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In Ancient Sparta, War Is . . . Dull

Boring missions destroy the realistic-looking Ancient Wars: Sparta.
Boring missions destroy the realistic-looking Ancient Wars: Sparta. (Eidos)

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Obviously inspired by the movie "300," Ancient Wars: Sparta depicts the bloody struggles that occurred among the Spartans, Persians and Egyptians between 500 and 450 B.C. in a realistic-looking, real-time strategy game.

I began as a Spartan at the pass at Thermopylae and thought I was in for a real treat right away. Unfortunately, the Spartan king sat me down at the campfire and regaled me with a ton of Spartan history, triggering many dull flashback missions before the famous battle occurs.

The missions are terribly scripted, with small groups of troops forced to march along winding paths covered with traps and ambushes. As the game drags on, your armies grow in number and power, which leads to gameplay that's more fun, though my guess is that most people won't want to put in the hours of effort to get there.

The artificial intelligence is rather stupid. Workers won't go where needed but instead must be individually directed to mine gold, chop wood or grow food. Troops tend to take the long way around to get into battles, often piling up on each other or getting stuck on terrain objects such as trees while the few troops on the front line are dying and in need of support.

On the plus side, after a battle you can direct your peasants to collect weapons that have fallen on the ground. With these, you can design new troop types and field units using your enemy's equipment or come up with a combination of enemy and friendly weapons that works better than either side's original weapons.

You can also capture equipment. If you knock a warrior off his horse, you can have one of your soldiers jump on. Ships can be cleared of bad guys and boarded, putting them in your navy. Even ballistae and other siege weapons can be turned on their owners, a very satisfying strategy.

Building damage and fire are quite realistic. Fire will spread to nearby buildings, so you can attack trees outside an enemy camp and get the fire to spread in its direction, though you have to be careful if the wind changes.

Eventually you do get back to Thermopylae. However, despite great graphics and unique features, a dim AI and a long series of boring missions mean this Sparta barely entertains.

-- John Breeden II

Ancient Wars: Sparta Mature; Windows XP, 2000 ($40) Eidos


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