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Video Game / Tiger Knight: Empire War

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Tiger Knight: Empire War is a Free-to-Play Action PVP Real-Time Strategy game available on Steam, centered around physics-based dueling and squad-based tactics. Set in the third century, players assume the role of a general controlling a single squad of soldiers and fighting alongside four others against an opposing team; the objective being either to kill all five enemy generals or to kill their NPC-controlled Marshal, who has high health and is defended by a well-equipped squad. In addition to the standard Command Mode detailed above, there also exists a Team Deathmatch mode called Duel Mode, as well as a story-based PVE mode called Epic War.

Combat is physics-based and directional - players can attack overhead, from either side, or with a thrust ('below'), and the corresponding direction must be blocked from to defend against the attack. Interestingly, instead of armor adding to an abstracted 'defense', each piece only blocks what it physically covers - having the best torso armor in the world does nothing if the enemy is stabbing you in the leg. Not only that, but each type of armor is effective and ineffective against certain attacks: Cloth armor is cushioning against blunt damage but easily pierced, leather armor is difficult to pierce but easily cut, and metal armor is extremely resilient to slashing attacks but vulnerable to being crushed. Armor is most certainly not useless, and players must carefully select their weapons and aim for the enemy's weak spots to maximize their damage. Weight is also important, as a higher weight allows you to resist charges and avoid being stunned when attacked, but slows you down.

You are also accompanied by a squad of soldiers, who can be set to guard a position, follow you, or charge the nearest enemies. They can be set to take formations, which both alter their stats and change how they are physically arranged, and many units rely heavily on that aspect - for example, a deep formation allows the back ranks of pikemen to attack enemies ahead of them with no risk, but that same pike is a clumsy weapon if you let them charge off on their own. Units also have special abilities and commands, such as forming a shieldwall or unleashing a powerful volley of arrows. Along with these soldiers, you have an Adjutant who determines what formations can be taken, as well as serving as a second general if you die and providing some skills and bonuses.

The game follows a progression system similar to that of World of Tanks or other tier-based games, but with a few changes - for one, your general can be equipped with any armor or weapon you've purchased on any unit you've unlocked. Thus, the player can feel free to carry a pike while leading archers, or to mix and match armor from a variety of factions to find a coverage and style that suits them. You can even bring endgame equipment to a battle with beginner-tier troops - but its stats will be reduced to compensate.

Currently, the game features three factions from the Three Kingdoms period of China. There are other factions planned to be added, including The Roman Empire, the European Tribes, the Parthian Empire, the Kushan Empire, the Korean kingdoms, and Yayoi Japan.

Currently, each faction can be put on a team with every other faction, so it's entirely possible to see Wei pikemen fighting side by side with Shu crossbowmen to defend a Wu marshal, but the developers have talked about adding modes that restrict things more thoroughly.

It can be found and played for free on Steam, and has an official website.

Provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: No, Roman legionnaires never fought alongside Chinese warriors at the battle of Xiapi, but it's easily forgiven.
  • The Alleged Steed: Once your general reaches level 5, you are given a free horse... Though it's a fairly pitiful one, compared to even the weakest horse you can get from your soldiers.
  • Annoying Arrows: It all depends on where you get hit. Armor is very effective, and many have bonus protection against arrows - but a lucky headshot can deal some frightening damage. Completely averted for arrows fired by players.
  • Anti-Cavalry: Pikes and spears in general. Wu Archers can also place spiked barricades that kill any horse that charges them.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In the PVE Epic War, the player can use Miracle Healing items not only to revive themselves, but their whole team as well - and if time runs out of an objective is failed, they can use it to restart the clock too.
    • Players using units from the first four tiers can also choose to play versus only AI opponents, letting newbies learn the ropes and build up their equipment against relatively easy opponents.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Each player can only bring a single squad of soldiers into battle at a time, and while you can replenish dead troops mid-battle via your main camp, you can never go over what you started with. You can also only bring a single type of soldier into battle at a time.
  • Armor Is Useless: Entirely averted, but with a twist; your armor only covers what it physically covers. Higher armor values tend to coincide with decreasing coverage, so your lower arms might be immune to all damage... But your upper arms will be entirely unprotected, and the enemy only needs to aim for the gaps.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The bot-controlled generals the game uses to fill up empty matches are notoriously idiotic. Those leading archers will charge into melee, those leading pikemen will never use formations, and occasionally they even get stuck on obstacles and fail to path around them.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The foundation of the game's armor system. Figure out where your enemy is less protected, and aim your attacks for that point.
  • Automatic Crossbows: In later tiers, Shu gains access to the zhuge crossbow supposedly invented by their strategist of the same name. It can fire ten bolts in quick succession, and while the individual shots are weak a squad using them can easily chew through an entire unit of armored pikemen in seconds.
  • Automaton Horses: Horses can be equipped with armor and will rear up if attacked, but otherwise are horse-shaped motorcycles.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Ambush skill, possessed by Wu infantry and some Shu crossbows. Makes your unit hidden at a distance, and boosts their attack once discovered - but the boost doesn't last too long, so you'll need to rush to make good use of it... And it uses stamina which could be better used for Brutal Swing. It's more effective in maps with tall grass you can use to lurk in, but otherwise falls squarely in this trope.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: Most of the Red Cliffs map takes place aboard a series of burning ships lashed together, although standing in the fire doesn't cause any damage.
  • Battle in the Rain: The Flooded City map takes place during the battle of Fan Castle, after it has been flooded. Flaming arrows cannot be used because of this, not that it stops rains of them from falling in the background.
  • BFS: The specialty of Wu's infantry - some of the later game swords are almost as long as spears! Interestingly, one of Shu's crossbow cavalry units also uses an enormous sword.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The translation is best described as 'enthusiastic, but inaccurate'. It doesn't cause too many problems, though at one point militia were referred to as 'basic cavalry'...
  • Blocking Stops All Damage: Generally played straight. However, beware - If your weapon is sufficiently lighter than the enemy's, you'll be stunned by the effort. If you are too light, you might even be Punched Across the Room.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Attacking the head deals high damage with almost any weapon, but it's especially viable for spears and bows.
  • Boring, but Practical: One of the most popular weapons in the game's team deathmatch Duel Mode is... A shovel you get from one of the militia units at the beginning of the game.
  • Bow and Sword in Accord: All archer units carry melee weapons, but Shu's crossbowmen in particular are able to function as decent shielded infantry in a pinch.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory:
    • Averted - mostly. The game is free, and while there is a cash shop it's mostly for cosmetic items and consumables that can also be bought with in-game currency. You can spend money to get more of said currency, and to turn unit EXP into Prestige, and there's a VIP mode that grants 40% extra rewards from battle - however, there's no way to outright purchase an advantage.
    • The closest the game comes to that is Sun Shangxiang, who can only be acquired through a DLC pack on steam - she's often considered the best possible adjutant for archers.
  • Call That a Formation?: Entirely averted, especially for pikes. Formations are a major aspect of the game, and using them correctly is vital to victory. Not only do they alter your stats (raising melee attack and defense, for example), but where your units physically stand can make a huge difference.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Referred to as 'whips', for some reason, but common with Wu soldiers.
  • Chain Mail Bikini: Amusingly, some of the earlier Wu units look virtually naked - which doesn't do much for their survivability, but helps them outspeed most opponents.
  • Charged Attack: Holding down the attack button allows the player to charge their attack. This works with everything but crossbows.
