http://www.slitherine.com/games/gates_of_troy
 
GoT Menuscreen
 
 *a quick note, “Chariots of War” mentioned below is another game by Slitherine released before Gates of Troy- I’ve mentioned it below, expecting to have put my review of it up first, but that review is still a work in progress!*
 
Gates of Troy (GoT) is set roughly between 1500BC-300BC, an incredibly interesting and often neglected (in games) period of history.
GoT is packed with several campaigns, my favorites being the two “monster” campaigns starting at either 1500BC, or 1300BC. The map for these two spans from a Northeastern border in Illyria, South through Greece all the way down to the island of Crete, then across the Aegean into the border of the Persian Empire in modern day Turkey. With a massive selection of 100 factions to choose from- all of whom are competing for territory!
Besides the two grand campaigns, others are featured as well, including the Greek invasion of Troy, the famous battle at Thermopylae, and the Ionian Revolt. Out of these, I’ve only given the Thermopylae battle a run so far, which was a fun time of seeing how long my Greek force could hold against the Persian onslaught, which increases in intensity with every attack.

 -Gameplay- 

It’s likely inevitable that, due to it’s setting and “Strategy” genre, Gates of Troy will be compared to the Total War series. This is truly an “apples and oranges” comparison, as outside of the broad “Strategy Game” generalization the two are very different. The Total War games are primarily tactical battle games, with the strategy portion really only serving the purpose of getting you into your next battle. There is no commodity modeled in any detail in the games except for money, and virtually everything you can build is only to produce more money, or more powerful military units. GoT on the other hand is really a grand strategy game with some quick tactical battles thrown in, and the grand strategy aspect is where it shines. 

Trade is modelled, along with multiple resources that must be balanced in order to keep your cities running efficiently, prevent your armies from starving, and also producing higher quality, more advanced units. In the beginning, one can raise armies of militias and consricpted skirmishers costing only the food to feed them, and wood for the skirmisher’s javelins- later on however, you’ll need horses for cavalry, metals (bronze and iron) for advanced infantry units (from hoplites to swordsmen), combinations of metals and wood and/or horses for heavy cavalry and mounted archers, marble for city building, and etc. All of this is surprisingly easy to grasp and doesn’t become overly complex or convoluted, and smart resource management can raise you to become a power to be feared.

 -AI Competence and Diplomacy-

The AI in Gates of Troy actually puts up a respectable challenge, which should help set the game apart from the inevitable comparisons to Rome: Total War (which has an AI opponent out of the box that would make a mentally retarded monkey look like Alexander the Great). When playing the 1500BC “Greek Colonialism” campaign, each faction begins with only 1-2 territories of its own, and must begin by capturing independent settlements around them to begin building an empire. The AI opponent starts a little slowly, as the player has to as well due to lack of resources for expansion, but will quickly start gaining territory, building up its settlements, and sending large, somewhat balanced armies after enemies. Going to war in GoT with an equal or more powerful faction means you’ll be facing waves of armies, some of which will split off and move deeper into your territory to attack less-guarded settlements, and will fight tooth and nail to recapture its own lost settlements as well. This is a breath of fresh air when compared to the AI in Rome: TW (and Medieval II out of the box as well), which seems content to send one huge army after a single city, besiege it, and remain completely oblivious to your own armies rampaging through the rest of their lands!

Diplomacy plays a much larger part here than it did in Chariots of War, with diplomats now able to influence the faction they’re staying with, either to win their favor or make them angry, and can function as espionage agents as well. The AI can be relentless if they’re stronger than you are and dislike you (boiling their diplomats alive is a good way to create discord), however AI factions also have sense enough not to attack you if they’re much weaker and can’t possibly win. Once again comparing the game to the last two of the Total War series, this is a fresh breath of air for anyone used to the homicidally aggressive against its own interests AI of both Rome and Medieval II.

 

 

-Battles and Graphics-

GoT allows you to fight out battles in either 2D or 3D, however both have their benefits and also flaws. The 3D mode, in all honesty, is pretty ugly looking. The map is just a utilitarian 3D terrain map, with the units being sprites at a quality just under that of the original Medieval: Total War. Trading off to 2D, the graphics look much better- I’ll take “Pretty looking 2D” over utilitarian or ugly 3D any day. The problem, however, is that the battle screen can’t be zoomed out at all in 2-D, and the camera makes you feel like your face is about to be in the dirt- it’s just too damn close due to the lower resolution of the 2D mode. 3D wins out for me simply because it allows me to see the whole battle unfold, instead of only 1/4 of the battle screen at a time as in 2D. I’m not kicking the game too hard here as this really doesn’t affect the gameplay at all, and tactical battles aren’t the main point of the game by any means.

 

 

  Going on with battles, another feature guaranteed to shock newcomers is the total lack of control over your army once a battle begins. You set up your units before hand, give them initial orders on what to do (advance, charge, short hold then advance, fire missiles, etc), and then just unleash them and watch the chaos ensue. I have mixed feelings on this as well- on the one hand, I DO like it better than the radio communication-like instantly followed orders of the Total War games. On the other, not being able to have ANY battlefield control at all, especially over reserves, isn’t realistic either. Ancient battlefields certainly didn’t have modern radio communications, but they could give orders by other means, whether messenger, drums/trumpets, smoke signals, and etc. Again though, I can’t fault the game here as it isn’t trying to pass itself off as an ancient battle “Wargame”, and the battles aren’t large, set piece affairs anyway- maybe 500 men per side for a huge one. With the small scale of battles, the lack of control isn’t so bad, and gives the AI more of a chance to win- No Total War-style slaughtering of forces twice the size of your own due simply to AI stupidity!

 

 

 -Overall-

Overall, I highly recommend Gates of Troy to anyone looking for a challenging game that is more focused on grand strategy than the rather lackluster tactical battles. Of all the games I could compare these to (both the Total War games and Civilization come to mind), I’d actually put them closer to the old Koei games that I played on my Super Nintendo as a kid (Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Nobunaga’s Ambition, etc) than any recent PC games that I can think of. At $29.99 most grand-strategy fans should find great value, and in my opinion GoT should supply an engaging and highly replayable game experience.

 

Positive:

– Great 4X Strategy Gameplay
– Competent AI Opponents
– Well Balanced Economy
 
Negative:
– Lack of any real control over reinforcements in battle
– 2D view is locked in a fully “zoomed in” state