Battle Realms: Winter of the Wolf
With the success of Battle Realms, Ubisoft was bound to release a follow up, and indeed they have: the Winter of the Wolf expansion pack has graced the shelves of your local game store. Should you pick it up? Read on! Winter of the Wolf compliments the original's storyline with it's own, equally enjoyable plot involving the rise to independance of the Wolf clan. Under the evil reign of the Lotus clan, the Wolves were bound in chains and forced to work in the shale mines, dying from starvation or attacks from the creatures that dwelled in the tunnels. Now that you've arrived, you can help lead Grayback - Wolf clan leader and last heir to the throne - in reuniting the scattered remnants of the once proud people and fight your way to freedom. The Lotus aren't going to let you just walk out the door however, so expect resistance.
The Dragon, Lotus and Serpent clans are not without additional units however. The Dragon clan receive the relentless Guardians, Battle Maidens and "Teppo", the Zen master who was designed by a competition winner. The Lotus receive Reapers (who can bring dead untis back to life...in a way), the seductive Overseer's and "Yvaine", the Zen master who is the arch-enemy of Grayback in the singleplayer section of Winter of the Wolf. Finally, the Serpent clan are backed by Enforcers and Witches, who have a once-off ability to transform into Demonesses (very cool). The new Serpent Zen master is Taro, who has a rather nice sword.
The one thing you'll notice with the new units is that each clan now has a unit that can efficiently attack watchtowers, by either damaging, redirecting or deactivating them. In total, each clan is upgraded with a new master, two new units and a building (for creating the new units). The new artwork remains faithful to the original, slightly exaggerated models, and are just as colourful. I would have liked more units to play with, but I guess the age-old saying of 'quality before quantity' would apply, and it passes in this case...just. The game is still well balanced. Units have any number of advantages over others depending on the situation of battle, so the core idea of the game remains intact. This expansion pack does not change any fundamentals of the gameplay, it just gives you more to play with.
The graphics have not changed, unless you count the little eyecandy features you see like frosty breath, footprints in the snow etc. The interface is slightly changed for the better and like Warcraft 3, is differently designed for each clan. Overall, Winter of the Wolf is a nice addition to a good RTS game. I couldn't see any problems at all, and the only trouble I had was taking screenshots - my machine refused to comply, which accounts for the lack of original screenshots (see the official website for more). The new landscapes present in the expansion and the additional units give enough variety to keep your interest up for a while, and I enjoyed the singleplayer aspect. I can't help thinking that more could have been included though, but considering you can now pick up Battle Realms and Winter of the Wolf in one go for £14.99, you can't complain.