Battle Realm is not your average Real Time Strategy-Game. Set in a fantasy world inspired by feudal Japan and anime, you lead a clan of warriors into bloody combat. Besides the fresh scenario, it featured several innovative concepts that still set it aside from many other games in the RTS genre.
The game uses 4 different resources, which are rice, water, people and Yin / Yang.
Rice is the most basic currency, used to train units and construct buildings. Water is used in a similar fashion, but can also be used to improve rice growth and put out fires.
All people begin life as peasants, and are automatically produced from a "Peasant Hut" or similar structure. From here, peasants can engage in their peasantly duties, or be trained into warriors in a variety of training buildings. A single unit can be trained multiple times, creating more powerful, hybrid units, and even mounted on horses, domesticated from the wild.
Yin and Yang is a mystical resource, generated as a by-product of battle, and can be used to fuel a variety of special effects.
When playing you usually direct your workers to either gather resources, or send them to one of the training facilities. Each training costs a certain amount of rice and water, which forces the player to keep an eye on the resources as well on having enough peasants to gather. The rate peasants are generated varies with the overall population of that team, requiring players to carefully balance their production and military means. There is a unit limit of between 20 to 40 per team, depending on the campaign mission or your settings in a Muliplayer-game.
When engaging in battle, Battle Realms requires a lot of micromanagement. Each of your units has special abilities that need to be used thoughtfully if you want to succeed. For example, a horse-mounted unit can make the horse rear up for additional damage, or geisha units can heal others.
A very important mechanic in Battle Realms is the environment, especially if you combine it with fire. Your ranged units can gain the ability to shoot fire arrows, which will ignite their target. That way you could burn down the ricefields of your enemies, as well es their entire village. Fire spreads from building to building if allowed to burn too long, but can be extinguished with water by peasants.
Wooded terrain can be moved through, hiding your movement from other players. Should you run, however, you may startle birds alerting the enemy to your movements.
Single Player Campaign
Battle Realms offers two different campaigns to play through, determined by an interactive moral decision at the start of the game. As Kenji, the player can help defend oppressed farmers against thugs, or show those same farmers who's boss and side with the robbers. Helping the farmers leads Kenji to found the noble Dragon Clan, while slaying them begin the tyrannical ascent of the Serpent Clan.
In both campaigns, the player will fight against the Lotus Clan, a cabal of necromantic mages, and the Wolf Clan, the druidic, recently-liberated slaves of the Lotus.
Besides the single-player campaign, the game offers multiplayer online and via LAN. Multiplayer lets players command any of the four clans featured in the single player campaign.