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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: Making History 2: the War of the World (PC)

The origin of Making History II: the War of the World is somewhat unusual. It was designed as an learning mechanism for teachers of modern history and has since evolved both in ideology and intent into the game presented today. This origin marks the game as something a little different from the majority of hardcore strategy games. However, switching goals through development is fraught with danger in games development and whilst this background does give the game a unique soul, it does not guarantee good gameplay. Indeed, it is with fevered hope for the developers sake, this is simply one of its stage of evolution.

This game has so much potential. So, so much potential

The game takes you back to the build up and battles of World War Two. Through a turn based approach to three different scenarios, the player receives dictator level of governmental control of any nation their heart fancies. In this sense, it is exactly the same as ever other grandiose strategy game. However, unlike others in the genre, it presents a near limitless choice as nations, from the significant to the majorly insignificant.

Making History's gameplay is best summarised through analysis of its parts; namely economic, military and diplomatic. Its economic system, through five major resources, is extremely well organised, clear, and its market system is well designed, responding to the world politics and supply and demand commendably. It is in this that the game fleetingly earns its stripes – the complex nature of using your resources to reach extensive research, military and industry aims is a delicate and enjoyable balance. In this way, the player genuinely feels as though that they have genuinely influenced history, and this is what life could have turned out like, had for example England used its depression time to double its industrial output. It is a pity its other parts do not deserve the same praise.

Its military/battle side is, for a battle game, appallingly poor. Whilst a lot of extensive options are divided into the typical navy, land and air, it is the interactions of these troops that draw ire. The mechanics are woeful inadequate, allowing the simple creation of a bunch of the same units (for instance, heavy tanks), which then can be used to exploit any number of broken mechanics (for example, a remarkable indifference to weather and terrain). Furthermore, the AI is not bright and can be regularly led into simple traps.


Tank swarm!


The games politics are baffling. This probably has something to do with the limited diplomatic options available, where you can only choose four options: military access, trade agreements/embargoes, espionage and declarations of war. It is very much random and at times ignores basic alliance lines. I wish I was making this up, but at one point, completely unprovoked, the American AI's response to Pearl Harbour was to declare war on England and embargo France. This diplomatic shortfall and the militaristic impotence combined to mark a frustrating game.

Noticed that a tutorial has not been mentioned? That is because there is not one (although its reportedly in the process of being remedied, at least in a text/manual form. An step by step instructional is presumably going to follow). As a result, it is (unless fixed) categorically not for those who are not familiar with the genre. It it perplexing that in a market that is as small and competitive as the Grand Strategy games that this is overlooked. Still, it is what has been presented, and so we plough on.

The graphics of the game, in a board game appearance, are highly enjoyable with the sound effects well done. This builds onto a clear and concise interface, with all of the major buttons in easy access, to create an aesthetically pleasing game. The music, although not spectacular, is appropriate but definitely does not detract from the experience. Sadly, this work is mostly undone. In an understatement, the game had a tendency to crash. Not, for instance, should the overeager general attempt to place troops in two countries at the same time, but instead for the rather unforgivable crime of trying to research, trying to get into the diplomacy screen or sneezing. It may have crashed in response for the audacity of crashing.


The sheer scope of this game is incredible. If only it wasn't so flawed - but the good news is, it is still a work in progress


At the end of the day, the gameplay needs immediate and severe work, but the redeeming aspects of the economy combined with a soul generates a genuine feeling of hope. Indeed, it was with great joy that things like the evolution of biplanes in 1933 to the all metal varieties as well as the tantalizing possibility for finding answers for many of WWII's what ifs? that will stick in the memory moreso then its failings. 

- Owen S

Review: Making History 2: the War of the World (PC)
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