  • Choice of Two Weapons: Much like Mount & Blade, you have four weapon slots - and arrows and bows each take one up.
  • A Commander Is You: Each faction has its own specialties.
    • Wei: Elitist, Specialist, Technical. The most heavily armored, featuring both Mighty Glacier Pike Infantry and Lightning Bruiser Shock Cavalry. Both of these rely on their formations and abilities most of all, with both being far less useful if the player doesn't use Pikewall and Charge effectively. Their third unit line, Bow Cavalry, has yet to be released.
    • Shu: Generalist, Ranger, Technical. The most maneuverable and versatile, with virtually every unit having a ranged weapon of some sort. They have Shield Infantry who fight using shieldwalls, one-handed axes, and throwing weapons, Crossbow Cavalry, and foot crossbowmen... The latter of whom later upgrade to the historical repeating bows that Shu supposedly invented.
    • Wu: Brute, Ranger, Guerilla. Lightly armored, but with impressively damaging weaponry. They have Assault Infantry wielding enormous greatswords, spear-and-shield pike infantry, and bow infantry. None of them can take too many hits, but rely on stealth, fortifications, and sheer speed and damage to take the enemy by surprise.
  • Competitive Balance: Cavalry beats archers, archers beat infantry, infantry beats pikes, pikes beat cavalry... At least in theory. A balanced team is almost required, but the matchmaking sometimes doesn't agree.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Pike infantry is extremely effective when in formation, due to every unit essentially being able to attack over their shoulders - but if they're hit from behind or scattered by a charge, suddenly those pikes can't hit much at close range. Similarly, players who only bring a single damage type may find themselves in trouble if they fight someone whose armor is good against it.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Played straight for players, but sort of averted for soldiers. At low stamina, morale, and health, soldiers will occasionally stop fighting to catch their breath or slow down - but this only happens rarely, and they'll get right back to fighting afterwards.
  • Decapitated Army: If a unit's general is killed, they'll either start following your surviving adjutant, or (if said officer is dead) charge the nearest group of enemies. At low morale, they'll rout instead.
  • Disney Death: When defeated, your character is only knocked down to bleed out on the ground. An enemy can deliver a Finishing Move, or an ally can pick you back up. However, enough overkill damage will simply kill you instantly.
  • Drop the Hammer: Many units carry maces, and Wu's assault infantry occasionally switches their greatswords out for enormous clubs instead. These are more effective than one might expect, as most late-game armor is metal and blunt does good damage against that.
  • Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors: While there's no magic, different weapons do different damage types - and different armors are effective against these types. Cloth beats blunt but is weak to piercing, leather beats piercing but is weak to slashing, metal beats slashing but is weak to blunt.
  • Finishing Move: When an enemy general is knocked down and bleeding out, you can walk over to them and finish them off with a brutal attack, ranging from stomping their head into paste or decapitating them with an axe - or cutting them open with a blunt sword.
  • Flaming Arrows: Usable by virtually all crossbow units, and certain bow units as well. The player can equip an item that sets their arrows on fire as well.
  • Flynning: While the battles are gritty and physics fairly realistic, some of the combo moves look a bit unrealistically flashy.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: The player character can charge while holding a melee weapon and double-tapping W - this allows you to bowl over enemy soldiers, provided you weigh more than they do, and also can be ended with a powerful running attack. Spears, greatswords, and pikes also will impale enemies they charge into.
  • Fragile Speedster: Wearing light armor for speed has its downsides - for example, go ahead and charge into that slow juggernaut wearing a massive suit of plate and chainmail. You'll bounce right off. In general this game strives for realistic combat, with the occasional bow to fun and game design where necessary.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted with ranged weapons, but played straight with melee. You can bounce off your friends, but can't hurt them.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: A bit. Some of the early game units are drawn from sailors, and understandably wear fairly little. Wu's in particular look almost naked.
  • Geo Effects: Certain battlefields have tall grass that hides troops, and water slows down units a little. Rainy maps prevent the use of Flaming Arrows as well (despite the only rainy map in game having barrages of flaming arrows flying overhead - go figure.)
  • Grid Inventory
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Generally averted, but occasionally armor will appear to cover a spot but actually won't. The game shows explicitly what is covered in the inventory, at least.
  • Hit Points: All units have them. Every player character has 300, while troops range from 80 to 150. The Marshal has over a thousand.
  • Horse Archer: Shu and Wei both have them. It's also very effective for generals who use horses.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: You can have four pikes hidden invisibly on your person. Not only that, but only the weapon in your hands affects your weight - even if it's strapped to your back, that shield you're not using isn't slowing you down.
  • Invisible Wall: Occasionally, mainly at the edges of battlefields and on walltops to prevent players from jumping to their deaths.
  • Keystone Army: The game ends instantly if the Marshal of one side is defeated. There's even an achievement for doing so as the last surviving player on your team.
