|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: World Forge||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: DreamCatcher Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 1, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8 (LAN)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
These days it's becoming harder and harder to discern one history-based ancient civilization real-time war strategy game from the next. Yes, there are a handful of superior titles out there, yet all too frequently the same old tired formula has been digested, retooled slightly, and then regurgitated back onto PCs ad nauseum with uninspiring results. Great War Nations: The Spartans is a shining example of this vicious cycle in PC gaming.
In developing The Spartans, it seems World Forge was hell-bent on making the game as close to last year's Ancient Wars: Sparta as humanly possible. On comparison, the similarities between the two titles are so close they might as well have slapped a big old "Ancient Wars: Sparta 2" on the box and been done with it. It's unclear whether the change in title was a strategic marketing move - Ancient Wars: Sparta was met with a lukewarm reception - or a genuine attempt to say; "this game may look the same, but it's somehow different honest." Indeed, there are some improvements to be found in The Spartans, but it's basically more of the same any way you look at it. Of course, let's set Ancient Wars: Sparta aside for the moment.
Great War Nations: The Spartans gives you control over the Spartan or Macedonian armies in a series of violent and gory conflicts revolving around aspirations of power set in the Bronze Age. There's a separate, seven-mission campaign for each of the two races that offers some variation in story and units. You can also play as the Egyptians or Persians in multiplayer or custom maps. Much of the story involves armies of burly, sweaty men flexing their manly muscles and thrashing on their adversaries to show everyone who's shorts are bigger, but that's not atypical in war is it? The gameplay is a little more elaborate than that; but success in each mission is basically a matter of gathering the needed resources, amassing a sizeable army, and stomping your opponents' teeth into the ground with brute force. That said, The Spartans does put some interesting concepts in play that seem out of place (in a good way) in an otherwise generic RTS framework.
The game's piecemeal approach to unit construction gives you a surprising level of control over how you'll raise your army and stock each soldier. You'll start with a basic warrior template that can be equipped with specific weapons and shields, depending on what level of forging you've researched or the kinds of items scavenged from battle. Once you've created a few different hand-picked presets, you can simply click on the building and select them for training at any time. Slaves can be sent out to gather weapons from fallen foes, which allows you to stock your armies faster and at a cheaper price, but the collection process is tedious and basically unnecessary beyond the early portion of a mission.