Game Review - by James Allen
In recent years, we have seen the slow, painful death of the turn-based strategy game. This is probably due to the presence of more powerful computers that can handle real-time calculations, and partly from the fact that real life doesn't take place in turns. Nevertheless, the good folks at Talonsoft have been kind enough to bundle the entire Second World War into one game: World at War. Their successful West Front, East Front, and Rising Sun turn-based strategy games are all included for your gaming pleasure. Will World at War be the last hurrah for turn-based strategy games, or will it serve as another example of why the genre is going out the door?
With all the features of World at War, you could play this game for ages and never repeat a battle. Not only are we given battles which span Eastern and Western Europe and Southeast Asia, but the options are just astounding: they are everything that I expect a strategy game to have. In addition to the numerous scenarios and campaigns that are included, a really cool battle generator is built-in. The number of different combinations you can obtain with year, month, area, weather, size, engagement type, and map type is mind-boggling. If you would like more control over your battles, a map and scenario editor is also present in World at War. These realistic historical war games pride themselves on their customizability and World at War is certainly no exception to the rule.
The sound is actually pretty good, and I have to say I was quite surprised. Each unit has their own individual, accurate sounds associated with them, whether it be for movement, firing, or anything else. In addition to all that (since there are a lot of units), the background music is equally excellent. Nothing brings your morale up higher than a German anthem blasting through your speakers. It brings the combat field alive, and it makes it more than just a war simulation. Many games such as this skip over the sound as being an important aspect of the gameplay, and it's nice when a game remembers that sound is important too.
I have come across some confusing turn based strategy games, that divide your turn into about fifty individual parts. Thankfully, World at War greatly simplifies the process, while still retaining an authentic feel. Each turn, every unit is allocated 100 action points, which can be used for both movement and firing. The effective combination of these two eventually leads to the victor of the battle. You can save some action points for return fire during the enemy's turn, or for unloading units from trucks and tanks. Attacking takes several different flavors. Direct fire is where you use action points during your turn to fire upon the enemy. Indirect fire is actually the same thing, but used by artillery. Opportunity fire is when you use saved action points to attack the enemy during their turn. You can also call air attacks to bombard the opposition. The intricacies of the game go much, much deeper than I have related to you, but there honestly isn't space or time to tell you all about them: that's what the manual is for. I have to say, however, that World at War does a darn good job of illustrating historical World War II combat without utterly confusing the player with unnecessary perplexity. It's simple to play, but at the same time complex in its details. This is a trick that's hard to pull off, yet World at War does it.
The graphics are clearly not on par with the 3-D gargantuans of today, but I have to say that they were better than I expected, especially when compared to other turn-based strategy games. The landscapes are depicted as joined hexes, each representing a different terrain. The units have some detail attributed to them (rather than just being a number and letter combination), and you can actually tell them apart. The games give the impressions that you are waging war on a sort of Stratego battlefield, which is a simplistic rendering of the real world. Luckily, I don't think that World at War tries to make you believe that these are real battlefields, rather than strategic portrayals of them. It's better to have a good "map" of a battle area rather than a bad "real" interpretation of one. In this area, the graphics of World at War succeed.
World at War is the definitive collection of historical turn based warfare: it's how the genre should be done. Sporting monstrous features coupled with straightforward yet multifarious gameplay, World at War successfully delivers the goods. Any person who is remotely considering a turn based strategy game needs to look no further: World at War is here.