73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple...But Satisfying
Decisive Battles is a great collection for the average historian, its episodes last 20 minutes each and involve a retelling of the introduction, fighting and aftermath of major battles from The Persian Wars up to the fall of the Roman Empire.
It uses the game engine from Rome: Total War, this is a fresh tool for battle documentaries as they often use short...
Published on May 14, 2007 by Beserker_Joe
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good for its age, but now it is way overpriced
Although a unique series back when it first came out, Decisive Battles is sorely overpriced and low-tech. For a fraction of the cost you can purchase an amazon game download of the "video game technology" used to create over 80% of the show: Rome Total War. Seriously, show is, essentially, a few short commentaries followed by footage of SOMEONE ELSE PLAYING A VIDEO...
Published 24 months ago by Ishak Ivatar
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73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple...But Satisfying,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)Decisive Battles is a great collection for the average historian, its episodes last 20 minutes each and involve a retelling of the introduction, fighting and aftermath of major battles from The Persian Wars up to the fall of the Roman Empire.
It uses the game engine from Rome: Total War, this is a fresh tool for battle documentaries as they often use short glimpses of a small group of actors (often not resembling the characters they're supposed to be) involved in repetitous, choreographed melee. This gives some design to the armies and the scale allows for a greater clash and experience.
Included in the documentaries are historians familiar with the topics proving extra information and emphasis to the battles. They do seem restricted sometimes and edited for time, but they do add excitement as the story develops.
This will not satisfy some historians, but overall its an educational show with a short timeslot, its excellent for introductions to the battles for people who dont want to read the accounts from ancient sources. Great for kids as its not to violent, short and action packed.
Also Im Australian and was worried about the regional coding on the dvd, its absolutely no problem, dont let it deter you from buying what should be an addition to the dvd collection.
62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good series,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)When I saw this set advertised, I was very excited to get it. But when I read that the battles were presented using computer simulations, I was very skeptical. It just sounded so cheesy. Well, I bought the series and viewed with an open mind. I was pleasantly surprised. The simulations will fool no one, but they're good enough for their purpose--to show the ENTIRE battlefield, which in some cases will cover several miles, and not just a couple guys in hand-to-hand combat. You just can't get several thousand Greek and Roman, etc. reenactors together for this type of documentary. This format is a very good way of doing it.
What about the material itself? All is very good. The information is presented in a lively manner and is satisfying for the viewer. I learned a lot and have watched several episodes more than once. All in all, this is a good set and has set a trend for documentaries of the future. Get this if you are interested in the ancient world, warfare, or history in general. You won't be disappointed.
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, yet brief intro to famous ancient battles,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)Using the pc game Rome:Total War's graphic engine Decisive Battles is better able to convey how battle played out than a few reenacters. On the other hand if you are familiar with the game as I was, the effect is slightly disappointing. As each episode is only about 22 minutes long there not much depth here, but I would still recommend this as a solid introduction to ancient battles.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining. The only DVDs of its kind,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)It's entertaining and informative. The computer graphic does help viewers see the formations of the battles clearer. However, it's not as exciting as dramatized scenes played by human beings. History channel should have used both of these means in making these DVDs.
Another problem is they don't have subtitles. As a result, there were many times I did not know how to spell the name of a person or a location mentioned by the narrator. I had to search for them on the Internet and in history books.
They are still worth watching. I own them.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High Glory and Major Screwups,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)Might makes right, but might and brains don't always go together and "fortune rules all things; she raises to eminence or buries in oblivion from caprice rather than principle." (Sallust)
If you don't believe that, you should check out Decisive Battles of the Ancient World from the History Channel. This fantastic documentary covers thirteen major battles ranging from Ramses II fighting the Hittites for control of Syria to the Spartans standing off the Persians at Thermopylae to the Gothic invasion of Rome and Boudicca's revolt in Britain. "Chance rules all," according to Virgil, but after watching Decisive Battles, I'd change that to "chance, hubris, ambition, greed and stupidity."
Most of these battles were epochal to one degree or another, shaping the future development of the entire Western world, and the West as we know it might not even exist if they'd turned out differently. So it's unnerving (and comical) to realize how contingent history really is--how much of it is determined by random combinations of personality and circumstance, the fate of nations hanging on the quirks of strutting egos and a roll of the dice.
The video covers each battle in a twenty-minute episode, featuring lots of maps, background material, onsite footage and interviews with classical scholars like Victor Davis Hanson--expert on Hoplite warfare and author of the great book "A War Like No Other," a history of the Peloponnesian War. The battles themselves are presented using a beta version of the video game Rome: Total War, using computer graphics to animate the formations and maneuvers. This is a lot more effective than using re-enactors since it provides an aerial view of the battles and a sense of their scale.
