I had this game a few years ago when online was pretty bad. However in place of that aspect was a very enjoyable and intuitive offline mode. Being able to pick what type of battle was being fought, where, and with what group of people was extremely fun. It also offered a pretty good two person mode, splitting the screen so you and an adjacent friend could have fun. Sure there were issues that persist now. The camera is sometimes a bit too sensitive and it's confusing how you turn troops without just moving them. And even when you move for example a gun squadron when you stop them they don't face the direction they've been moving. Still, those were minor gripes with a solid game. So some time passed and I decided to redo load this game and enjoy it once more. I had heard they improved upon the online mode and there was even four player battles. My hopes high, imagine the shock I felt when my once obscure gem was now a lagging mess.
Firstly you will note the Messaging Board. The Messaging Board cannot be turned off and is as annoying as a YouTube comments section constantly updating on the screen. It's nothing but petty arguments and ridiculously childish posturing and ignorance. I don't miss being an 8th Grader or in a High School locker, I certainly don't need a text based reminder. Secondly the "new and improved" online multiplayer is slow and crashes. Even when I use the school wifi it can take several minutes to load up a game and it's horrendous at my apartment. Then if you get into the game you'd better hope you don't have a partner. Your troops are seemingly randomly split between the two players and with no means of communication each side will struggle to coordinate. In my experience a Two against One match will often favor the single general. It would be nice to have a comments section here but they felt it was far better suited for the front page. I will say that the new mechanic of being able to move your fleets freely at the beginning is quite helpful for organizing an assault. My only fault with this is that there is no timer indicating when your free period is over. Still it's a good idea and it really helps when playing.
So the multiplayer is a bit of a dud but as I recall it was never anything worth writing home about. No, I came back for the epic offline battles that I could used to get so much amusement out of. Oh boy. Where to start?
So for one thing they took away the split screen game which really stinks considering that I would often have grand crusades with my friends with this mode. However the true terror is what became of the offline solo battles. As far as I can figure it isn't actually offline. (I looked through the update history and the blog. They never said "removing offline" was happening) It's called "Practice" and won't work unless I have wifi even though I'm facing a cpu. But the thing is, it isn't even a battle anymore. It literally is just practice, see how many enemies you can kill and how many tiny waves you can survive. In the old version you could choose whether it would be a mostly projectile battle or close quarters combat. You could improve your skills in specific areas and strategies against awake opposition. In the current version your fully stacked army wages war on waves of two to three legions. Yet the game's own mechanics aren't built for this type of offensive. Instead of chasing an enemy off the side of the map, claiming victory, you now have to chase tiny armies off the side and quickly return to the center of the map for the oncoming belligerents. And the arrow and gun enemies that run away are always slightly faster than your ground troops so you HAVE to either defeat them quickly or chase them to the end, the latter happening most frequently. So you actually can't stay in the center and keep fighting each wave. You have to chase them aaaall the way to the edge then drag yourself aaaall the way to the middle again. It's a mess! And remember those tiny flaws with the original like the camera being out of control and not being able to easily turn the units? Well they haven't gotten any better in the updates. And now with this rushed gameplay it's imperative that one masters these clunky mechanics if one is to keep advancing in the game. You can lose your entire long range section because your sword and spear Samurai were busy chasing pike troops to the four corners of the sphere!
I don't want to rate this game lowly. I want to love this game like I did before. However, with a honest, sunken heart, I have to say that this game isn't good anymore. It's bad. Quite bad. And that isn't even entirely from all of the flaws, it's because I know this game has the potential to be a classic. It is capable of so much greatness but it's dragged down by frivolous changes that were meant to fix its flaws, but ended up infecting it. I believe in this game. But right now I don't like this game. I would give it the one star minimum but the potential of this makes it a disappointed two out of five.