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CORRUPTION and treachery among the French nobility is rampant. Punitive taxation is bitterly resented by the peasantry and the country is on the brink of rebellion.
The 15th century war between te French and English is reaching its climax. Plundering by the military of both sides is the order of the day and only a miracle can save France. That miracle is Charles Aznavour. Did I say Charles Aznavour? Sorry, I meant Joan of Arc.

The game has two distinct parts and objectives. At the start your main aim is to conquer Orleans and Rheims to become crowned ruler of France. In this section you are constrained to military combat.
Once your coronation is out of the way, you can assume royal powers. A broad range of options opens up as you endeavour to cleanse all of France from the English presence.
Diplomatic initiatives, obtaining the release of prisoners or towns in exchange for money, executions, pardons, espionage, kidnapping and murder are all possible to a monarch.

Play is centred around a map of France with which you can learn weather conditions, the status of leaders plus the types and numbers of troops in different parts of the country.
Using this data, and the map, you deploy forces to displace and attack the enemy, build fortresses and strengthen your bases.

Combat is arcade style. Scenes involve entering towns, attacking and defending besieged battlements with rocks and boiling oil, battling in open country with archers, troops, mortar and knights and man-to-man combat on horseback.
When the opposing factions prepare to do battle in open country the archers, troops and knights are shown as dozens of almost microscopic sprites. At first sight this looks singularly unimpressive, but it works very well.

What with arrows and stones flying through the air, the various tiny troops surging forward and the frenzied cries and sounds of war, it really does give a feeling of viewing a battle from long distance.

A host of characters feature in the game. Once you accede, full details of each one are obtainable throughout. These characters include enemies as well as allies and can be selected and used in alliances or as spies to further your aims.

Games can be saved and loaded. Disc access slows the game down a little and a second drive helps.

Animated scenes are not the greatest you'll ever see, but the graphics are attractive and in keeping with the game's theme. The map and icons have an appropriate historic look about them, most of the information being presented on a parchment background.
Sound is used to splendid atmospheric effect, particularly on the battlefield. Game controls - mouse, joystick or keyboard - are responsive.

Joan of Arc is not the sort of game you will finish in a single sitting. The depth and detail, coupled with the generous range of choices, characters and decisions, mean that this is one you'll have to come back to.

Joan of Arc logo

US Gold
Price: £24.99

Probably one of the best know games ever to emerge on the Amiga, and probably one of the first major 16-bit innovations was Cinemaware's Defender Of The Crown, in which you played a Saxon Lord trying to take over Britain, county by county. Joan of Arc is something of a clone, but don't let that put you off: it is pretty impressive.

Despite the game's title, you play the role of the Prince, and you must take power before you can do any serious ruling and drive les Anglais out of France.

The game is played much along the same lines as DOTC. The main game screen contains a map of France, with all the various provinces coloured either blue (French rule), red (British rule) or a middling grey (revolting peasants). You have to try and win over all the provinces that are not blue and unite France, and to do that, you have to call on the assistance of Joan, Maid of Orleans, shown on the map as a blue flag.

At the side of the screen are two icons. One is the royal command icon, and the other is the seal of approval. The royal command icon calls up a menu of the seven different things you can do. These range from a full attack on an enemy castle, to more subtle measures, like diplomacy or even espionage. The seal is there to stamp any pronouncements you may make to spies, allies or enemies.

The funny thing about the seven royal duties is that you can do only one of them to start with. The rest cannot be done until you are crowned. That is dynastic royalties for you.

When you are travelling about the map, you will attack and be attacked by the enemy. This is all done in some really attractive arcade sequences, featuring a digitised backdrop of either a castle or a piece of French countryside. Overlaid are some well-animated cartoon quality sprites, and it is these that give the game its distinctly European look.

One of the events represents storming an enemy castle, while another sequence involves protecting your own castle against enemy invasion by pouring hot oil and throwing rocks at invaders as they scale the castle walls.

My favourite part of the game has to be the battles. You are represented as a large mass of white pixels and the enemy in black. You have three divisions of soldiers (footsoldier, archer, mounted cavalry) and each can be moved independently. You can launch volleys of arrows at each other, or simply wade in and see who gets decimated first.

The sound is excellent with digitised crowd noises coupled with a few agonised 'uuurghs' and 'arghs' which really add to the fun.

The only thing that really mars Jon Dark is the disk access. Even when you call up the weather on the map, it has to load it in. That aside, it is still fun to play. A little hard to start with, granted, but fun nonetheless.

