Warsong Review

Graphics: 8/10 Sound: 9/10 Gameplay: 9.5/10 Translation: 8/10 Overall: 9.2/10

Once, a very long time ago, I rented a Sega Genesis game on a whim. I knew the system had some good games, and this one looked sort of neat. The name wasn’t especially inspiring, but then others weren’t much better. In any case, I rented it that time and tried out the game. I liked it enough that over the next year (until the store didn’t stock Genesis games) I probably spent more money renting the game than it would’ve taken to buy it.
Why is that? Simple strategic addictiveness. I’m a strategy nut, but I’m not particularly good at it – occasionally I can get a good strategy going, but it takes a great deal of time and I don’t look-ahead very quickly. Warsong was not just easy enough for me to start out, but it was hard enough that it kept me interested.
The primary thing that got me interested in the game was the graphics. Although this isn’t usual for me, this game had a very interesting way to do battles – it’s a standard tile-based system, think of Shining Force or Fire Emblem – in that when a conflict arises, the soldiers are shown fighting it out. The terrain is usually pretty basic, but advantages are clearly shown in the scenes. The player can watch as his cavalry ride down a hill to take out infantry, or his archers defend a forest against incoming troops. In any case, the cutscenes are fun to watch, not to mention the fact that they load seamlessly (the longest battle you’ll see may take 8 seconds). They can also be turned off if you’re crazy enough to want that increase in speed.
Music in this game is excellent. Credit for the composition is given to Noriyuki Iwadare, who is probably more famous for the excellent soundtracks of the Lunar games, Grandia, and most recently Radiata Stories. Battle themes are catchy and appropriate to the fantasy-medieval setting of the game. Battle sounds are good, much better than those in later games of the series (in that they sound marginally realistic).
The setting, as noted before, is a fantasy medieval one. It’s just about the most over-the-top setting I’ve ever seen, complete with German-esque names everywhere. Although Treco, the translation company, changed most names the feeling is the same. This theme is pretty common, and is continued in some CareerSoft games (such as Growlanser, which took it to the extreme by having “Grandzenschtraum” in a game). Although this is pretty standard, some parts of the story aren’t. The game manages to have quite a bit of depth for such a standard setting.
Actual gameplay is as near to strategy bliss as I have seen. I have never found a system quite as nice as this one. It’s a turn-based game (with allied / enemy turns trading off). Your characters are heroes – you start with two of them. They hire soldiers each round of varying types, and each individual general gives a certain bonus to troops under his command. Not only that, the heroes themselves will participate in battle. There are few things quite so cool as watching a character in one scenario keep defending to the last man, and keep on fighting after his own men have been taken out. Once a general reaches a certain level they can upgrade to the next class – increasing not only physical strength, but also the command bonuses given their troops, and usually giving them another type of troop to recruit.
This is all well and good, but the replay factor comes in where you see branching paths. There are some paths which are definitely better than others, but by and large they are balanced enough to merit taking a look at most of them.
AI is a standard “mini-max” system – that is, it does the best possible move that it sees in the immediate future. Although this lends itself to really bad long-term strategy, the scenarios are difficult enough that this rarely matters.
All in all, the game is among the best I’ve ever played. This game took a long time to find, but once I did I was glad I was able to. It’s definitely worth a play if you’re at all interested, and it’s listed at Home of the Underdogs as well.
There is also a translation of the Japanese-only Der Langrisser (a sequel to this game) in the works. Although DL is somewhat easier and sometimes annoying, it is certainly a game well worth playing, as with this one.

(Originally posted: long ago)

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