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Lords of the Realm 2 is not the first game I’ve ever played, but it’s by far the one that I played the most (let’s not consider Daoc for a moment).

This game was released in 1996 and I was a teenager. I went to my friendly videogames store to trade in Comanche 2, and I noticed a cool looking box getting some dust behind piles of fps and sport games. Apparently, someone traded in LotR2 just a few weeks after it’s release, and the store was selling it at an extremely discounted price, so I decided to give it a try.

Thank you stranger, for giving up that game.

Let’s talk talk about the game itself, because a lot of people may not know it, and some others have only tried the pitiful LotR3.

Loading game, please wait.

Lords of the Realm 2 is, not surprisingly, the sequel to the first LotR, and it’s a game about management of your county and army in order to become the King of basically everything. It’s set (mostly) in Europe and each scenario takes place in a different country.

This is how the game looks like during the management part of your turn:

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You have your town hall, a few fields that can be filled with cows or crops, and someproduction facilities. Resources in this game consist in stone (only used for buildings), iron (weapons only) and wood (weapons and buildings).

As time goes by, if your citizens are healthy and happy they’ll prosper, and you’ll be able to assign them to different mansions as well as use them to raise an army.

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In this window to can focus the production of your town: you don’t want your citizens to starve, but you also need to raise your defenses as well as attack your enemy (or enemies).

The game is divided into turns, with each turn representing a season. Seasons have different effects and purposes, so during summer it’s easier to suffer a long period of drought and lose some crops, during winter you can harvest your precious wheat and spring is the time to plant new crops and renew the cycle.

Siege THIS castle?

The purpose of the game is to raise an army, attack other counties, lay siege to your enemies and watch them fall.

As you can tell from the bottom right of the previous picture, it’s possible to build a castle, and there are many different varieties as well.

This is an Ikea-style castle:

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But we also have more serious staff:

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The different amount of troops, the layout, the increased defenses etc etc influence the game extremely heavily. While a siege to the Ikea-style castle can be a routine job, a siege to a well defended castle with moat, several boiling oil cauldrons, and hundreds of archers and bowmen, well that’s a totally different affair.

Not all battles are actually fought at a castle though, most of the time you’ll face your enemies in the open field:

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There are times when a battle could be a small skirmish, and in other occasions there will be a massive battle with huge armies facing each other.

During battles the gameplay is in realtime, and you need to guide your brave soldiers to victory, or to a useful death.

Yes, sometimes a sacrifice is necessary, and here we’re talking about mercenaries.

A band of Scottish mercenaries is available for hire, my Lord

You’ll spend most of your time building weapons or buying them and then raise your army, but every now and then your city will have a small group of mercenaries available. You cannot have a full army of mercenaries because they’d fight with each other, but you can let them join your regular army or send them on raiding missions.

Mercenaries only come with one weapon, so you either get a group of archers, or maybe mace men, or pike men…it’s random. And from those brave mercenaries come the most epic tales of bravery I’ve ever experienced in a videogame.

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Resources are infinite in this game, in theory you could keep playing forever. One of the best ways to use mercenaries is to send them to your enemy’s county and destroy crops, kill cows, rape trees and do all that sort of stuff that can mess with the production. A couple of mercenary bands suddenly destroying all the crops right before the harvest season can be a disaster, and they could also set the iron mine on fire, with terrible effects on the economy and the production of weapons.

Eventually the enemy will send a real army to get rid of your mercenaries. Remember that they won’t fight along each other? It means that a pack of hired swords will have 100, 150, maybe 200 men, nothing that a true army cannot handle. Or is it?

When I was talking about bravery, courage and epicness, I was referring to those rare, memorable occasion in which against insurmountable odds your fellow mercenaries manage to bring home an unexpected victory against an army 4 times their size, or when all your brave men are slaughtered but not before the managed to deal a decisive blow that crippled an enemy army to oblivion.

