Crown Wars: The Black Prince – Review
Follow Genre: Turn-based strategy
Developer: Artefacts Studio
Publisher: NACON
Platform: PC, PS55, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: PC

Crown Wars: The Black Prince – Review

Site Score
Good: Extensive unit customisation
Bad: Various technical issues
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Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)

We should have seen the writing on the wall when Crown Wars: The Black Prince’s launch date was pushed back. This decision was based on community feedback, after both the beta and demo versions of the game failed to deliver on players’ expectations. Unfortunately, delaying the game by a few months proved to be too little, too late: Crown Wars isn’t a good game. Granted, it’s not necessarily a *bad* game either. Confused about what we mean? Well, read on and find out why you probably won’t miss out on too much by skipping this one.


The Middle Ages lend themselves exceptionally well to video game settings, whether it’s the swords and sorcery of Redemption Reapers or the more historical approach of Knights of Honor II. Crown Wars falls in the latter category. Our story is set during the Hundred Years War, which took place in Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries. While we can’t vouch for historical accuracy here, the setting does provide context for the events that play out here. It’s a necessity too, as Crown Wars presents an event-driven story, rather than a character-driven one. You as the player are the exception, as you are central to the plot. Occasionally, a historical character makes a cameo, and you go “Oh, I know that guy” but sadly, these figures don’t really play a meaningful role here. Any other characters you recruit are seemingly randomly generated and have no true narrative connection to the overarching story. Said story is, well, not that memorable. It revolves around the Order, an enigmatic organization bent on gaining political influence by dabbling in the dark arts and the occult. While Crown Wars doesn’t really confirm or deny whether the Order’s actions are actually tied to black magic or if it’s just superstition, it’s still up to you to stop them and restore the name of your family. The tale is as generic as it gets in practice, hitting every predictable story beat, and individual events feel inconsequential as a result.


The most interesting aspect of Crown Wars’ visuals is probably that every single unit in your army can be fully customized through the in-game character designer. You can create a unified-looking squad or your own mismatched band of rag-tag heroes. Granted, most of your time with the game is spent zoomed out as you look at the battlefield from a top-down view, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless. Apart from this feature, the game looks below average, without offering anything special aesthetically. Things are often underlit, perhaps to emphasize the game’s grimdark nature. Animations look stilted and wooden. We should also note that Crown Wars’ frame rate didn’t always keep up with the on-screen action.


Accompanying your heroes on their quest is exactly the kind of music you’d expect in a game set during the Hundred Years War. Granted, the OST never really takes center stage, perhaps being a bit too subdued. While Crown Wars’ music and sound effects may not be anything special, what’s present here is still okay for what it is. However, the voice acting in the game is absolutely awful. Character performances are devoid of emotion, both in combat and during cutscenes.


It would be very easy to summarise Crown Wars’ gameplay as “XCOM, but in medieval times”. For the most part, this would be a very apt description too, although there are certain elements here that try to give Crown Wars its own identity, even if the result isn’t quite up there. The basis, of course, is familiar if you’ve played any half-decent tactical RPG in recent years. You take charge of a small squad of soldiers at a time and head to a grid-based battlefield to tackle various missions. There is an overarching main campaign to follow, of course, and this branches as you choose between different missions. This, of course, bodes well for replayability, even if the difficulty level of various missions doesn’t always feel balanced. Certain maps can take upwards of an hour to complete and many feel like an uphill struggle, especially early on.

Up to six soldiers can be fielded in a single mission. The game uses an action point system, similar to that of the aforementioned XCOM series. Each character has three AP, one of which is limited to movement only, whereas the other two can be used for more movement or taking actions. This includes attacking or using an item or skill. It’s all pretty straightforward stuff, and much of Crown Wars’ strategic appeal comes from finding synergies between your units and picking the right troops for the job, whether that’s assaulting an enemy fortress or escaping the battlefield. After completing a mission, the assigned units will need to rest at your home base, so you’ll ideally have several squads ready to step up while another is taking its downtime. It’s often a good idea to create highly specialized squads for specific mission types.

As your units level up, they’ll eventually grow into one-man armies of their own, but this does require a significant investment of both time and resources. There are six different unit classes that you can assign to your recruits. There are the obvious sword or bow-wielding units, of course, but there are also more specialized units like the alchemist or the beastmaster. Six classes may not seem like a lot compared to other titles in the genre, but if you pick different abilities when leveling up, you’ll end up with characters that have very different uses, even when they are the same class. Permadeath is a feature here, although depending on your chosen difficulty level, your soldiers sustain injuries rather than outright die. Characters suffering multiple wounds over the course of the campaign will eventually kick the bucket. Given the generic nature of the cast, there is no emotional connection here like there is in other games with a permadeath feature, however. A death feels like a financial setback rather than something consequential in the grand scheme of things.

Between battles, you’ll be spending time in your home base. This hub area acts similar to those found in the Disgaea games. You’ll be managing all sorts of facilities here, allowing you to recruit more soldiers, upgrade equipment, and have your wounded rest to heal, to name a few features. Of course, you’ll need to spend resources to build your base from a decrepit shack into a domain worthy of a medieval lord. This is where your battlefield earnings typically go, aside from upgrades for your soldiers. While there is something to be said about the game’s reward cycle in theory, in practice it simply boils down to a whole lot of grinding on skirmish maps before you feel confident enough to take on the next narrative mission.

Unfortunately, Crown Wars is a flawed game in more ways than one. There were a handful of issues that we ran into during our time with the game, such as random game crashes, enemy AI not being up to snuff, and input lag. However, our biggest qualm with the game is less about technical stuff and more about how uninspiring and generic everything feels. Crown Wars doesn’t put any effort into fleshing out its characters, fails to create a compelling campaign narrative, and doesn’t have a unique hook. There really isn’t a reason to play the game because whatever it has to offer can be found better elsewhere. While the game does boast various difficulty levels, and no two playthroughs should end up exactly the same, there was very little that motivated us to finish even a single run, let alone multiple. The game’s price tag is reflected in Crown Wars’ length, but unfortunately, not in its overall quality, or lack thereof.


We can only assume that Crown Wars’ technical issues will be patched out down the line, but even if we ignore these, we’re left with a painfully average game. Sure, it’s functional, but there is very little here that is worth putting in the time and effort that the game requires. The story doesn’t take advantage of the historical background beyond giving context. The audiovisual presentation is below average. The final nail in the coffin is that we’ve already seen everything Crown Wars’ gameplay has to offer been done much better elsewhere. This game is a missed opportunity if we’ve ever seen one.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Crown Wars: The Black Prince - Review, 5.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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