Knights of Honor
Each of us has games we played in the past that, regardless of what we played since then, never really let us go. Most of these games were, back in the day, brilliant pieces of programming while others hold this nostalgic place in our hearts simply because we enjoyed them so much. No matter what we see after it, nothing truly makes us doubt that the game was, and remains, one of the best things to ever happen to us. Knights of Honor is one of these games.
Even when it came out, it had tough competition and failed to get great scores. It wasn’t bad, in fact it was far from being bad, yet somehow everything that it did, another game did better. Rome: Total War, released in September of the same year, would beat Knights of Honor by miles when it came to the epic scale of battles. Crusader Kings, also released in 2004, would have more in depth Royal Family management and diplomacy. The graphics weren’t the best either although the particular style would suit the game well. The same could be said for the soundtrack which was monotonous at best yet somehow never got old.
A glorious army ... and a few peasants
For all its shortcomings, Knights of Honor’s strength lay in its versatility. While being outclassed in specific areas, it somehow managed to have no, except for the shameful multiplayer, glaring weaknesses. The empire building was solid with a wide array of different buildings and resources. With specific resources in every province unlocking different buildings, the player had to carefully plan his town development and often decide whether he wants to build a great fortress or an economic powerhouse. The same applied when it came to the military. Different provinces could yield everything from standard to special, regional units and the choice of Kingdom also gave you access to distinctive units.
At the same time, the player had the option to recruit several advisers that took either the role of Builder, Cleric, Landlord, Marshall, Merchant or Spy. Each of these individuals had different tasks and could aid the player in various ways, depending if they were sent into a town or left at court. Knights of Honor also gave each countries leader a set of three distinct traits that would influence his behavior towards you. Diplomacy itself had everything you would need although it wasn’t what I would call ‘in depth’. The same applied to your royal family seeing that as long as an heir was available, the player never had to worry about the line of succession. As the game progresses the player will have access to more units, have built powerful cities and used his resources to unlock certain ‘Kingdom Advantages’ that were of great benefit.
Say what? What do I pay you for, fool?
This became the greatest strength of the game – it didn’t try to blow you away with epic battles or in depth diplomacy. No. Instead, it tried to make empire building fun and it damn well succeeded. It gave all the necessary options needed, provided enough diversity between the different cultures and kingdoms to make each playthrough unique and rewarded the player for his conquests. It still is fun to this day to simply sit back, build up your cities, raise armies and go off conquering Europa without having to worry about the little things.
The only real problem with the game was the miserable multiplayer. For some reason the developers chose to only introduce land battles and sieges as an option. As I said before, when looking at the specifics of the game and not at the product as a whole, you will see that it has shortcomings compared to its competition. The battles are fair enough during the single-player as they give you some distraction every now and then and the option was also a way to prevent your less experienced Generals from butchering it all up – but as multiplayer, it’s simply ’Scheisse’. If the limitations of the time would have prevented the Developers from making a co-op campaign, then they should have just left the multiplayer out of it. While on the topic of co-op, I will gladly admit that it is one of my wet dreams to see this in Knights of Honor. Sadly, unless some talented modder takes up the call (of duty), we will never see it come true. Until then, I will play this game side by side with my fellow Knights of Honor lovers, choosing the same Kingdom and trying to outplay each other against the clock.
There you have it, gents. Knights of Honor, a forgotten and hidden gem in the world of RTS. It’s simple, it’s fun and it will always have a place in my heart.