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My 2 most memorable moments:

I hired 200 Scottish pike men to raid my enemy, and while they were on their way they got intercepted by an army of almost one thousand man. The battle looked totally lost so in order to maximize the effect of my soldiers I placed them at the entrance of a bridge. This game has corpse collision, so for each 2 enemy soldiers on the bridge I had the chance to fight back with 4 of my pike men: 2 from the center of the bridge,and 2 from the sides. After a couple of minutes of tense fight, making sure that I could replace each of my fallen soldiers before the enemy had the chance to take their place, I noticed the enemy army was lacking a key component: archers. Pike men, if not harmed from ranged units, and in a 2to1 ratio, are a force to be reckoned with due to their armor. So I kept fighting back, I never gave up and I was screaming in front of my monitor when we went down to around 200 enemies against my 100 pike men. At that point I knew it could be done, and at the end of the fight I had 51 heroic pike men still alive. I immediately proceeded to send them back to my capital city, where I found a nice and safe place inside the castle for them.

In one of the last (and hardest) maps I was getting constantly harassed by some douche-duke, and my front-most conty had almost no production. The aforementioned douche proceeded to siege my middle county: by losing that I’d have lost the connection between the other 2, and that would have meant a disaster because if your counties are not connected you lose them. His army was absolutely massive and required 2 turns to start the siege, and my army was 2 turns away…too late to get there in time. At 1 turn before midnight a band of Welsh mace men appeared in my town that was under siege. With nothing to lose I decided to hire them, to see if they could get me some time. I sent them to battle and was shocked to see my 150 mace men against 1400 enemy soldiers…no way. And what was worse, is that on the next turn those 1400 enemy soldiers would have been ready to siege my castle, raid it and end the game. Right while I was trying to figure out what to do, the enemy moved the vast majority of his army to one side of the map, leaving archers and a bunch of peasants on their own. ALL THE ARCHERS. Mace men have great mobility and I sent them in direction of the enemy archers, that proved to be no match for my mercenaries. By the time the rest of the army arrived, my enemy lost all his archers and almost 100 peasants. I sent my men against the remaining peasants to cause as many casualties as possible before having to meet their fate, and they didn’t disappoint me. At the end of the battle, only 900 men where still standing for my enemy, with no ranged units. Due to the huge loss they were not able to complete the siege on the following turn, and my real army had the time to intervene, slay every enemy until the last man and fight back to victory within a few turns.

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Saving game, please wait

Is LotR2 perfect? Not at all. The test of time has taken it’s toll, and even though it’s perfectly playable it’s not “visually exciting”. There are also a huge series of annoying glitches and bugs during fights: pathing of units can be totally off, sometimes they’d break formation for no reason, and sometimes they’d just not fight because FU, that’s why.

But the game is so deep and rich, and full of details, that some minor bug cannot not diminish its greatness. The management part of the game requires a lot of planning, and fight can last for very long period of times. The thrill of the final siege, knowing that you’re just one more victory away from the crown, or that one more defeat will lead to your head being chopped off, and the joy of winning that battle.

The music of this game is one of the most amazing soundtrack I’ve ever heard, not just for it’s beauty but also for the way it fits the game.

This is the soundtrack you can hear at the beginning of a new level, where you have only one small town, not much to fight, and you just need to spend time planning the management of your town and the direction in which you’ll expand:

This is around the middle game, when counties start to expand and battles are much more frequent:

 

 

Later on, where every county is at war and the map is full of armies and mercenaries, the music changes completely and gives a totally different tone to the game:

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Lords of the Realm 2 is also a games that offers a great replayability due to the many random factors of the management session. Seasons, weather, plague, mercenaries, different positioning on the map (and that can influence the game A LOT, enjoy conquering Italy on high difficulty if you start in the center of the map and everyone can harass you from both sides. AND THEY WILL).

I’ve been playing it for almost 17 years now, and I still enjoy it like the first time. I’ll always be thankful to Sierra for making this game, and to GOG for releasing it in a way that works perfectly on Windows 7, and to the random dude who traded it in 17 years ago and allowed me to buy it.

I’ll never forgive them for LotR3, it was absolutely terrible and killed the whole franchise, but the legend of Lords of the Realm 2 lives on, and I’ll always keep it with me.

Exit the game, my lord?

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