PC Interview

Ancient Wars: Sparta chatter with Michael Hengst

Duncan investigates this new RTS with its producer

Ancient Wars: Sparta is a new historically-inspired real-time strategy game being developed by World Forge, under the watchful eye of Playlogic and Eidos Interactive. In a bid to discover if this new series in the offing can rival the Total War franchise, Duncan Lawson sat down with producer Michael Hengst to see what all the fuss is about.

Touted as a new strategy game, what type of gameplay can we expect from Ancient Wars: Sparta? It's a new title, with its own new direction, but should we expect the crunchy violence of Dawn of War, the epic storylines of Rise of Legends, or the considered empire building of Anno 1701?

It's certainly a new game, and while sticking to established usability in RTS gaming, we added a variety of new and neat features. If you must compare the concept, it more resembles a Dawn of War than a Rise of Legends or Anno. Ancient Wars: Sparta chatter with Michael Hengst

What wonderful new shiny features should expectant gamers await in AW:S? There are a few titles coming up that are exciting the community, such as Total Annihilation and the Halo strategy title. What can we expect to see here and nowhere else?

One of the new features, and the one we are particular proud of, is the possibility of collecting weapons from the battlefield and equipping your own troops with them. During a fight, killed soldiers leave their weapons behind. Send in a bunch of workers to pick up those weapons and use them to equip your own soldiers in our integrated unit designer. The advantage of using those weapons is clear: it is cheaper as it costs a lot less resources, making it easier for you to get your army up and running - and, it is a chance to get your hands on weapons that the player has not researched yet. Also, the unit designer allows access to an extremely vast variety of units. You can combine weapons as well, giving an archer a sword as a secondary weapon, so he can defend himself when attacked at close range.

How much muscle will we need in our system to get the full benefit of AWS?

Ancient Wars: Sparta has plenty of eye candy, and I would suggest you have a P4 with at least 3GHz, an Nvidia 7800GT (or similar) and 2 GBytes of RAM to enable the highest graphics setting, however the game will also run perfectly well with a less powerful machine, of course. Ancient Wars: Sparta chatter with Michael Hengst

What's the prospect for online play?

To speak via Albert Einstein: "Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler." We made multiplayer as accessible as possible. Login, pick your server, create or join a game - have fun. No costs, no registration. We have - right now - 9 different Maps. We have small maps for only two contestants and large maps, where 8 players battle each other. You can team up with your friends to beat the hell out of another team. Or its simply open season - everybody against everybody.

What forces / empires will the gamer get to control, just the Spartans?

We have three different civilizations: Persian, Egyptian and of course the Spartans. Every force has its own strengths and weaknesses. The Spartans for example can build catapults and upgrade them with devastating Greek fire. The Persians have battle elephants that crush enemy troops. Ancient Wars: Sparta chatter with Michael Hengst

Who is the best Spartan - The Master Chief or the scary rocker types in the new Frank Miller Movie?

Myself, being a huge fan of Frank Miller, have to admit that I have to go with the Spartans from the 300.

What can we expect in the way of plot? Angelina Jolie flouncing about in a toga?

We all would love to see Angelina Jolie in our game, in a toga - heck, I'd personally volunteer to oversee any motion capturing session with her. However, I guess she and Brad Pitt have a different opinion about this. The Plot is based on the historical events. You have Leonidas who fights his way to the Spartan climax at Thermopylae. The Persians have to deal with an Egyptian revolt and of course the fight against Sparta. Ancient Wars: Sparta chatter with Michael Hengst

Is this the start of a franchise? Can we look forward to Ancient War: Late Dynasty Merovingians?

That depends on how well Ancient Wars: Sparta is received. We certainly have a lot of ideas for sequels and spin-offs.

How much historical accuracy do we have to put up with?

The events and the scenario are based on historical events. The weapons, armour and design of those are pretty much accurate. But, every time we had to choose between history and gameplay, the latter won. Personally I'm not in favour of games that neglect that. First and foremost, we are making games. Games are entertainment. If you want absolute historical facts, read a history book! Ancient Wars: Sparta chatter with Michael Hengst

Dip in and out of, like Viva Pinata, or entirely give up on social connections and family like World of Warcraft?

If you already have WoW on your hard drive you most likely won't have any social connections any more to give up anyway. And honestly, if you are into WoW you most likely don't have time left to play anything else. But Ancient Wars: Sparta is definitely not a game which you just play during a lunch break!

Thanks for your time, Michael, best of luck with completing Sparta.