The title is a bit of a give-away. This strategy game is set some time around 1200AD, when Anglo-Saxons were still beating each other over the head with lumps of wood. Unfortunately, the game itself is rather more subtle than that, although combat does feature highly. Initially, however, Knights and Merchants resembles games such as the Settlers series or perhaps Beasts and Bumpkins, in that you, as the last loyal captain in the kingdom, must build a stable settlement.
Doing so is bags of fun, since there’s no particular rush and you can take your time to watch the detailed animation. This is quite superb, with little serfs and peasants wandering around your makeshift village, nailing individual planks of wood together to build each of the buildings, roads, farms, store houses and other constructions that you have ordered. It’s fascinating to watch, particularly in the higher resolution graphics modes that are available. In order for your settlement to be successful, it must be economically balanced, which isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Once you’ve built up a nice little settlement and everything’s ticking over nicely, it’s time for the Knights of the title to come into their own. It’s important to create a good strong army in this game, not only for the protection of your own town, but also so that you can fulfil your supposed destiny – recapturing the kingdom from the disloyal subjects – and kick some mediaeval posterior. This part of the game is mission based, with 20 individual campaigns linked together, and is reminiscent of ‘Myth; the Fallen Lords’, in that you control detailed armies battling over varied and interesting terrain. The simple control method makes the combat fun rather than strenuous, especially when taking on up to five other human opponents.
Company: Interactive Magic