CORRUPTION and treachery among the French nobility is rampant. Punitive taxation is bitterly resented by the peasantry and the country is on the brink of rebellion.
The 15th century war between te French and English is reaching its climax. Plundering by the military of both sides is the order of the day and only a miracle can save France. That miracle is Charles Aznavour. Did I say Charles Aznavour? Sorry, I meant Joan of Arc.
The game has two distinct parts and objectives. At the start your main aim is to conquer Orleans and Rheims to become crowned ruler of France. In this section you are constrained to military combat.
Once your coronation is out of the way, you can assume royal powers. A broad range of options opens up as you endeavour to cleanse all of France from the English presence.
Diplomatic initiatives, obtaining the release of prisoners or towns in exchange for money, executions, pardons, espionage, kidnapping and murder are all possible to a monarch.
Play is centred around a map of France with which you can learn weather conditions, the status of leaders plus the types and numbers of troops in different parts of the country.
Using this data, and the map, you deploy forces to displace and attack the enemy, build fortresses and strengthen your bases.
Combat is arcade style. Scenes involve entering towns, attacking and defending besieged battlements with rocks and boiling oil, battling in open country with archers, troops, mortar and knights and man-to-
When the opposing factions prepare to do battle in open country the archers, troops and knights are shown as dozens of almost microscopic sprites. At first sight this looks singularly unimpressive, but it works very well.
What with arrows and stones flying through the air, the various tiny troops surging forward and the frenzied cries and sounds of war, it really does give a feeling of viewing a battle from long distance.
A host of characters feature in the game. Once you accede, full details of each one are obtainable throughout. These characters include enemies as well as allies and can be selected and used in alliances or as spies to further your aims.
Games can be saved and loaded. Disc access slows the game down a little and a second drive helps.
Animated scenes are not the greatest you'll ever see, but the graphics are attractive and in keeping with the game's theme. The map and icons have an appropriate historic look about them, most of the information being presented on a parchment background.
Sound is used to splendid atmospheric effect, particularly on the battlefield. Game controls - mouse, joystick or keyboard - are responsive.
Joan of Arc is not the sort of game you will finish in a single sitting. The depth and detail, coupled with the generous range of choices, characters and decisions, mean that this is one you'll have to come back to.