units via experience gained through battle. Units can be customised in the same way that the Saracen can with upgrades, obviously rather than Imam's you will employ Priests, however Healers and Captains remain consistent to keep the numbers of your units up and increase the strength of your units.

Each Crusader unit has their own specific traits, and much like the Saracen, every unit will perform better in certain situations, one type of unit may fight extremely well in fog, or the dead of night, however another will only be effective during the day on hard terrain. Each unit can be levelled via your standard abilities, such as attack, defence, morale, stamina and archery skills, with specific units such as the Chevaliers, Templar’s, Crusaders, Pilgrims and Langschilde to name but a few, the Crusaders rely on the raw power of the stronger units, and excel in their Calvary who you will come to rely on in battle, however as it is proven in the Saracen campaign, you only need the tactical prowess of a leader in order to succeed with low numbers.

Unique to the Crusader campaign is the principal of Factions, which you will ally with throughout the game. The Crusaders are a rag tag bunch strewn together from various regions of Europe and so you will find that certain factions of the army will have their own agendas, as well as conflicting interests. You may find that your own interests agree with that of the French Factions, however you prefer the perks of harmonizing with the Holy Roman Empire. On top of that you can also please the Templars and the Papal Court, regardless of our alliances whomever you satisfy will unlock unique units, increase your money or standings as well as give you general benefit. Much like the Saracen upgrade tree, Factions are inherent to creating a strong army, and you will not fare well if you do not appease at least one.

The most interesting use of the four Factions can be found before the start of each battle, where you may find that certain Factions will propose specified plans of action on battles, and you are given the option to side with whichever Faction you see fit, each decision will increase your standing with said Faction as well as lead to different victory conditions and bonuses from the end of battle, adding a dash of variety to the game with each judgment that you make.

It is certainly clear that the Crusaders campaign is generally favoured far more than that of the Saracen in most gamers’ eyes, however whether this makes them a better army is the true question, and one that cannot be answered without a test of strength, a perfect example of which can be taken from the simple Scenario mode present in Lionheart: King’s Crusade.

Alongside the two campaigns, is the Scenario mode, which rather than the game suggests is actually more of a Skirmish mode, allowing you to start up quick games for instant satisfaction. The two types of scenario available are Tactical or Free-For-All, tactical places the fate of the game with your ability to capture victory points, and free-for-all literally relies on your ability to decimate your enemy.

Lionheart: King's Crusade simplifies your standard Skirmish mode, whilst also enhancing the experience through the excellent RPG levelling system that the game thrives on; plus with the choice of six different maps and the option for yourself and your enemy to play as either the Crusaders or the Saracen, the world is your oyster. Whether you wish to build a super army of Chevaliers, or wish for a difficult challenge the Scenarios are perfect for honing your tactical skills.

Lionheart: King’s Crusade is available October 8th for Windows, check back soon for our review of the game, to see what we make of it all, not to mention how the multiplayer fares.