Players control a "regent", a ruler of one of the many warring countries on the continent of Cerilia, in their struggle to amass wealth and power to become the overall emperor of the continent. They can do this by carefully managing their troops, fighting battles, forming diplomatic relations and collecting wealth and items of power. They must also compete with all the other AI-controlled regents, which range from possible allies and vassal states to monstrous overlords focused on genocide and destruction.
Gameplay focuses primarily on the wargaming and management sim aspects, where the player is expected to maintain the kingdom and its armies, as well keeping constant tabs on their neighbors and enemies. Occasionally, the player is able to take their regent and a group of retainers under their employ to go on RPG-style adventures for extra gold and the occasional artifact, which often increases the player's standing among their peers. These RPG sequences are in first-person 3D (similar to Oblivion), with real-time combat directed by invisible dice rolls like many games that use the D&D ruleset. Any equipment found can be equipped by the party, and any "loot" (mostly loose weapons, cutlery and miscellaneous objects) are sold off at the end of the adventure with the resulting gold added to the player's kingdom's treasury. Magic can be used, but players have to be sure to manually choose the spells of all magic-users and clerics in the party before setting off.
The game's war combat is also real-time based, with units having a "cooldown" period after moving and attacking. The player must continually move/attack with units as they become active in order to defeat the opposing force. If at any time, the enemy forces vastly outnumber the player's, their units are routed and the player automatically loses the battle.
If the player doesn't feel like playing the whole campaign, they can choose to play modes that are strictly RPG adventures or battles. The player is given several scenarios in each and progresses through them.
Mythology of Birthright
Birthright's general premise is that in an ancient battle between Azrai, an evil god, and all the other Gods--as well as various mortals on either side of the conflict--the divine beings were all destroyed and their essences transferred into the more powerful mortals fighting beside them. The strength of the divine power that a family inherited is testament to their ability to rule, with the most powerful mortal and their clan ruling the continent from the Iron Throne. After the last member of the ruling family dies, shortly before the game begins, the many feuding lesser families fight to take over the position of Emperor.
Stopping them are the followers of Azrai, who were all cursed with monstrous bodies and equally monstrous powers and abilities upon the death of their God. These creatures, known as the Awnsheghlien (awn-SHAY-len), have been fighting a constant battle against the civilized races of the world, using their armies comprised of classic monsters such as giants, goblins, gnolls, giant spiders and the undead.
Major Characters & Factions
The various kingdoms are ruled by dwarves, elves, half-elves and humans with varying cultures and dispositions. Most countries have pre-existing relations with each other based on the campaign world, many of which will factor into the game. The following is a list of major players on Cerilia :
The largest of the human states and the location of the independent city of Anuire, where the Iron Throne (the seat of power for the continent) resides.
The default playable kingdom, suited for beginner players due to the relative safety of their location (far from the Awnsheghlien) and moderately fertile land. It's also one of the largest kingdoms initially.
Home of a clan of evil, isolationist elves, who resent humans for taking their land centuries ago. Their leader, a powerful dark elf Awnsheghlien known as the Manslayer, rules the forested kingdom.
A dense forest in the center of the continent, ruled by the Spider-Lord, an insane goblin Awnsheghlien transformed into a giant spider.
A vast wasteland to the northeast, ruled by the most powerful Awnsheghlien: The Gorgon. The Gorgon commands all the Awnsheghlien and is the game's main antagonist. At a certain point in the story he absorbs his incompetent lieutenant's lands and forces a massive war with the civilized races.
When controlling the kingdom, players are given three tiers of depth with the domain actions they can use.
On the basic setting, the player isn't required to keep track of the economic status of their lands. Players are limited to:
Go on an Adventure
As it says, the player can select and gear-up a party of adventurers with their regent and lieutenants. Adventures trickle in as the game progresses, usually at the rate of one every three turns or so.
In order to conquer territory, the player must first declare war on their target army beforehand. After declaring war, they can move units into the opposing side's territory and take it over if they aren't repelled by the enemy forces.
Diplomacy is where the player can converse with other countries and occasionally demand tributes or territory from them. They can also stabilize peaceful relations, trade territory or gold or negotiate for an allegiance. If the player's standing is particularly high, they can suggest a vassalage - all but absorbing the lands of the original country.
Simply passing the turn, doing nothing. This allows players to do more on the subsequent turn.
Hiring new lieutenants provides various benefits, such as using them in battle, in the RPG mode and occasionally getting a free action per turn. They can be acquired either through Diplomacy or simply hired from a guild for a set cost.
