Ah, War Diary, back in 96 me and a friend spent hours re-playing the demo. It had only two levels but they where so fun we couldn't stop. I remember how close I came to order the game (by snail-mail, had no internet back then) but stumbled upon Warcraft 2 somewhere along the line, and of course - bought that instead. But some years later I managed to get War Diary anyway, totally free on the great Home of the Underdogs site! And I'm glad I did, because I'd always wanted to play the rest of this title.
War Diary is an historical strategy game very similar to the first Warcraft both in graphics and game-play. It is based upon events that took place in 16th century Korea, invaded by the Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who aimed to get through this country in order to conquer China. The Japanese possessed a weapon the Koreans had never encountered before: Guns. Using matchlock guns that had been copied from the Portuguese in 1542, the Japanese advanced quickly. You play the defending Korean force. The game-play consists of building and managing buildings, characters, and weapons. Buildings are used to build things, like other buildings, training troops and creating weapons. The types of buildings that you can build are: Main Hall, Barracks, Arms Works, Guard Tower, Blacksmith's, Shipyard, Temple, Tool Works, Heavy Arms Works, and Stables. You also have three primary resources that you must manage: food, trees, and Iron which are gathered by you're peasants. These resources brings you the income needed to enlarge you're lair and army.
Your army consists of archers, footmen, knights, artillery battalions which can be equipped with a whole host of weapons including six different kinds of swords, bows, crossbows, a range of powerful cannons and ballistics. Transports and battleships take your fight on to the sea and enemy islands. You also have priest-units that can heal you're troops and throw deadly fireballs as well (one of the few non-historical facts, but then again who am I to challenge the great mystics of ye olde Orient?). Use you're different units to locate and crush the enemy. Most levels are won this way, but some differ. One has you searching for a prince and see to it that he is brought to a specific place on the level unharmed.
Cut-scenes prior to each level consist of background pictures with scrolling text briefing you on the following mission, and here much of the historical facts are featured. The CD-version of the game had a long animated intro-video as well. The music is great and sound very Oriental and creates the right mood for the setting. The F10 button brings up a menu where you can save, load and exit the game. You can save whenever you want, but only have a total of 7 saves.
Although very many aspects of this game are identical to the first Warcraft, the game does have some cool features of its own. One is the overnight schedule that shifts between night and day. Enemy troops won't spot you as fast at night as in daylight, and you won't spot them as fast. Another feature is the weather changes, bringing rain for instance or maybe lightning that can randomly strike one of your men as well as an enemy! There is also wind which can make you're water-related troops sail fast or slow depending on which direction it blows and you sail. A wind-meter shows you its direction. These environmental effects add much more life to the game-play then so many other games of its kind, and I believe War Diary was the first to do so.
Yet another great feature is the market, located in you're main hall building. Here you can trade/sell your resources (trees, food, and iron) to raise more money for your army or buy resources you are running low on.
The last feature that is worth to point out is that each character's weapon can wear out, at which time the character is weaponless until another weapon is chosen or provided. This can be become a huge pain in the butt of course, but if you ask me it actually adds more realism to the game because archers for example can run out of arrows just as in real life. So you've got to keep making weapons in order to supply you're troops. All the features I've mentioned would have been a great addition to other similar games from the same period and even today. It should also be mentioned that although very much a Warcraft clone, War Diary does not feature the lame click-on-the-move-icon-first-to-move-you're-unit crap'o which made controlling units in Warcraft 1 pretty annoying. But I guess the reason for this is that War Diary was released in 1996, two years after Warcraft made it's debut.
So if you liked Warcraft and think War Diary sounds interesting I urge you to spend some time with it. It should not disappoint.
The game runs fine with Dosbox 0.70, but I have experienced issues with my save games not loading. This is however not a Dosbox related problem, because the same could happened when I played this CD-rip version of the game (which is the only one I've ever found) back in 99 in real Dos on a 266 computer. I found that when using Dosbox the error seldom strike if you set the xms and ems to 'true'. Another thing, after unpacking the game you should see a folder called 'NANJUNG'. This is where the game creates save game files, so keep it in the directory C:\Dosgames or what have you. Do not place it in the 'Ward' folder!