Raunchy palace shocker! Charles and Joan rampage through France!

Joan of Arc logo Zzap! Sizzler

Rainbow Arts/GO!, £24.99 disk

Er... Joan of Arc doesn't have all that much to do with Joan of Arc, actually. What this arcade-cum-strategy adventure really concentrates on is the two-fold ambition of Charles, heir the throne of France (that's you).

Firstly, before he can wield any sort of power, levy taxes, raise armies, bribe people and generally throw his weight around, Charlie has to get crowned - and he can only get crowned at Reims. Reims, however, is in the middle of a large chunk of occupied country held by the English and needs to be recaptured first - which is where Joan of Arc comes in.

A map of France, divided into provinces, shows French and British territories plus the position of both countries' armies; it also gives access to the main game menu. Before you become king, there's only one choice of action: plan a campaign. The only general mad enough to fight for you as yet is Joan, and it's your job to move her army directly on course for Reims.

Combat takes place in various arcade forms. Armies clash on a battlefield which gives you control over groups of twitchy archers, cavalry and foot soldiers. You can direct their movement forwards and back, the angle of their cannon fire and the position at which arrows are launched. Fortified towns are raided and defended by individuals who battle it out on the city drawbridge as well as with boulders and boiling oil on the castle walls. Ouch!

OK, you've been crowned, you're king and official sovereign of France. Now what? Well, your objective is to liberate every occupied province by gaining control over each of its towns in turn. Kingship has plenty of advantages - you can collect taxes for a start. Very useful that, because when you've got your hands on a bit of dosh you can start (among other things) paying for larger armies, negotiating treaties, alliances and ransoms, financing a bit of underhand poisoning, indulging in a touch of espionage and dispensing royal pardons.

The success of diplomacy, espionage and assassination plots depends on your ability to choose the right characters for each task. Both statesmen and spies have different strategic, political and leadership qualities so it's useless to send a diplomatic dumbo on a peace mission. There's also no point in demanding a mega-huge ransom for a nobleman who doesn't sound as if he's all that important to the other side.

To survive you've got to have enough money to pay off your armies every month, keep the moral of the provinces high (otherwise they revolt) and be able to cope with the surprise kidnaps, attacks and sieges that make your life difficult every now and then.
Well, at least you haven't got sticky out ears...

Gordon Houghton I enjoy a bit of madcap medieval mayhem when I can get my hands on it so when Joan Of Arc arrived at the office I jumped at the chance. Pity about the enormous hole in the floorboards though. Er... anyway, once you've waded through the lengthy instructions and actually start playing the game, you realise that it is a lot simpler and even more absorbing than it looks. The graphics are a really melt-in-the-mouth digitised affair and the sound definitely conjures up the atmosphere of a smoke-filled battle scene - but what really makes this so interesting is the menu system and all its different diplomatic and non-diplomatic options. Unlike in Defender Of The Crown you can't just carry on doing similar things over and over again to win - unexpected events and setbacks mean that you have to alter your strategy to suit the progress of each game. It's brill!
Kati Hamza W ell knock me down with a ten ton rhinoceros if this isn't the most gripping power game I've come across since... ooh... since Defender Of The Crown. The sound is incredibly atmospheric (though it could do with another tune) and the combination of digitised and non-digitised graphics is spectacular. Even the large-scale battle scenes with their tiny sprites give the sense of a writhing mass of soldiers on the move. Not only that - there are so many options that you can spend ages just experimenting and planning your strategy in all sorts of different ways. You might go for a softly diplomatic approach for a few months and then risk everything (including that nice pair of tiger print underpants) for all-out military domination. Personally, I enjoyed employing underhand poisoning, killing and kidnapping most...
Maff Evans 'Urgh!' I thought when I first saw this 'looks like some dead boring military sort of game' but after I'd watched someone else play it for a while, I had to admit I was wrong, because it's great! Everyone who thinks Defender Of The Crown is good, watch out - Joan Of Arc has everything Defender Of The Crown has got AND MORE. The combination of arcade and strategy really works well and once you've managed to get yourself crowned, there are loads of different courses of action to take. Every now and then the program decides to throw a spanner in the works (clunk!) - unless you rehash your strategy pretty pronto, you'll never get control of France. The graphics are really impressive and the digitised sounds of horses' hooves and cheering armies are just the icing on the cake. If you want to do yourself a favour, go out and get this now.