Kingdoms of England logo

Price: £24.95

Back in days of yore, when knights were bold and the ozone layer was a good deal healthier than it is now, Cinemaware released Defender Of The Crown. Cast your minds back to 1985 and you'll remember it as a nifty amalgam of strong graphics, ear-pleasin' sounds and eye-pleasin' action. Now Gainstar prepare to do battle in the medieval games market with Kingdoms Of England - complete with multi-player option and an allegedly complex gameplay - or is it? Unfortunately Kingdoms of England lacks most of the gloss that helped make DOTC such a roaring success. Gone are the giltzy interlude pictures, glamorous women and valiant sword fights. All in living breathing technicolour.

Kingdoms Of England sends you time-travelling back to 1421 and a time when England is divided into 63 conquerable provinces. Each area has a Tax value showing how much revenue the owner can collect and a Terrain value detailing how easy or hard the area is to traverse with an army. In addition, you are also told who owns the land you wish to conquer and how big an army he has. Blimey! That's not all. For instance, prior to battle, you can travel to the local town and recruit more men, at a price, split your forces allowing you to attack on as many fronts as you choose and even build your own castle.

When you finally get down to business and are about to let fly with bows and arrows, Kingdoms Of England features a Quick Battle Mode which numerically decides the outcome of battle allowing you the options of surrendering or retreating. You also have some say in what the catapults are directed at. For fully-fledged battle you may move your troops and fire your catapults as you wish... if you don't the computer will sort something out for you. And that's about it. Conquer a set percentage of Britain without getting flattened. Every six months there's the intermediate archery tournament between the local barons which helps break the monotony.

The main conquest side of Kingdoms is nothing more than a small scale wargame, being rather adept in that field (modest, eh? Ed) I was finally proclaimed as King on my third go. Who says persistence doesn't pay off?

Graphically, Kingdoms Of England is a definite thumbs-aloft situation with carefully sketched colour maps, some very convincing castles and the archery competition will please the most jaded eyes. But it would have been nice to have more of game and less attention to the few frilly edges.

All in all, a right royal effort. All together now, three cheers for the King!