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Highland Warriors Review
game: Highland Warriors
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Data Becker
date posted: 09:10 AM Fri Apr 11th, 2003
last revision: 07:03 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

By Paul Cockeram

When Mel Gibson remade Braveheart as the American Revolution epic The Patriot, he did so because he understood that the freedom narrative holds a mythical poignancy for American audiences. It\'s no accident that the present administration is selling the war in Iraq as a battle for the freedom of oppressed Iraqi citizens. Freedom is a virtue regarded so highly in this country that we accept it unconditionally, embracing the good connotations of happiness, choice, and self-determinacy it conveys. Data Becker brings the story of freedom told by Braveheart to the video game format, and by the looks of things, they\'re depending on your love of freedom to sustain a whole lot of enthusiasm for a game that is otherwise utterly generic.

It\'s always disappointing to see video game producers falling into the sort of predictable tropism and formula production that has all but ruined Hollywood cinema. But Highland Warriors differs as much from any other RTS-like Microsoft\'s Age of Mythology, for instance-as The Fast and the Furious differed from its racing movie clones. Even the user interface in HW handles much like the one in AoM, except that players can zoom much further into the action so that the camera is level with the troops and every detail of every tree in every forest can be scrutinized.

On the other hand, the details of these trees aren\'t necessarily riveting, and much depends upon the power of your computer\'s processor and graphics card. But even the hardiest of gaming machines won\'t enable graphics any more spectacular than any other RTS on the market. In fact, HW is notoriously power hungry, taxing even the most respectable gaming machines down to stuttering camera pans and flagging frame rates. It\'s difficult to determine where all this computing power gets utilized. It\'s surely not in graphics or enemy AI, which comes off as lackluster at best. Sure a lot of battling soldiers will fit on the screen at one time, producing some worthwhile battle scenes, but the strategy in these battle scenes ends up feeling redundant, especially to experienced RTS players who are well acquainted with classic strategies like lining up infantry and sending the archers after them with a final wave of cavalry to clean up the mess. Also familiar is resource management, which works exactly the way you remember it-assign peasants to harvest stone or gold or ore to the warehouses, wheat or cattle or hares to the larders, lumber to the wood mills. One nice change is the ability to train peasants as master journeymen once they\'ve toiled long enough at a particular task, which enables them to perform that task much more quickly and keeps the resources flowing steadily into the stocks.

There are other touches like this, though all of them are too small or inconsequential to render HW unique, or even notable. One thing going for this game, however, is the aura produced by its setting. The Scottish people are a proud bunch with a fierce history of fighting for independence, and HW invokes this history to good effect. The game begins deep in Scotland\'s violent past, when clans waged war against one another for the beautiful mountain terrain and icy blue lochs of the highlands. Once in a while the clans forged loose alliances and battled the ancient race of barbarians known as the picts. The first campaign of HW has you uniting the clans under a single monarch and beating back the pictish menace. The subsequent three campaigns cover Scotland\'s battle for independence against the tyrannical English government, culminating in Robert the Bruce\'s victory for Scottish sovereignty (freeing the country to concentrate on perfecting the art of whisky making). The romance of Celts and kilts is augmented by Druids\' magic, which your armies can command as they gain more experience. Or if the noble conquest for freedom doesn\'t choke you up with emotion, you can play on the side of the English and try to keep the Scots under control. HW\'s story is sure to satisfy, and with four separate single player campaigns plus the option for multi-player mayhem, there\'s plenty of game play to be had, even if this game play will tend to feel a little familiar to fans of the genre. The cut scenes provide satisfying narrative to link the battle scenes. However, not many of the actual battles will prove very challenging, especially in light of the steady flow of resources and the massive, ever-reinforced armies they enable.

If you\'ve a passion for bagpipes and swords twice the size of the brutes who wield them, if you bought the special collector\'s edition of Braveheart and still get misty when Mel Gibson drops his wife\'s handkerchief to the floor of the torture platform, or if you\'re wearing a kilt as you read this, then Highland Warriors should provide enough Scottishness to give you pleasure. But veterans of the genre, or those seeking the thrill of the utterly new, would do better to enjoy their freedom by curling up with a biography of William Wallace and a nice glass of Talisker single malt.