- Bits Studios Advance Wars, although not yet released in this country, has already proved to gamers across the rest of the world that hardcore strategy games are possible to do - and do well - on a portable like the GameBoy Advance, so Bits Studios' latest announcement, a real-time strategy game called Wizards, has a lot of the groundwork laid for it.
The game is a follow-up to Warlocked, the GameBoy Color's most popular RTS, and aims to mix arcade, platform and puzzle action with classic strategy values to create a unique outing for up to four players. As Arch Wizard, the player takes on a team of fantasy characters and armies hoping to release the land of Talismania from the grip of evil Sorceress Kun-Mara, and players must build up their garrison of troops to take on Kun-Mara's armies, or those of other players. The single player mode is a story-based quest in strongest RTS tradition, which takes players through feudal Talismania, beginning in the warm southern lands and culminating in a showdown inside the Daggerfall Mountains, located far to the north. Wizards allows players to take direct control of individual characters and units, and Bits Studios are promising remarkable enemy AI. Of course, as far as RTS games are concerned, the presence of any artificial intelligence at all in your opponents or your own troops is somewhat remarkable, but that's probably not what they mean. Some of the scenarios will require thought and patience, with sections somewhat reminiscent of Commandos, freeing prisoners and storming bases efficiently. Each scenario should have a variety of possible outcomes, and if players show exceptional guile the game will even offer up sub-quests which, if completed, will result in special rewards. We're also told that Wizards will be strictly non-linear, offering various paths through the badlands of Talismania.
I just need a volunteer...
Multiplayer modes are a staple of both real-time strategy and handheld games, but Wizards goes a lot further than the standards of either, offering up to four players a choice of Capture the Flag, Gladiators, Dominion and Wizzball modes, although the exact details of some of these aren't yet clear… Visually the game is shaping up very nicely, as you can see from our collection of screenshots, and there will be loads of action on-screen at any one time, from furious battles between armies to weather and magic effects. Each army can comprise several hundred characters total, and we are told that the control system and game engine will have no trouble coping with those demands. Some of the screenshots shown have more than twenty units on-screen, some larger than others, in the midst of surprisingly ornate geological detail. Wizards is scheduled for completion during the first half of 2002, although the publisher is still unknown at this point. With a training mode, over 30 single player levels, plenty of multiplayer modes and a fresh approach to real-time strategy though, we expect good things.