Ancient Wars: Sparta
It Takes a few decades for movies to get the remake treatment, and more often than not the wait is never worth it. However, the recent cinematic remake of The 300 Spartans (300 - by way of a graphic novel of a similar title) was something of an exception. In gameland, we tend to call remakes sequels, but in the case of Sparta, we should make a distinction. This is because while it could be mistaken for a movie tie-in (and wouldn't marketing love that), it is in the Hollywood sense a remake of an earlier RTS: Age Of Empires.
Like 300, Sparta offers the same kind of experience as its predecessor, only rebuilt with new technology, special effects and gore. In the case of Sparta, that means you'll be pumping out villagers to farm food, chop wood and mine gold -all in the name of military conquest and all by way of a 3D engine that looks suitably 21st century and makes rudimentary use of 3D particle physics.
What are standard-issue RTS features can at least be praised for being reliable: in formation, troops retain cohesion until a battle demands otherwise. Then, when approached by the enemy, your soldiers can be relied upon to attack suitable targets without unnecessary clickage on your part.
In addition, there are a scattering of new features that may well make a lasting impression in the footnotes of RTS history. One of these is the option of using your villagers or slaves to collect weapons from the deceased. Given that you can equip troops from a selection of researched or pillaged equipment (including horses), this is a useful feature and one that gives your plebs a support role just beyond the front line. And in a similar way that you can customise what weapons your warriors carry (giving missile troops a backup sword, for instance), you can choose what troops to mount on chariots, camels and boats.
While the extra effort is justified and perhaps realistic, spending precious minutes rounding up horses, getting the right troops behind the reins and pulleys, then assembling them all for an attack will surely frustrate less well-organised players. There are the occasional Al issues too, where troops get stuck in the scenery and refuse to mount up. The camera too could do with being able to zoom out a touch more.
However, the greatest failing is that the Spartan single-player campaign is little more than a rather turgid expanded tutorial, not nearly as immediate or as exciting as a skirmish game. The Persian and Egyptian solo campaigns fair much better, but they also take too long to get going.
While most of what Sparta has to offer has been done before with Rome as the backdrop, for the most part it's an engaging and exciting game, and certainly a visually arresting one. For all it's minor embellishments on the genre however, it will be remembered for being an accomplished and distinct modern tribute to an all-time classic - which is perhaps no bad thing.
Download Ancient Wars: Sparta
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode