Throwback Thursday: Lords of the Realm
If you grew up during the DOS days of PC gaming, then you may be familiar with Lords of the Realm. If, however, you’ve only ever experienced games digitally, then you’ll have a brand new game to download from GOG. Back in 1994, a small company called Impressions Games released an amazing game where you could try your hand at managing lands and armies to become ruler of England.
Set in medieval times, you start with a small county to govern, and several other computer-controlled rivals with the same monarchical ambitions. You’ll have to work hard to beat these rivals, as they’ll be skilled in building castles, raising armies, and keeping their people happy and well fed. While trying to destroy your enemies, you’ll also have to invade neighboring counties for resources, build castles, and maintain a happy and healthy population. Failure to do any of these could mean disaster at the hands of your enemies.
Lords of the Realm isn’t going to win over anyone with its graphics, and the gameplay can be a bit monotonous, but the fun you have fighting enemy armies more than makes up for those shortcomings. Strategically controlling armies of hundreds against your foes is as much fun to plan out as it is to execute. Before each battle you get to survey the field and give your armies advance commands. Once you start the battle, soldiers begin moving into formation or striking out for the enemy. If you have archers, they’ll hang behind your spearmen and knights to assist in battle. The strategy you use can also even the odds if you’re outnumbered, allowing your army of 200 to take down an army of 450.
Apart from the fun battles (and besieging of castles), the game has a love-it-or-hate-it way of dealing with your counties. The main goal, as stated earlier, is the keep your peasants happy and well fed. However, this entails maintaining crops and animals in the field. The amount of food you can produce is dictated by how you use the fields and how many workers you have. However, making resources for building castles and weapons takes a lot of workers and a lot of time. Someone with time and patience can figure out the balance between conquering and managing towns, but for most it’ll be a struggle. Still, many towns are not necessary to rule England. All you need is one county and your foes lying dead at your feet to conquer the land.
Long ago, Lords of the Realm captured my imagination and eventually led me to similar games like Command & Conquer and Civilization II. Now, sitting at 21 years old, this solid DOS-era medieval conquering RTS has shed its floppy disks and currently lives on GOG where you can buy it DRM-free for $5.99, plus it comes bundled with the sequel, Lords of the Realm II. Both games are highly replayable, and will give you an appreciation for how far RTS-style games have come.