Crown Wars: The Black Prince Preview
The dark forces will work to infiltrate other factions so players may need to intervene to prevent their controlled factions getting too powerful and gaining full control of the kingdom.
Following its take on The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk, French developer Artefacts Studio returns with another tactical title in the form of Crown Wars: The Black Prince. The game combines history and fantasy with its take on the Hundred Years’ War between France and England. Artefacts Studio is aiming to build on its experience with The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk to dive a bit deeper into the tactical side of things.
Crown Wars: The Black Prince is set following the disastrous 1356 Battle of Poitiers where the French king was captured by Prince Edward, the eponymous Black Prince. However, the game introduces a dark supernatural twist of evil lurking in the shadows. The game begins with a tutorial prologue where the secret base of a group fighting back against is raided by opposing forces. After this, players are invited to select one of four French noble houses to play as. After falling on hard times, a friend gives players the opportunity to reestablish their family with a small feudal domain, while working for the greater cause of reinstating the French kingdom. However, this will eventually lead to them encountering a greater evil power lurking in the shadows.
The main campaign sees players sending their recruited units on missions across France. There will be some strategy to this, as players will need to consider the time taken to get to missions as well as which units to send on them. The campaign is not static, with a calendar system in use where missions may disappear after a certain amount of time. In addition, players will need to give time for units to recuperate, as they don’t automatically heal after each battle. It’s certainly not a case of being able to rely on a single powerful party, players will want to have plenty of units available to step in where needed. A campaign is intended to last around 25 hours.
There are three different types of missions, with players able to undertake multiple missions at once provided they have enough units available. In addition to the main quest, there is a set of family missions unique to the house players select at the start of the game, as well as procedural side missions that help players level up units and gain resources need to upgrade their base. Each mission gives players an idea of the potential reward and threat, as well as which faction they will be facing. The dark forces will work to infiltrate other factions so players may need to intervene to prevent their controlled factions getting too powerful and gaining full control of the kingdom, leading to a game over.
Before sending units out on missions, players have a variety of options in their upgradable domain. In the barracks, players can recruit (and customise) units from six different classes, each with its own set of skills, and equip them with thirteen different weapon types and a variety of consumable items. As units gain experience they level up, unlocking new skills and passive bonuses. When leveling up a class, each unit has two paths it can go down, effectively acting as sub-classes.
In addition to the barracks, there are six other unlockable buildings within the domain, which make use of four different resources gathered from missions. The laboratory lets players upgrade their consumables and research new ones, including poison potions or special ranged ammo, while the forge lets players upgrade equipment. The church is used to rest units who have picked up injuries if they fall in previous battles; a unit that picks up too many injuries will die. Players can capture certain enemies and hold them in the prison, which can give them a passive bonus or the option to ransom them back. The market lets players trade resources, and finally the lord hall is where players send units out on missions.
Players can send up to four units on each mission, though some classes bring an animal companion with them. Each combatant has a single move point and two action points to use per turn, with each action point able to be traded for extra movement. There looks to be a good mixture of play styles and strategies available with the different classes and potential character builds. When attacking or using a skill, players aren’t guaranteed to inflict a specific amount of damage, instead the game will show the hit chance, the anticipated damage range, and a critical hit chance.
Positioning and terrain play important factors in the combat. Cover and verticality offers the opportunity to utilise and mitigate against ranged attacks, while melee attacks gain bonuses for flanking and hitting foes from behind. Players can also make use of various interactive objects, such as ballistae. Overwatches and opportunity attacks are further way for players to make good use to their units positioning to emerge victorious. Sometimes players will also be able to advantageously position their units before being spotted by the enemy.
Although the developer kept quiet on the exact nature of the threat lurking in the shadows, it will be interesting to see how it blends it with the game’s historical setting. Meanwhile, the tactical side has all of the apparent requisite elements to engage genre fans, at least throughout the length of its campaign. Players will be able to put their stamp on history when the game launches on March 7, 2024, for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S.