Impressions, Amiga £24.99
Reminding me very much of the old CRL game Legend, Feudal Lords is a relatively simple medieval strategy game, for one to four players, each playing a feudal lord. The play, which takes place on the restricted area of Euthrania, is divided into small sections. The winner is decided when one of the lords takes possession of all of the territories. You lose when your own home territory (the one containing your castle) is taken by another lord.
There are many detail factors that are supposed to govern your strategy. For example, your economy includes such subjects as trade, taxation and so on – the idea being to exploit the peasants for as much cash as possible without getting kicked out of office. Your popularity is deemed important: people will migrate to your lands if you are popular (thus you can raise bigger armies, raise more crops, make more cash, build more castles, etc). Acts such as building churches will make you popular and the church will also encourage a higher birth rate (increasing the population, your army, etc). Another way of making cash is to invest what you have got into crafts or markets.
Diplomacy is encouraged. You can enter non-aggression pacts with your three neighbours for varying lengths of time, or you can sponsor assassination attempts or even plot against your fellow lords.
On the whole you might think that Feudal Lords offers an encouraging blend of strategy and tactics, but actual gameplay does not live up to the early promise. The trouble with this game is that it is too heavily weighted towards combat (the economics do not make a whole lot of difference) and the artificial intelligence is, on the other hand, unfair towards the player during one-player games. The opening play of the game is a mad dash to scoop up all of the neutral territory. Afterwards one of the popular modes of play involves a stagnation while the other three lords talk amongst themselves. While they are doing that one of the three hits you with everything he has got.
The turn method is unfair too. Instead of the game allowing simultaneous orders to be fed into the play, you are treated to a random turn method. Hence you may be first to make a move on turn one, third to move on turn two, etc. This sometimes leads to your worst enemy having the last move on one turn and the first move on the next turn, in effect giving him tow consecutive turns. When the position is critical this sort of potential to wreak havoc can be devastating – all because of the poorly designed game system!
The theories of combat integrated within the game are fictional and poorly managed. Far too much emphasis is placed upon the knight as the all-important power in the game and too little credit is given to the bowmen who are not, according to the manual, very useful in normal battle – ever heard of Agincourt, Impressions?
The manual comes in for more criticism with its poor explanation of the menu options. At one point I accessed a screen with three menu titles (Passage/Attack/Join). No explanation was given as to what it all meant. Okay, attack is one thing but ‘Join’ and ‘Passage’? Evidently, Impressions believe we are all mindreaders.
Zzap! Issue 72, April 1991, p.p.25-26