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Great War Nations: The Spartans

Score: 65%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: DreamCatcher Interactive
Developer: DreamCatcher Interactive
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 8 (LAN)
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Generally speaking, Great War Nations: The Spartans looks and sounds really good. Units are brightly colored and feature a number of little standout details like shield symbols. This level of detail really plays into the game's strongest suit, the ability to edit which items each of your units march into the battlefield with. The animation is smooth; units react rather well to their surroundings and battles tend to look pretty good. Except for the rare instances where there are large numbers of units on screen at once, the framerate is solid.

Music has a nice deep, war time tone to it that really helps to convey the mood the game is trying to produce. This blends well with the other battlefield sounds, which actually make some battles feel a little more vicious that they probably are. The only item that is likely to annoy anyone is the voicework. While not horrible, most of the voicework is a bit over-the-top in some areas. It isn't enough to ruin the presentation, though it will cause you to wince once or twice.


The single-player side of Great War Nations: The Spartans is split between two nations, the Spartans and the Macedonians. Yes, even though the game seems to build itself off the Spartans' good name, you spend just as much time playing as a completely unrelated nation. Although each offers slightly different units, both campaigns play out in the same exact way - destroy the other guy before he destroys you. The only thing that sets The Spartans apart from numerous other RTS games on the market is its unhealthy fixation on micromanagement. A little micromanagement is expected, though The Spartans goes a little overboard with the concept. In order to make cavalry units, you need to first train up the soldier, then train the horse and "merge" the two; the end result is just another generic cavalry unit with extra work. Granted, it adds a dose of realism, but it doesn't add anything to the game, so why bother?

One of the better aspects of The Spartans is the ability to create your own custom units. All of your fighting units have slots that can be filled with custom weapon load outs. This creates a neat dynamic since players can pump out a bunch of soldiers armed with relatively primitive weapons or take the time to research more advanced weapons. You can even assign multiple weapons to units, adding some flexibility to on-field tactics. The concept is pushed even further by the ability to salvage weapons from slain enemies and incorporate their weapons into your own arsenal. Even if you suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of a more advanced army, there is still a possibility to salvage their hard-researched weapons and gain an advantage.

Aside from the auto-collect option not working as advertised (more later), the system is held back by the bland mission structure and gameplay. While it is fun to play around with the system, the game doesn't take advantage of it in any major way unless you "play" like it matters - which it really doesn't. It rarely takes more than a mob of low-level troops to give you an advantage in battle.


Path-finding is Great War Nations: The Spartans' worst enemy. Even the easiest of movement orders somehow manage to become incredibly complicated. Units will move out of formation, take the longest possible route or outright refuse to move. It's hard to know where to begin when it comes to describing the number of problems this introduces into strategies. It is entirely possible to completely lose battles because someone didn't stay in line, especially when you're using more complex units that can switch weapons. It isn't much fun to lose a battle because of an A.I. flaw.

Another major difference between missions is the level of technology you're allow to have. It's not uncommon to have to unlock new technology as your progress through the game, but in The Spartans, you'll unlock something in one mission only to have it completely locked out in the next without much explanation as to why. All this succeeds in doing is placing arbitrary constraints on missions; almost as if it is trying to cover for some other A.I. deficiency.

Game Mechanics:

Great War Nations: The Spartans places a lot of arbitrary limitations that hinder gameplay. In addition to being locked out of certain items and abilities in certain missions, you also have to manually order your units to switch between weapons. The actual command isn't overly difficult, though it seems unnecessary. I can't picture a commander yelling to his troops to switch from bows to swords because the enemy is a foot away, so why not just allow them to automatically switch?

Troop formations are equally useless, mostly because of the terrible path-finding. Again, it isn't uncommon to see troops break formation and begin wandering off on their own. Sometimes they'll even attack completely different units than the one they're assigned to go after, which can kill strategy if you don't babysit your troops every step of the way.

The Spartans' only standout feature, the ability to loot the battlefield, is also hampered by a useless mechanic. You can't just send someone out to gather items from the field; instead you have to manually choose what to grab. Think of it as a monotonous version of item collection in Diablo.

Great War Nations: The Spartans is recommended only if you're the type of RTS player who feels the need to control every little aspect of their army. Otherwise, this is a battle you can sit out.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 2000/XP; 2.4 Pentium 4 GHz or greater; 512 MB of RAM; 8X or faster CD/DVD drive; 4 GB of disk space; 128 MB Video Card; Direct X 9.0c

Test System:

Windows Vista; 1.6 GHz Dual-Core processor; 2 Gig RAM; DVD drive; 120 GB HDD; GeForce Go7600

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