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Posted on Nov 22, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Advanced Tactics WWII Game Review

By Larry Levandowski

Passed Inspection: Deep logistics model. Endless replay value.

Failed Basic: AI turn processing in large games takes forever. Documentation of editing features is sometimes lacking.

With the release of Advanced Tactics WWII, VR Games and Matrix Games have made Christmas shopping easy for the strategy gamer. The game is like one of those WWII plastic soldier play sets that Marx Toys sold in the 60s. A big box of virtual WWII soldiers and tanks that can be set up in your sandbox to fight any battle, historical or not. Without treading the dangerous ground of proclaiming the game to be exactly what gamers want, it is true that VR Games is onto something. Advanced Tactics offers great game play, and despite the sometimes loose view of history, it has plenty to offer the grognard interested in fine detail. The game’s full editing tools, random game generator and multi-player focus, promise to build an active community that will keep the game around for a long time to come. Strategy gamers can’t go wrong by asking Santa for this great game.

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The ATWWII game engine is operational, turn based u-go-i-go on a hex based map. The scale is set by the scenario designer, and this gives the game a great deal of flexibility. Out of the box, there are several WWII scenarios, that vary from regimental / division level, like the Gothic Line, to a theater-wide game, like one depicting the last months of the War in Europe. While the WWII scenarios are pretty good, most players will probably spend most of their time with randomly generated games, or participating in multi-player PBEM contests.

Like those soldiers in the sandbox, ATWWII plays loosely with historic realism when it comes to what the units represent and how they are produced. In the game, divisions are an open container that the player can fill dynamically using various types of sub-formations; tanks, rifles, SMGs, AT guns, etc. So what exactly a division represents becomes somewhat abstract. A typical division might contain 39 rifles, 22 SMGs, 2 light tanks and 4 trucks. Each sub-unit is a complex model by itself, being rated for dozens of factors, like morale, hit points, combat power against each type of enemy unit, etc. Sub-units are manufactured in cities, with newly built men showing up for duty to an assigned HQ unit. All production happens immediately at the end of a turn, so a carrier or battleship is built just as quickly as a rifle unit. Once the sub-units arrive at the HQ, the player can then distribute them to existing divisions, or to newly created ones. Each type of sub-unit then gives its capabilities to the division it is assigned to. The resulting system of unit creation is great fun, and is almost a game by itself. In historic scenarios however, the production engine is throttled back, being limited to supplies and providing replacements.

Combat occurs during the player’s turn, and is fought immediately. Once resolved, the phasing player can then move other units into the gap and attack again. The game favors the use of combined arms tactics when trying to dislodge the enemy. A good attack will start with dive bombers, move to artillery, open a gap with infantry, and then blow through the hole with armor. Each attack is resolved on a combat screen. Once the fight starts, each rifle, tank, gun and aircraft fight based on their combat effectiveness, supply level, hit points and combat power against different types of targets.

Random games are possibly the most fun in ATWWII, and will remind the player of Sid Meir’s Civilization series, or New World Computing’s Empire Deluxe from the early 90s. To start the game, the player sets up random map parameters like the number of cities, factions, percentage of blue water, etc. The game engine generates a random map, the player picks a side, and the game is on. In these types of games, the player’s first priority is to explore and grab as many cities as they can. Naval units and airborne infantry are critical when island hopping is the attack plan of choice. Once the player has a base of production, they build units, carry out research to improve the forces they have, and then work on the destruction of the enemy. There are no diplomacy options in these games, so it’s every man for himself. Overall, random games are a great deal of fun, and provide almost endless variety.

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