  • Leaked Experience: Similar to World of Tanks, there is EXP for units and then Prestige which can be used for any unit. You can also spend real money to turn EXP into Prestige.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: The 'Raid' command causes your army to charge for the enemy Marshal, though they'll peel off to engage any enemy units they see first. If you use Hold Formation as well, though, they'll stay in an organized squad while doing so.
  • Lethal Joke Weapon: The shovel, ubiquitous in Duel Mode PVP. A Thanksgiving Event also had a baked ham on a stick - a hammer.
    • There's also the early game Wu weaponry, which tend to be fairly bizarre - for example, a wooden sword, or a club that looks suspiciously like a cricket bat. They're still extremely deadly.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Shock cavalry is notoriously powerful, with a Charge ability that lets them deal massive damage while smashing through enemy lines... And can be used from a standstill. Just don't charge into a pikewall.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Shields are able to block any attack until their health is depleted and they break - however, much like armor they only cover as much as they physically cover, so a well-aimed melee attack can hit under or around them.
  • Magikarp Power: Shu infantry is hard to play well, and generally less glamorous than the BFS-carrying Wu or heavily armored Wei soldiers... Until Tier 7, when they gain powerful armor, iron throwing hammers, and giant axes.
  • Mighty Glacier: Wei pike infantry aren't going anywhere fast, but when in formation and with pikewall active they can stop virtually any melee unit in its tracks.
  • Mook Chivalry: Utterly averted. This is particularly noticeable when fighting Wu infantry, whose heavy weapons can easily stunlock you to death in seconds as they swarm you.
  • Morale Mechanic: Units have a morale ability that consumes part of their morale for a stat boost. At low morale, your soldiers run for it... But generally this only happens if you're losing anyways.
  • Mounted Combat: While certain armors prevent the use of a horse, these are generally late-game. Until then, there's almost no reason not to be on horseback.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Played weirdly. Bot-controlled generals generally play like you, but occasionally do things the player can't - for example, using unreleased units. Certain obstacles on the battlefield can also be walked through by soldiers, but not the player.
  • Nerf: The game is constantly being balanced. Most notably, one-handed weapons attack slower with a shield out compared to not having one, and pikes have had their attack speed steadily reduced.
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Averted. The Volley command lets the player get an overhead view of the battlefield to direct where their archers attack - if they can't fire straight at a point, they'll rain arrows in an arc.
  • Non-Lethal K.O.: Your general usually only is knocked down, not killed, when your health reaches zero - unless you get heavily overkilled.
  • No-Sell: With good enough armor, you'll occasionally 'flick' or deflect attacks that hit you as it scratches harmlessly off your armor.
  • Obvious Beta: It's in early access.
  • One-Man Army: In the earlier tiers, the player character is going to be doing most if not all of the killing. Later on, though, your role is much more tactical.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Weapon length is almost always the biggest contributor to something being over- or underpowered.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: While female characters are not yet in-game, the devs have stated this will be the case.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The early game units are militia armed with whatever they can get - shovels, pitchforks, ancient Chinese sports equipment...
  • Rain of Arrows: The Volley and Concentrate Fire abilities of archers and crossbows, respectively, give two flavors of this. Once repeating bows are unlocked, this becomes exceptionally effective.
  • Ranged Emergency Weapon: Throwing weapons are popular for this, due to only taking up one slot.
  • Redshirt Army: Your soldiers, although they grow into a Badass Army in later tiers.
  • The Siege: A possibility in Command Mode - several maps have fortresses in them, and there's a dedicated map where players have to push a ram while the defenders try to stop it. However, it rarely appears due to the matchmaking algorithms rarely putting the required full team of humans on each side...
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the PVE Epic War mode on normal difficulty and higher, the players face off against Lu Bu. Given the gritty, more realistic depiction of the three kingdoms era otherwise, one might expect him to be more subdued - but instead he starts pulling out ridiculous attacks straight out of Dynasty Warriors, even having a rage mode at low health that functions identically to the infamous Lu Bu battle from that series.
    • When the game gives you a daily mission asking you to complete the Actual Combat mode, it tells you "may the force be with you."
  • Suffer the Slings: While named 'Throwing Hammers', Shu uses weapons closer in nature to a mixture of this trope and Epic Flail. They're inaccurate, but hit hard - and can bounce off troops to pinball through a squad.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Bot-controlled generals will freely lead their archers into melee combat.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: Infantry have somewhere between twelve and thirty or so soldiers in a squad, depending on the tier and type of unit - archers and cavalry having fewer men than foot soldiers. With five generals in battle at a time, you'll never see more than hundred or two soldiers in battle, despite everyone being a 'general'. Fortunately for everyone's computers.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can plant a flag on the prone form of a knocked-down enemy as a taunt.