Sunday, August 14, 2005

Crown of Glory: Europe in the Age of Napoleon Review

Crown of Glory: Europe in the Age of Napoleon PC, developed by Western Civilization Software and published by Matrix Games.
The Good: Detailed, empire-builder and military sim, both quick and detailed combat available
The Not So Good: Old graphics, slow pace, somewhat unmanageable
What say you? A combination of classic wargame and empire management that doesn’t have enough elegance: 5/8

In general, there are two types of wargames for the turn-based aficionado: managing a world empire, or conducting small-scale, strategic battles. There have been eminent games in both genres (Paradox’s Europa Universalis and SSG’s Korsun Pocket, respectively) against which all others are judged. Crown of Glory attempts to combine the best of both worlds, combining those two elements in a game set during Napoleon’s quest of Europe.

The graphics in Crown of Glory is standard for wargames, which means primitive and mundane. The strategic map tries to be an artful rendition of Europe, but ends up being of lower quality (and somewhat more confusing) than comparable offerings, such as Europa/Hearts of Iron. The detailed combat screen is a plain 2-D hex map with some features such as cities, rivers, and the like. Again, Crown of Glory won’t wow you with graphical glory. It is strange, therefore, to see Crown of Glory really chugging on a computer that can handle Battlefield 2 on medium-high settings. I’m not sure what all the CPU cycles and RAM are going towards, but the game sure is lethargic. The background music is appropriate for the time period of the game, and the sound in the game is the most very bare collection of guns firing and horses galloping.

The game consists of playing several different scenarios, all of which start in a different year and have slightly altered starting conditions. You can choose to play as one of eight countries (France, Britain, Sweden, Prussia, Austria, Russia, Turkey, and Spain), although there are smaller countries that can be taken over…BY FORCE. Most will play against the AI in a local game, but you can also play remote games over a LAN or a known IP (no browser or game finder) or using play-by-e-mail (PBEM). The object of the game is to try to get the most glory, by winning battles, conquering countries, having high morale or culture, or making alliances. For each game, you can set the overall difficulty (though some is inherit in which country you pick), the game length, and the amount of glory required to win. Each turn during the game takes place in two phases. During Order Phase, can move troops, send diplomats, and deal with provinces. Afterwards, units are moved in increments, and battles are fought.

The game map is divided into provinces, each with specific properties. Each province is a source of resources of varying quantities. Men for your fighting armies are recruited from each province, and you collect the resources you need to produce weapons and maintain a happy population. Each province has a forage size, which is the maximum army size it can support without additional supply units. You can increase the forage value of a province by building a supply depot in a newly acquired territory. There are nine areas of development in each province, and choosing to upgrade each particular area provides different bonuses. Guns and walls protect cities during sieges, roads increase the maximum population and faster travel, barracks build better units, banks increase monetary output, culture keeps your population happy, farms increase food production, factories produce artillery and labor production, courts produce diplomats, and docks build better ships. Each province also has an attitude toward different countries and trade routes that can be displayed in the main map.

There are four main areas of controlling your country, each of which is controllable through the use of your advisors. You can choose any of these advisors to be completely controlled by the AI, so you can concentrate on other areas. Your economic advisor controls tax rate, federal dues (from nobility), welfare rate, military readiness, draft age, trade, and borrowing money. The development advisor is responsible for labor allocation to produce developments, military units, wood, iron, textiles, agriculture, and luxuries. The military advisor is where you can control and organize all your loyal troops. The diplomatic advisor maintains relations with foreign countries, forging treaties on your way to becoming an empire to be reckoned with.

Men are initially organized into divisions, which can be arranged into corps and armies. Leaders can be assigned to groups, and new commanders may be promoted after large victories. When armies collide, there are two methods of combat available to you: quick and detailed. In quick combat, units are placed on a checkerboard in either charge, attack, defend, or routed positions, and then engage in battle. It’s a simple method that works much more quickly than detailed combat. If you choose the latter, you get hex-based movement of armies with formations. Each are given a set of movement points per unit each turn, which they can use to move, change facing, or attack. You need to move the units around so they can maintain line of sight and keep supplied.

Crown of Glory has some good ideas, but just lacks execution. During the whole time that I played the game, I didn’t really experience any awesome moments. The battles, especially using detailed mode, are extremely drawn out: you can take up to two hours completing one battle. Considering each game turn may consists of several battles, that’s just too much time to require. Plus, you can’t even save the battles in the middle. Do we not have things to do? Crown of Glory have a lot of detail in its mechanics, but just because there’s more doesn’t mean it’s better. The game doesn’t feel as complete as Rome Total War, Paradox’s games, or Korsun Pocket, even though it borrows the conventions from them. The polish is overall fun feeling is missing from Crown of Glory, resulting in a game that had potential, but fails to fully deliver.