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Virtual Programming
Strategy & War
Release Date

February 10, 2005 | Eric Ford

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In a gaming market crowded with a plethora of real time strategy (RTS) titles, it's always refreshing to see a new contender that offers something some thing a little different in an attempt to break the mold and establish itself as a unique title. Enter KnightShift, a new medieval RTS brought over to the Mac platform by Virtual Programming. Is KnightShift ready to take on the likes of Blizzard and their Warcraft series? Perhaps not, but with its unique brand of humor, flexible game system, and excellent music, perhaps it has the tools to succeed in its own right.

Describing KnightShift in terms of game play really depends on what aspect you look at. One of its main modes is a story/adventure option that has you taking the role of Prince John, a young upstart youth that is whisked away from his castle by an evil sorcerer. Thankfully, the Prince isn't lost for good, and he's brought back to the world by an old wizard friend. Charged with the task of returning to the castle and taking back the throne, you'll control the Prince and his allies in a hybrid adventure/RTS mode. There will be times when all you have are a few units and your goal will be to keep them alive, level them up, and find new weapons and armor to improve their skills. Other times you'll find towns and will be responsible for expanding and creating an army not unlike Warcraft and other, more traditional RTS games.

A second game play mode has you creating your own "Hero" and sending him or her into an additional story separate from the previous Story option. In this variant of the game, your hero will have unique spells and items to collect throughout their adventure, and level ups will allow you to improve individual stats. Also, the game becomes more like an adventure title with more emphasis being placed on leveling up, earning gold and buying improved weapons, armor, and items for your custom made character.

Finally, a third 'Skirmish' mode plays like a typical RTS custom game, with the gamer playing against up to seven other players in a race to who can build the best town, raise the coolest army, and destroy the others the fastest. As far as variety goes, KnightShift seems to have covered all the bases.

Like many other RTS titles, KnightShift doesn't have a huge world that doesn't require any loading screens like World of Warcraft or other online RPGs. The title features many chapters, each with their own maps in which the story is played out on. When the goals of the current story line are completed, in game cutscenes are used further advance the story and new maps are loaded in to continue the gameplay experience.

Included with KnightShift is its own level editor, which allows players to create and design their own levels within the KnightShift engine for doing whatever they want with them. I'll admit I'm horrid at level design, and I wasn't able to play around with it as much as I wanted to. But this addition to the whole game package will surely attract some of the more creative gamers out there looking for the chance to make some cool levels of their own.

Perhaps the best feature of KnightShift is the fabulous music that is included in the game. It all has a medieval undertone to it, but every thing from the vocal introduction theme that plays while you're initially picking through the menus to the ambient tunes being played while you're exploring the world to the fast and furious Celtic themed pieces that are played when you're attacked are absolutely superb. Some might argue that medieval music is somewhat clichéd for a title like this, but I still think that KnightShift does a superb job of putting in music that fits the mood perfectly. The music definitely adds a certain immersive effect to the game and it truly does a good job of adding to the overall appeal of KnightShift.

Perhaps the weakest part of the KnightShift experience is the graphics engine. Things don't look horribly bad, but they aren't spectacular, for that matter. Occasionally there are a few magical spells are environments that look decent, but the engine looks like a lower resolution of Warcraft 3, and can sometimes detract from the experience. Perhaps even more worth nothing is processing power needed to run this title. I previewed the game on a Powermac G5 Dual 2Ghz with an ATI Radeon 9600 with 128 MB of VRAM and I still had some occasional speed issues, even with the resolution lowered and graphical details turned down. Then again I did preview a beta and hopefully the performance issues will be taken care of by the time the game ships.

Other than the last few issues I mentioned, I really like the look and feel of KnightShift. The witty humor used in the manual and in-game scenes can be pretty funny. Also, the variety of gameplay offerings will be sure to keep gamers interested for a long time (I failed to mention the huge multiplayer aspect, which I wasn't able to try out during this preview.) If Virtual Programming can optimize the game a little further and make the title run better under current system configurations (as well as cut down on the load times), then I think the RTS market has found a decent title to check out. Stay tuned.

Mac Version: Coderus
Publisher: Virtual Programming
Download Demo
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