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Old 25-06-2010, 07:01 PM   #1
MrFlibble
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Thumbs up Horde: The Northern Wind

This game is among my long-time favourites, but it seems that it was generally overlooked and had not gained much popularity.

Horde: The Northern Wind is, essentially, a Warcraft II lookalike created by a Russian development team, which has quite a few interesting, noteworthy improvements. The game is set in the world of Semirech'ye (Russian for "Land of the Seven Rivers"), a medieval fantasy setting loosely based on Slavic folk tales, and the player, who takes on the role of a tribe leader, must build up settlements, explore and interact with his neighbours. Unlike other RTS games, there are no missions: the world is divided into 9 large maps (in a 3x3 pattern), and the player's units can travel between them at any time, given that the path between the two adjacent maps is not obstructed. Once the player's alter ego leader unit moves into a new map, control of the settlement and all remaining units in the previous map is relegated to the AI (actually, the current situation on that map will be "calculated" upon re-entry based on the decisions the AI "governor" would make in the stead of the player). There is a rather vague global goal of slaying the dragon, but as the game progresses, the player has to figure out for themselves how to find said dragon and deal with it. All of this contributes to a rather non-linear, immersive game play that can last for many hours.


The map of Semirech'ye

The game's visuals are overall very pleasant and highly detailed. The designers have paid a great deal of attention to all sorts of graphical and realistic detail. For example, the build-up animation of each structure has lots of frames that show different stages of construction, and there equally numerous frames for different states of damage and dilapidation. Buildings catch on fire only if attacked by flame weapons, such as lighted arrows or ballista bolts, as opposed to fire as a generic damage indicator. The flames may then spread to adjacent structures if the wind is blowing in that direction, thus causing a large fire in the settlement; forest fires are possible as well. Flags on all structures are animated, and are affected by changes in the direction of the wind; units leave tracks on sandy river banks etc. etc. Foot soldiers can move through the woods (although at a lower speed than on open terrain), although it can become dangerous, as wolves and bears easily chew up a troop of inexperienced soldiers wandering in the forest.


The use of ballistas has caused a forest fire

The economy system is a bit more complicated than what is usually found in Warcraft-style games. Generally, the player has to pay more attention to the management of their settlement, especially early on in the game. There are four types of resources: ore, wood, gold and population. The first three are collected as you'd expect: workers chop down trees and carry sacks of gold and ore from the mines to the town centre. The only real difference is that the player must first construct a mine over a gold or ore deposit to be able to collect those resources. Population is another thing. Building farms in Horde does not increase the number of units that can be built or trained, but adds to the overall population growth in the settlement. Every time a worker or a soldier is trained he is recruited from the available population, making it a resource as well. Same goes for newly built structures (except farms), which require a varying number of people to operate them. Population also pays taxes (in all three other resources, not just gold), so the more populated a settlement is, the more resources the player can get. Some of the taxes are spent to pay salaries to the army and workers (this time only in gold). Tax collection and payments are done automatically, and the player has no direct control over this process.


A view of a mid-game settlement with various structures

Base construction can be described as a mixture between Warcraft and Command & Conquer. The player's castle functions both as a town hall and a construction yard, able, on one hand, to train workers and store resources, and to issue construction orders on the other. Once a building is placed down, it begins construction by itself, without the need for workers; same goes for building repairs. All buildings, with the exception of mines and lumber mills, can only be constructed within a certain range of the castle. Some buildings like the barracks or the factory can somewhat expand this radius, but the size of the settlement is still limited. There can be one castle per map, and thus one settlement, although the player may destroy their current castle and build a new one elsewhere. However, in this case all the old buildings that remain outside the new castle's radius will be abandoned and will dilapidate slowly until completely destroyed. Certain buildings, like lumber mills, mines and towers can be captured by enemy foot soldiers if they are damaged enough (like in Dune II or Red Alert).

When the player encounters other factions that populate the world, combat is not the only option. Every newly encountered nation is initially neutral towards the player. This status can be changed via the diplomacy option; the player can declare a war, propose an alliance, or surrender and become a vassal of an overwhelming opponent. However, there are noticeable limits to the possible diplomatic actions: for example, the player cannot ally with a neutral tribe (an alliance can only be proposed to a hostile opponent), or demand an enemy to surrender (to do this, the player has to decline all proposals of alliance from an enemy while dealing massive damage, e.g. attacking the enemy castle). Almost every map in Horde has two AI-controlled Semirek tribes (whose units and structures are identical to that of player's, but differently coloured), a nomad camp and a hermit wizard. Nomads usually do not harvest resources and have only one structure, the tent, that can produce all combat units available to them. Although of different appearance and names, the nomadic tribe's units are functionally identical to those of the player. Later on in the game, the nomads might also start building a normal base and gathering resources, and there is one map with a large fortified base of the nomads.


