PC Games

Published on May 26th, 2024 | by Richard Banks

Crown Wars: The Black Prince PC Review

Crown Wars: The Black Prince PC Review Richard Banks

Summary: For the most part, Crown Wars: The Black Knight is a disappointing addition for a genre crying out for quality entries.


Crowning Disappointment

It feels like forever since a decent XCOM-like has made turn-based fans sit up and take notice. Crown Wars: The Black Knight’s promise of a tough, turn-based strategy set in a dark, fantasy world is certainly enough to make any hungry genre fan’s ears prick up, but it’s a promise short-lived – especially if you’re in this for the narrative. 

It’s a shame, as a game set in a bleak, alternative-history France during the 100-year war, complete with occult dealings and dark magic, sounds like a compelling, spooky adventure.  And early missions even somewhat do the game’s unique USP justice. Moving units around 13th-century medieval Europe makes a refreshing change of pace for a genre that typically focuses on futuristic settings, (underrated fellow medieval tactical strategy, Wartales, notwithstanding) and replacing guns with trusty bow and arrows and broadswords makes a welcome change. But, while all the pieces initially seem to fit into place, Crown Wars squanders interest sooner than you’d hope, with a unique setting ruined by laughably bad dialogue, even worse voice acting and a disappointing storyline.

At one point, while on a daring rescue mission, my troops snuck up on an encampment only to be spotted by enemies guarding my would-be rescuee. Instead of screaming for help, my target  – a damsel in apparent very little distress – decided now was the time to announce to me who she was in a tone most unfitting for a kidnap victim. These kinds of interactions become more and more commonplace as the campaign goes on, with rugged soldiers and terrifying enemies almost jovially announcing their lust for your blood. It turns what should be a dark adventure into a silly tug-of-war between forces you, unfortunately, struggle to care about at all. 

Luckily, I can overlook narrative issues as long as the gameplay is good, and Crown Wars? It’s, well, fine. With a team of six soldiers – made up of archers, alchemists and more – Crown Wars typically sees you taking out sets of enemies through scripted missions and generic enemy encounters. Missions tend to vary from stealth-type battles, that see you kidnapping enemy soldiers to hold them to ransom back at your camp, to more aggressive objectives like holding back waves of enemies. Like similar tactical strategies, missions are turn-based, relying on you to utilise defensive and aggressive tactics, with map obstacles and vantage points playing a big part in how objectives are tackled. Sending an archer up to the top of a castle wall, for example, allows you to reign down hell on enemies from a relatively safe position, whilst hiding your alchemist behind a toppled barrel on ground level gives your nasty concoctions a better chance of dealing maximum damage.

Strangely, there’s a lack of ‘normal’ attacks in your soldier’s repertoires, with units typically using various special abilities. It may sound like an odd complaint but, this almost takes the shine off of these ‘special’ attacks, making them feel less like something worth unlocking and working toward and more like bog-standard abilities. It would be nice to have a basic club attack, for example, instead of immediately unlocking one that knocks points off enemy armour. I do however like that some units can have multiple weapon sets which can be switched at will. Swapping from a one-on-one combo like a sword and shield to a halberd, for example, allowed me to take on enemy groups more easily, and it’s a nice touch in furthering the tactical options at hand.

Enemy types become more varied as the campaign progresses, but most encounters tend to involve variations of ‘soldier with weapons’. This is fine at first, especially as you learn the nuances of both enemies and your own army, but the more time you spend playing, the less tactical the game becomes as you become accustomed to the same strategies the game’s middling AI pulls off. While the game can be difficult – you’re constantly overwhelmed by enemy numbers when reinforcements are summoned – I found I could usually pace things well by completely avoiding enemy encounters due to poor scripting. During one mission, which involved reaching a map point with my troops, I managed to avoid most encounters by simply going around the generous enemy blindspots as hostile troops didn’t move from their set locations.

Still, as someone notoriously bad at games akin to Crown Wars, I do enjoy that there are several difficulty levels to be had, and while unit permadeath can’t be turned off, turning down to the game’s ‘easiest’ option gives your units three chances to nearly shift off the mortal coil before they’re done for good. There are even some gnarly finishers that occasionally see your units brutally bring an end to an enemy unit, but once you’ve seen them a couple of times, you’ll find yourself more often than not reaching for the skip button as the animations repeat themselves over and over.

Successfully making it to the end of a mission alive allows you to level up your squad, allowing them to improve their selection of attacks, but what you’re really after is end-of-mission loot. There’s a hometown to cultivate, and using resources unlocked throughout missions, you can improve your base and, in turn, your troops. You can unlock stronger weapons, increase the quality of recruitable units, and buy one-off potions and perks. There’s even a prison cell where kidnapped enemy commanders can be kept at ransom, forcing them to share their secrets with your army.

But improving my army only really matters if I care about them, and maybe I would care more if my soldiers weren’t so downright ugly. Despite being able to fully customise your unit appearance, character models are, well, characterless, and worst of all, weirdly blurry, The environments look fine, so It’s not too much of a problem when in battle, but cutscenes and close-ups are a disappointing mix of cloudy visuals and lacklustre design. I also experienced more than a few crashes through my playthrough, with one, in particular, triggering the tutorial pop-ups even though I was 10 hours into the campaign.

While none of Crown Wars’ gameplay is particularly bad, none of it’s particularly exciting, either, and other games have done it before and much better. If you’re looking to turn off and play a few rounds of generic turn-based strategy, there’s probably something for you here, but for the most part, Crown Wars: The Black Knight is a disappointing addition for a genre crying out for quality entries.

About the Author


Back to Top ↑