When I started Celtic Kings
up for the first time, I was interested in the epic art that wrapped around the title screen's background. It certainly sets the mood for a dark adventure from a moment in history two millennia ago: the Roman pursuit of the Gaul territory, under the rule of Julius Caesar.
Two important features of the game are its modes of play: Strategy and Adventure, and one could have a varying level of interest between the two. Strategy is your regular ''Defeat the Enemy!'' real-time strategy, while adventure is best described as a mix between the real-time strategy and role-playing genres.
So let's start with the obvious. Those who chose to build their own single player strategy campaigns will find some pleasant differences. Most noticeably, Celtic Kings puts more of an emphasis on battle than on civilization maintenance. In fact, the bases are already built for you at the beginning of each match. This actually brings interesting new tactics into the game, as war units can be produced more quickly than in the traditional ''build your own base'' RTS.
Not only that, but there are a few differences in how one can build his armies, which involves the developers' inclusion of a hero system (similar to the Warcraft series). Just one of these heroes is, as expected, worth more than one regular field unit. They are also suspect to experience gains and level increases. However you can also attach different groups of units to different heroes, which brings some powerful new methods in to play. Furthermore, one must merely select the hero and command him to attack somewhere, and he will likewise command his army.
Another great addition is that of attack formations. Ever been pissed off on other RTSs because your war units reach the enemies base in a single file line? Not anymore, just tell the hero which formation you would rather, and the units will immediately scramble to their appropriate spots. Just think, throw together three armies to three heroes and command them to attack your opponent from three different directions...sounds killer. There are a few AI issues. Among them, the computer seems to stay in its own territory when it obviously has the upper hand in an attack. If the match isn't going your way, just step out of the vicinity of the enemy's base and the opponents won't follow.
In my opinion, those looking for a title to suppress their role-playing appetite should go elsewhere. Not to say there aren't real-time strategies that were successfully merged with RPGs (can you say Warcraft?), but Celtic Kings: Rage of War falls short in a few important places. First of all, a premium factor for most role-players is that of a believable, and in many cases pitiful character. Sure this game has an okay plot, but as the story unfolds the objectives become rather unbelievable.
The story begins with Larax, a Celtic hero who begs for (and is finally granted) enormous strength by the goddess of war, in hopes of avenging his wife who was slain in a village attack by the Teutons. He soon meets a druid on the outskirts of his town that accompanies him on his journey. As the game progresses the hero is confronted with challenges in which he must prove himself. While the units are crisp, a bird's eye view of our hero Larax leaves too much to the imagination for my taste. Not only that, but he seems a tad unemotional and oblivious.
History buffs might be disappointed with the supernatural sprinklings and unhistorical figures from time to time. Of course heal-casting druids are cool, but come on guys! Such wrinkled members from the role-playing scene could have easily been done without, considering the other three realistically modeled sides (Celts, Romans, and Teutons).