A nomad camp

Wizards usually offer quests, asking to obtain an item for which they promise to pay handsomely, or allow the player to mine gold in their territory in return. Some of them are benevolent towards the player (unless something is built on their land without their permission), while others will get angry if the player does not fulfil their quests, and start harassing the player with summoned creatures. The best way to deal with the wizards is not to complete the quests, but to "persuade" them to cooperate with the force of arms. A large force is required to give a wizard some beating, because they all have a powerful lightning attack, can summon magical creatures to their aid, and sometimes turn invisible. It pays off however, because this way the player can obtain rare items, or force the wizard to open a magically sealed passage to another map that can speed up the player's progress. Some of the wizards play a great role in the dragon-slaying scenario, as the player eventually finds out.

Combat situations, especially when they involve large numbers of units, are rather chaotic, as the units often ignore the player's orders in the heat of battle. I suppose this was done for realism, and is not a bug (although units do have some trouble with pathfinding). Other than this, unit control is aided by easy group-selection: once a group has been selected, one unit is assigned leader status, and a flag appears over it; clicking that flag selects the entire group. Individual addition or exclusion of units (as per Shift key in Blizzard games) is not possible, but there's an option to exclude all units of a given type from the group by clicking the group icon, and then on the icon of the (un)desired unit type. This is useful when workers are occasionally selected with combat units, or vice versa. It is also possible to select all units on the screen by pressing Enter. Units cannot be upgraded, but they will gain experience over time, making them stronger, more resistant and able to heal wounds.


Nomads attempt to cross a heavily defended bridge

No enemy on the map, except for the wizards, can be defeated for good. Even if an opponent is no longer shown in the diplomacy screen, they are sure to return sooner or later, although the AI has hard times rebuilding from scratch, so unless it's the nomads who can produce combat units from their tent with no other prerequisites, the returning AI poses little threat. However, an expelled opponent often uses a nifty trick of bribing most if not all of the player's units to his side when making a comeback. This is something the player can never pull off, although it is possible to capture an entire enemy town if the player has no castle on the map, and has been successful in forcing an enemy to surrender. In this case, the defeated opponent is expelled, while the remainder of his settlement is converted to the player's side.


Blue player's forces defend their castle, while their leader offers the player to end the battle

While exploring the world, the player can find various items that are either quest- or story-related, or allow the use of special abilities like the summoning of magical allies, revealing parts of the map etc. On some maps, different creatures can be found that, upon their release, will either join the player or attack at random. In some places there are cryptic hints engraved in stones that should help the player in their quest; important information can also be obtained from ancient scrolls that are found in possession of some of the wizards.


Lots of items and a treasure chest

Overall, the game is quite interesting and fun to play. Several innovations give the RTS genre a twist, although the game mechanics are far from perfect, and lack of balance allows for certain exploits that can make the game too easy. The AI is not brilliant either, and might become annoying at times. However, the pros overweigh the cons in my opinion, and the global quest part makes up for the somewhat repetitive gameplay.

You can get a playable demo of Horde: The Northern Wind here. The game runs fine under DOSBox, but will need more memory than the default setting (32 Mb or more).

A sequel, Horde: The Citadel, is also available. Unfortunately, no major improvements were made to the game play, and many bugs and imbalance issues persist in the sequel. However, there are some nice new goodies, so if you happen to like this game, you'll probably derive some enjoyment from the second instalment as well.
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Old 18-03-2014, 01:33 PM   #2
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Thanks to Hallfiry's amazing gaming magazine cover disk catalogue I was able to track down the elusive English Windows demo of the game (originally it was available from Buka's website). The demo is uploaded here:
http://www64.zippyshare.com/v/2857790/file.html

Note though that the zip archive is not original, as the demo files that I found are in the unpacked state on the CD Action coverdisk #54.
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Old 19-03-2014, 07:26 PM   #3
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As Absolute Games reports to us, there is also Horde 2 in Russian market.

I never seen both though.
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Old 20-03-2014, 03:48 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiling Spectre View Post
As Absolute Games reports to us, there is also Horde 2 in Russian market.
Horde II was released internationally as Horde: The Citadel. Exact release information on other countries is hard to track down though, as Buka would sign agreements with various publishers and distributors to market their games abroad.
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Old 28-03-2014, 01:31 PM   #5
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Got both games now, English, in ISO-form (rips, I suppose, without CD-Audio). If you need them, tell me.
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Old 29-03-2014, 06:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smiling Spectre View Post
Got both games now, English, in ISO-form (rips, I suppose, without CD-Audio).
There's no CD Audio in either game. It's just that the in-game music is limited to the intro crawl, the main menu, and the victory and defeat screens.

Oh, I nearly completely forgot that chanfort, a user from dosgames.com forums, uploaded a YouTube walkthrough of the English version of the first game.
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Old 13-09-2014, 02:56 AM   #7
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Horde II was released internationally as Horde: The Citadel. Exact release information on other countries is hard to track down though, as Buka would sign agreements with various publishers and distributors to market their games abroad.

Anyone know what the game was called in german?
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