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Golden Horde (PC) artwork

Golden Horde (PC) review


"The Golden Horde is an entertaining RTS that may not revolutionise the genre, but certainly enriches it a bit with experience and equipment systems."



There are more historic RTS games than our feeble comprehension of arithmetics can count, with varying degrees of rigour and accuracy, but its rather obvious that some periods of the world's history are more represented than others. Sometimes I feel putting together all games based on WWII would result in footage that would run longer than the actual conflict. Today we are dealing with a game that has picked a less visited timeframe: The Golden Horde takes us to the 13th century and lets us assume the roles of Mongolians, Russians and Crusaders in a series of conflicts.

It is a welcome change of scenario, especially because all three factions differentiate themselves in a rather competent way. They have different units, of course, but the way their entire settlements are organised changes as well. The nomadic Mongolians can actually pack up and move their buildings from one place to another, for example (that episode of the Simpsons where they live on a boat house, anybody?), whereas the Russians can only build within the walls of their town.

The main gameplay innovation, however, are a few strategically placed RPG touches that manage to give tried and true RTS mechanics such as resource gathering and construction a new feel. All units now gain experience, for one thing, and not in the “added as an afterthought; shallow way you might have seen in other games: here experience is everything for a soldier, and it will directly determine what you can do with your units. So much so, that in The Golden Horde you can only create one unit, your standard peasant. In order to have him become a soldier, he has to earn experience in fighting, and the same goes for blacksmiths and other classes. Once they acquire enough experience to become soldiers, they can't go back to learning other things but keep improving their stats.

Another RPG improvement that caught me by surprise is that equipment plays a great role. Soldiers aren't pikemen or archers or horsemen by default, it all depends on the weapons they're holding. Weapons can be made in a forge or, get this, they can be picked up from fallen enemy soldiers, and each one has its own D&D-like stats (like a 17-21 sword with a 1.2s attack rate). They can be changed at any moment, so it is feasible to have a group of archers aid your lancers, but have them switch to swords when it looks like the enemy's approaching. After the battle, it's time to scavenge the battlefield for new weapons!

This is a welcome addition to an extremely abundant formula, but otherwise you can expect from The Golden Horde what you can expect from the majority of RTS games: the multiplayer mode, the freeform single player mode, and different campaigns for all three factions. It is worth noting that campaign missions seem to rely a lot on stealth and solo missions, which is the kind of thing I love to hate. Except for the "love" part. I mean, I understand why these missions have you control one single Mongolian scout having to sneak his way across an entire map full of enemies or two single Christian soldiers brute-forcing their way across an entire map full of enemies (see a pattern?); you already have the standard, plotless single player modes to build towns and gather resources. Campaign missions offer new and dangerous situations that you're not likely to encounter otherwise. I sympathise with the desire to explore in what new directions the game can be taken, but it remains a fact that the RTS system as a whole simply does not lend itself to control one single unit smoothly.

The Golden Horde is an entertaining RTS that may not revolutionise the genre, but certainly enriches it a bit with the experience and equipment systems. It manages to build an identity for itself by choosing to depict a historical conflict that we rarely see portrayed in games or really any other medium.

Lastly, I cannot bring myself to finish this review without mentioning the fact that The Golden Horde has the most unintentionally hilarious battles in any game of the genre I've played so far. While a soldier is being slashed at, he has absolutely no reaction. A huge cloud of blood builds up around him as he loses gallons of it to the swords of his enemies, but he doesn't so much as flinch. He just stays there, going through his attacks and/or standing still, until he dies, at which point he is thrust violently into the air and falls, several feet away, in a completely ridiculous mangle of ragdoll physics. That makes epic battle cutscenes a lot more entertaining.

Rating: 7/10

MartinG's avatar
Freelance review by Martin G (May 19, 2008)

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Felix_Arabia posted May 19, 2008:

There are weird characters in this review that you should edit out.

Also, is Edigu or Toktamish in this game? Perhaps it's a strange question to those not knowledgeable about the Golden Horde, but it's a curiosity of mine regardless.
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sashanan posted May 19, 2008:

This sounds strangely entertaining. Mind you, my PC shelves already have far too many RTS games on them, well known and obscure, of which I've played the first two missions of each campaign before shelving them again.
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MartinG posted May 19, 2008:

Where did those come from?? I produced this review exactly in the same way as all others...

There are certainly heroes in the game and they get speaking roles, but to be completely honest I have no idea whether the ones you mention are there. I turned out to have a really bad Mongolian memory, and it doesn't help that even the standard peasant units are called things like "aduuch" rather than, you know, peasant :(
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EmP posted May 20, 2008:

It's fine, everyone! I don't even have a working PC, but I'll fix this latest hiccup!

How has this site lasted the two weeks I've been AWOL?

Good job, Mart. Now, get on to the next!

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