The sun stands high and enlightens our wild lands with its warmth while I look at them for a last time perhaps. My precious Iroquois-tribe moves into the mountains where we are safe and where we can strenghten ourselves. Who could have thought we could lose our joy and prosperity so quickly to strange whiteskins with thunderweapons? Those dressed brutes wiped out nearly whole our tribe… our revenge will be sweet. Feathered Platfoot, get me my tomahawk. I suddenly get the urge to gather some scalpels…
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Indeed, the Indians play a big role in No Man’s Land. I left my Playmobil-toys with cool fort behind because something told me that the beta-version of this rts could be more amusing:). So after games like America and American Conquest CDV will try to cheer us up with another rts based on the same theme. A strange move some may think since CDV already released American Conquest earlier this year. Though No Man’s Land offers a different type of rts and also the timeperiod is different (somewhat later than American Conquest).
No Man’s Land is another kind of rts because it never wants to display the gigantic battles with thousands of units that American Conquest did. The focus lies more on ‘small’ batlles similar to those in Age of Mythology and Warcraft III. The timespan in the game introduces us to the conflicts between Spain and England, the arrival of the colonists in the new continent, the ‘removal’ of the Indians and the founding of the USA. Let one thing be clear though: No Man’s Land totally doesn’t offer an accurate, historically correct description of events in the game. The historical background is only used to support the storylines a bit and to get the atmosphere right.
And let there be no doubt about it that there is a lot of atmosphere in this game. After a long and very decent CGI-intro we notice there are six sides available, each with their attributes: the Woodland Indians (the Iroquois), the Prairie Indians (Sioux/Cheyenne), the English, the Spaniards, the Brittish and American settlers. No Man’s Land gives us 3 campaigns where we can start with respectively the Spanish, the Iroquois-tribe and the English colonists. The whole of these campaigns contains about 30 missions and it takes a while before you went all through them. Every mission is preceded by an in-game cinematic so we get to know the objectives. Quite handy is also the option to choose the difficulty of every mission on forehand.
Heroes are also present in the game and they have each a special ability with which some can wreak serious havoc. Their abilities are more than once necessary to succeed in some missions. The resources are very much standard: wood, gold and food. Nice (not very new though) is the fact that there are female and male labour units; the men have more fighting capabilities but cost more and it also takes longer to get them. The way of building and buying units is all very recognisable from other games. Upgrades like Flaming Arrows are also available.
If you take a look at the screenshots then you surely notice the high degree of detail in the 3D-graphics. When it all moves there appear some glitches like the fact that units don’t have such a big amount of polygons (plus the strange movement of some) and that it’s weird to see a building get black in degrees from top to bottom when it gets destroyed. I played of course only a beta-version and details like this could be solved in the final version. The game keeps it charm a lot by the graphics though; lightsources like torches and campfires are very beautiful to see as are also the waves on the sea. You really get a kick though from seeing a big battle at sea. Numerous ships then turn to get their side-cannons into position to fire their deadly load… really superb. If you then use the zoom-option it’s a real pleasure to watch.
The sound is put together very nicely. Effects are mostly worked out very well, same case for the unit voices. The music then is really great, it contributes so much to the atmosphere. It has a been a long time since I last found that certain music matched a game so good.
Developer Related Designs implemented qua gameplay all kinds of handy stuff which we already saw from so many other rts-games: units can gain levels, (very long) waiting lines to create units, the self-destruct option with buildings (Prairie-Indians on the contrary can move their buildings to another place), the ‘idle labor unit’-button, the map with different modi and so on. Really new was f.e. the swimming of the Indians (quite funny then if you see a fat maceman swim), mind the sharks though. Also original are the bounty-hunters; you are able to hire these chaps to kill a certain enemy unit. Don’t forget that your opponent also has lots of cash so there can come some bounty hunters to you too (even those you sent yourself). You can research counter-upgrades for the enemy so he gets to deal with plagues etc..
Multiplayer-options are abundant in number with modes as Deathmatch, King of the Mountain, Eliminate Heroes, Capture all Flags, Destroy/defend Railroad Tracks and Railroad Building Race. With this last one the player needs to build a complete railway as fast as possible. Minor point is that there weren’t that much multiplayer maps in the beta-version, the final version could contain more and then again there is the random map generator so it’s not that much to worry about.
As conclusion I can say that No Man’s Land made quite a decent impression on me qua graphics and gameplay. The nice atmosphere is present (supported by great music), as well as the options to make this game a hit. If Related Designs can fix the graphical and gameplay-bugs that still remain in the beta, then you certainly have an amusing rts which can entertain us for a long time.