And so the Warlords strategy bandwagon rolls on, its entourage of six titles - four turn-based, two RTS - about to be joined by game number seven and RTS number three - Warlords Battlecry III. But with the recently released Warlords IV proving that the turn-based series still has plenty of life left in it, can Battlecry III do the same for the Warlords RTS collection? Well, funny you should ask actually, as we just happen to have the latest preview code right here, so why don't we dive in and find out what's on offer? Follow me...
First up, the graphics engine has been given a spring clean apparently - but to be honest, it's difficult to see what's changed since the last game. However, while the visuals may be akin to the doodlings of a two-fingered orang-utan, remember that the Warlords games have never been about looks. So let's move on to what really counts.
What struck us most about Battlecry III is the sheer amount of options, including 16 races to play as or against (there were 11 in Battlecry II). We tried out all of the five new races, of which two - Knights and Empire - proved similar to the Human race in the last version. However, the other three were far more imaginative.
The Ssrathi, a primitive but deadly lizard race was our favourite, with units including a T Rex, pterodactyl and triceratops. The Plaguelords, a nation of mysterious swamp creatures offered towering Hydras and electrocuting floating eyes, while the Swarm came equipped with an array of bees, giant ants, scorpions and crushingly powerful scorpion men.
As with all the Warlords games, your troops are led by a hero whose sphere of influence gives nearby units combat bonuses. However, heroes can also gain experience, level-up and specialise in a host of different skills. And of course, we mustn't forget to mention their incantation-packed spell books that can play a major role in swinging the outcome of a battle. Although they're yet to be added, we've also been promised 30 new spells (and three new spheres of magic), bringing the total to an impressive 130.
You can also look forward to an all-new hero development system, which we can happily say is far more intuitive than before. You'll have countless new attributes to develop too, while gaining levels is now quicker and easier. What's more, you'll be able to take your hero all the way up to level 50 and then use them and their ever-growing retinue in multiplayer games.
From what we've seen of it, there's a wealth of gameplay under the ugliness here - despite the dated visuals, it's looking like fans of the series won't be disappointed. In fact, Battlecry III is just like that close, opposite-sexed, pizza-faced friend of yours. You'll want to spend loads of time with it, but you wouldn't want to shag it.