Some of these fights are stories of epic courage like the last stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, while others are chaotic and insane--bloody massacres doomed from the start. Some of the commanders were geniuses like Caesar, Paulinus and Alexander the Great. Others were less brilliant, to say the least, marching their armies into death traps like Varus and Crassus. In any case, this is "Big Man" history--a story of High Glory and Major Screwups--and it's mind-boggling how small some of these Big Men really were.
Great stuff. Highly recommended.
Ancient World Review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun to watch,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)So the historical ramp up to each battle is good, but this should be a giant advertisement for Rome Total War and RTW Barbarians. They use this game to show the battles. My kids loved it because as my youngest put it "Seeing a real battle would scare him." Good for the classroom or while you are playing RTW.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what a military historian and video gamer needs,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)Up until the successor, Medieval II Total War, Rome Total War was my favorite video game ever. Almost totally modifiable, and the most accurate depiction of ancient warfare, along with the capabilities of fielding thousands of individual units on the field at once for top-notch accuracy and combat.
And as is done in many "battle replays" and historical battles, the best way to put this to use educationally is put to use in this series, "Decisive Battles", which uses this video game technology to display what previously could only be done with huge film budgets and thousands of extras.
One of the best parts is that every bit of video game footage is actual game footage. The graphics aren't perfect, and all the troops within a unit look identical, but it's arguably the best portrayal of the sheer size and scope of ancient battles in a documentary, with the game footage churning out TENS of thousands of units on the field, far beyond that which the game could even allow on one side.
The documentaries also feature the use of the in-game music, composed by Jeff van Dyck, and the traditional use of historians and the like speaking about the historical subjects, my favorite of which being Steven Pressfield for the episodes on Marathon and Thermopylae.
The scope of the battles cover some of the more commonly known, such as the battle of Marathon, Thermopylae, Cannae, Teutoberg Forest, and Gaugamela, but I'm also delighted at the inclusion of such battles as the battle of Cynocephalae (the first decisive battle of the Macedonian Wars between Rome and Macedon), the battle of Kadesh (the oldest known recorded battle in history, between the Egyptians and the Hittites), the battle of Adrianople, the battle of Watling Street, and so on and so on.
Perhaps the game content would make it impossible, but if they either hired the modteam for "Europa Barbarorum II" or designed units themselves, I could easily see this series becoming far more impressive and astounding if it were re-made (or simply done with the base game's Medieval units) using "Medieval II Total War" for a new set of "Decisive Battles" documentaries. It would be phenomenal, with the inclusion of non-cloned armies, grit, and blood.
Another set of documentaries were produced by BBC, using Rome Total War, called "Time Commanders", which features simultaneously two groups of people re-creating historical battles and fighting them out themselves, alongside and following with descriptions of the actual battles. I find it even more impressive for including some not very well known battles, such as the battle of Leuctra (in which the Theban Sacred Band destroyed the Spartans using innovative new weapons and tactics).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Series,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)I really enjoyed this series. The overall production was superb. the battle scenes were not as clear as they could have been, but the background narrative and the expert commentary was informative and entertaining. Having played the Rome: Total War game that they used to create the battle simulations I felt that they shortchanged themselves in several areas. They used the same scenes over and over again and generated very little variety in the troop skins. They could have added a lot more variety to the battle scenes, but overall it was worth what I paid for it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Series on Ancient Military History,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)"Decisive Battles" is a series that details some of the most famous military engagements of the ancient world. The battles include the Third Servile War (Spartacus's Rebellion), the massacre of Roman legions by Germanic tribes at the Teutonberg Forest, Attila's defeat at Chalons, Alexander the Great's triumph over Persia at Gaugamalea, and others. The individual programs are fairly short and the epic computerized battle scenes certainly enhance the viewing and give the viewer a better sense of the scale of a battle than a small group of reenactors would. Overall, an interesting series that I would recommend to those interested in ancient military history.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alexander at Guagamela saves history,
This review is from: Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) (DVD)For about the past year, my kids (10 and 7) and I read a chapter of Gombrich's "A Little History of the World" each week, and watched a video covering related material. Our review of "decisive battles" stems from that purpose. Check out the website in my profile to find out more about our project, including a complete listing of suggested videos.
We got this dvd from our library at the last minute after a delivery snafu meant that we did not have the 60-minute National Geographic "Beyond the Movie- Alexander" video available. I was initially disappointed to settle for this substitute. However, Decisive Battles - Alexander at Gaugamela turned out to be a huge success with both kids. They loved the video game re-enactments. The short clip (about 20-30 min) easily kept them engaged the whole episode, and left them wanting more - a rare event with most history documentary videos. In addition to the battle itself, the episode did provide a background overview of Alexander, including a quick description of his growing up and his full adventure. This provided a new target for level of video to aim for our audience, and I have included several other "decisive battles" episodes in my recommeded list of history dvds for kids. Two thumbs way up.
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Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (History Channel) by Decisive Battles of the Ancient World (DVD - 2006)
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