Eye and Ear CandyAs I mentioned before, the graphics in Warrior Kings are stunning, with colorful, varied landscapes, and detailed textures and animations. Those landscapes, by the way, play a vital role in combat -- taking the high ground is almost always a necessity. Camera handling takes a little getting used to, based as it is on a free-look system instead of keystrokes. Perhaps the most impressive feature is an almost godlike zoom ability: you can pull the camera out and up until you can see the outlines of continents, and your units are reduced to little dots; or, you can zoom in to your units so closely that you can study their facial features (Artos in particular has the distinction of two different colored eyes, and we can only guess what family background led to that). I found myself pausing the action frequently to adjust the camera angle, but I could generally achieve an all-purpose bird's-eye view when I needed to concentrate on unfolding battles.
The sounds of the game are as detailed as the visuals; there are effects for everything from combat to construction, as well as the ambient noises of birds and water. Each unit has its own repertoire of responses to your commands. The peasants' are the best: "You're such a slavedriver," "But it's my day off!," etc. Dynamic background music is present as well. There is also a confusing array of alert sounds, which are not always intuitive, for various events, but I tended to rely more on visual cues in the minimap anyway.
Bearing all these great features in mind, Warrior Kings will demand some serious horsepower in order to look and sound its best. There was a bit of stuttering on a G4 Powerbook 1Ghz with a Mobility Radeon 9000 and gig of RAM, but only when I whipped the camera around with dozens of units moving at once. The game was playable on a desktop G4 450Mhz, but only with all the bells and whistles turned off. Feral gives the following minimum system requirements; make of them what you will:
Operating System: Mac OS 9.1 / 10.1.3
Processor: 333 MHz G3
Memory: 128 MB RAM (OS 9), 256 MB RAM (OS X)
Free hard disk space: 600 MB
Graphics: OpenGL 1.2, 8MB Graphics Card
MultiplayerWarrior Kings supports up to eight players over a LAN or on Gameranger. Obviously, there is no storyline to follow in multiplayer, but you can still choose to be Imperial, Pagan, or Renaissance, as well as certain combinations of these. In addition, there are diplomatic options that let players form and break alliances, and offer tribute.
One of the most frequent complaints of the Mac gamer is how we almost always get our versions of games later (sometimes way later -- I'm sure you know of some examples) than our PC-based cousins, but Warrior Kings is a perfect example of the sunny side of this sad fact. Last year's PC release was notoriously buggy; many gamers declared that it was unplayable. As is often the case, however, we on the Mac side benefit from further time and effort -- the Mac release will contain the updated 1.4 version of the code, which was never released on the PC side. I'm told by the folks at Feral that the developer is working on bug fixes up to the last minute, though my preview copy was largely bug-free; FSAA will be supported as well. In the end, despite the wait, Mac gamers get a better product.