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

Lionheart: King’s Crusade is a new real time strategy with a twist from the developers at Neocore Games, at heart it is very much like the popular Total War Series, but with a role-playing level-up system on the side. Set during the Third Crusade (1189-1192) you have the option of playing the Crusaders, or the lesser played Saracens and lead either to victory.

Rather than capture complete historic accuracy, Lionheart: King’s Crusade allows you to fight fate and change history as we know it with the Saracen campaign, so we gave Lionheart: King’s Crusade a good play to see if it really does contend with most real time strategy titles.

The Saracen begin their campaign in Baghdad at the hands of defeat, the crusaders have recently captured the city, and it is up to you with Saladin in your lead to sneak into Baghdad at night and recapture it in the name of the Saracen, a lot of the missions in the campaign are exactly that, reclaiming cities that were taken from them by the Crusaders. You will fight for the likes of Al Jazira, Damascus, Asia Minor and Jordon to defeat the foreign invaders of your beautiful country.

The missions range from capturing cities (flags) with your current army, from defensive missions that require you to lay traps and towers to defend your position against a horde of Crusaders. The battles function like Total War and the army that you begin a battle with are absolute, unless there happens to be reinforcements at the region you are taking, making Lionheart more Real-Time-Tactics and less Real-Time-Strategy. Most campaign missions are episodic and contain several different objectives where occasionally a pre-battle setup is integral for the strategic placing of artillery, traps and your units, but unlike Total War Lionheart relies intently on real time strategy with no turn based segments.

Each Saracen unit type have their own specific traits, and perform well in certain situations, the type of terrain that they are fighting on, or even the weather and time of day can affect the effectiveness of units in battle. The unique role-playing quality of Lionheart: King’s Crusade also affects units, and allows you to level up each and every unit of your army as well as your leaders, these are levelled via your standard abilities, such as attack, defence, morale, stamina and archery skills, with specific units such as Seljuk Archers and Swordsmen, Turk Bowmen, native Saracen Horsemen and Abbasid Horsemen to name a few, the Saracen army are comprised of many effective units that you will come to rely on in the heat of battle, and must be used tactically if they are to perform properly.

As well as levelling your units via experience gained through battle throughout the campaign you will also pick up items that your units will be able to utilize, and unique faith items that your leader can equip to increase the morale of your religiously devout army. Customising your units also allows you to ‘upgrade’ them with purchasable upgrades in defence, offence, their own personal healer that will increase lost numbers at the end of battle, a Captain that will give units the strength of a hero, and an Imam that will keep their morale high.

The fine line between winning a battle and losing in Lionheart will come down to the ever important level of morale which dictates whether or not your enemy will weaken as the battle is fought, or whether your own units will flee for fear of death, generally the Saracen are fearless and you will find that your Crusader enemies will flee from most battles as your blood thirsty units reign vengeance upon them, however it is not impossible to get your units so tired, leading to a drop in morale that you will have your units running away in fear.

Lionheart: King’s Crusade runs from a base map screen, much like the Total War Series where you are able to recruit, upgrade and rest your army, this is where you will level-up your units and leaders, as well as research developments, and choose what items you would like to equip. From here you choose which battles you wish to take part in next, and the map generally acts as an important port of call in between missions.

Lionheart: King’s Crusade is looking to be a great real time strategy from the side of the Saracen, and although many will complain that it is simply an inferior Total War, you only need look inside to the role-playing elements and you will find a far greater game, where your units are not just figures, and who knows, maybe the Saracen will win after all.

Lionheart: King’s Crusade is available October 8th for Windows, check back soon for a look at the Crusaders campaign and the scenario mode.