After conquering a territory (that is, moving the troops in and having no opposition), in the following turn the player is able to annex it into their own territory via investiture. This is key to increasing power and regency.
This allows the player to draw troops from all territories able to produce them. New troops can fortify the territory they're on, can be moved around or sent to war. It costs money to both produce new troops and to deploy them.
Players on the "Advanced" setting can use the following actions, in addition to the above:
For a cost, the player can produce roads between territories in order to reduce troop movement costs and bolster trade.
For a cost, the player can produce a holding in any controlled territory, which helps fortify the position from invaders. It also increases the net worth of the territory. Existing holdings can also be upgraded, as well as traded to and from other nations. There are various types of holdings, each with their own uses.
This allows a player to increase the level of a holding or territory that they own. If they invest a certain amount of Regency points and succeed a dice roll, they will boost the effects and tax income of that holding/territory.
Create Trade Route
Creating new trade routes increases a realm's gold intake. They need a clear path to and from their trade partner, however, which means being in good holding with any rival-controlled states in the way.
Expert players have even more options available to them, including casting realm spells (provided the Regent/lieutenant is the right class), forging new ley lines (to increase realm spell strength), agitating an enemy force into declaring war, contesting land (possible with a high enough level holding) and employing espionage.
Players using a simpler system will have all expert command options be performed by their chief lieutenant automatically.
Wartime combat is performed on a 5x3 grid, where the player and the opposing AI deploys their troops initially on the five squares on their respective sides of the battlefield. By moving troops forward, they can deploy more units on the empty squares left behind.
When a unit attacks, either by ranged attack or by closing in for a charge or melee, damage conferred to the enemy unit is decided by invisible dice rolls that checks the unit's attack strength compared to the other unit's defense. If in melee, the opposite unit then goes on the offensive. These dice rolls are performed every "round" of battle, which true to D&D rules is a period of about ten seconds. Moving can be done instantaneously (though the actual movement takes a round) but units must wait for the round to end before they can attack again. Units that are pulled out of melee might receive an additional attack of opportunity from the other side before they can disengage.
Similar to most army-based strategy games, troops have a loose rock-paper-scissors system of strengths and weaknesses against each other. Pikemen are strong against cavalry, but are weak against the more maneuverable light infantry. Likewise, cavalry can devastate most types of infantry with their charges. Archers can eliminate less defensive types of unit, such as light cavalry and infantry, but are quickly routed in direct melee. Additionally, the troop type "Irregulars" are wild-cards, capable of infantry and archery but not particularly focused in either. Scouts and Levies are also low-strength units with some ranged ability. Finally, there are various miscellaneous units that can only exist in a fantasy setting such as this. They include: Skeletons, spiders, gnoll wolf-riders, mages and clerics. Skeletons in particular are the toughest regular unit in the game, with the highest defense stat.
Combat ends when one force dominates the battlefield, causing the other side to be routed. It's possible to lose the battle and still have units left over, in which case they retreat to the closest friendly province. Severely crippled units can sometimes merge with other units after the battle. If there is no adjacent safe haven for retreating units, they are annihilated.
Before accepting an Adventure, players can review the goal of the adventure, equip their party (with a maximum of four members), memorize all spells and place useful items and spells in quick-slots for instant access in combat.
Adventures are carried out in a first person view when exploring that switches to third person when in combat (so the player can see what everyone is doing). Combat is performed using D&D in real-time, directed by invisible dice rolls to determine whether the attacks hit and how much damage they cause. Players can monitor the health of their adventurers and heal them using potions and healing spells in the pre-assigned quick slots. As well as enemies, players must be aware of environmental hazards such as lava and water as well as man-made traps.
Players can collect items strewn about the map, though each adventurer has only a limited amount of inventory space. Inventories are defined qualitatively not quantitatively; so an adventurer can carry a limitless supply of a single item type (such as spears, which are often stacked against walls in great numbers) but only a fixed number of different item types. Players should keep track of who is carrying what in order to make the best use of their inventory capacity.
An adventure can be ended successfully when the player has found the item stipulated in the adventure description. All vendor trash found during the adventure are sold off with the resulting money added directly to the treasury.
Sometimes, depending on the adventure's difficulty rating and setting, players might face one of the Awnsheghlien. Defeating one does not strike them from the game, unfortunately, and since they're often extremely powerful they're treated as optional superbosses when met in an adventure. Other enemies tend to be normal humans, elves and dwarves as well as various D&D monsters.