Pacific Storm: Allies – PC Game Preview
Buka Entertainment, Lesta Studios, and cdv Software Entertainment released Pacific Storm to North America in October 2006. Since then, they have been steadily working on improving and adding to the blend of strategy and tactical gameplay available, with the fruits of their labor scheduled to launch in the grand expansion Pacific Storm: Allies later this month.
Pacific Storm: Allies continues along the path of bringing to players the ability to conduct warfare in a myriad of ways. Everything from theatre- wide grand strategy options all the way down to tactical level manning of individual weapon systems on ships and aircraft is available here, and all of it meshed together fluidly, albeit seemingly slowly at times.
Before getting too deep here, know that this preview is based off of a pre-release build, and it is probably safe to say the retail version to be released will be polished to a higher degree. At least that is what is hoped for, and expected.
At the basic level, Allies looks and plays very much like the original Pacific Storm. That one had a couple painful points of contention which have been addressed in Allies. One is the ability to use a joystick when controlling an aircraft, for that enhanced feeling of actually piloting a fighter or bomber in real artificial combat. Unless you’re me, that is, and just stink at flying in games. Roll, pitch, yaw, altitude and weapon controls are all available via the keyboard, but those more experienced at flight simulation, or those who want to feel so, may welcome this new addition.
The original Pacific Storm is limited in that only the United States and Japan are the powers available to play. As indicated by the name, Allies now reinforces that side with the superb aircraft and majestic naval forces of Britain. Germany’s massive ships have been added to the Axis powers, including, of course, the Bismarck. Above and beyond that, Allies also brings in the art of diplomacy, with players able to initiate trade deals and treaties between countries, and with the inclusion of the Soviet Union and the Netherlands.
All in all, Allies is set to have 80 aircraft models, 45 ship types, and 25 kinds of guided missiles. Each of those can also be manipulated in the games’ unit editor, or simply passed over to create completely new units! I would have loved to have had an in-game tutorial on this in order to play with it more, and hopefully the retail version will address this in some way. Like the prior game, Allies gives the player an entire CICs number of choices to make concerning how they want to command the war in the Pacific. At the operational level, players have control over the entire Pacific Theatre, from establishing bases to constructing buildings and recruiting personnel on their bases. Minor resource gathering skills are needed also, such as keeping careful watch on oil, ammo and fuel supply levels, and forming transports to ferry those to bases requiring them. Tactically, naval and air units can be grouped in divisions, battalion, and squadrons, formed, broken down, reinforced, and resupplied with both equipment and crew. One nice touch here is being able to choose your naval crew Commanders and Commander-in-chief from a list of historical personages, who come complete with historical backgrounds. Same goes for Pilots and air corps commanders. I really like it when a combat game goes that extra kilometer to include military history with it. To me, it just adds to the credibility of the whole experience.
The arcade / simulation mode of Allies is done rather nicely, even though it was my least favorite of the three styles of available play, but only while playing solo. Multiplayer games in this mode were fun! Individual planes and ships can be controlled on their own, with a player able to pilot themselves right into (and hopefully out of) a furious dogfight or successful bombing run. Players may also helm any of their ships at sea, from aircraft carriers, to battleships, to destroyers, and even to submarines and transports. Additionally, players can let the AI control their ship in battle while they man the main or AA guns. This was also a good bit of fun, especially in the midst of fleet combat with enemy fighters and kamikaze planes buzzing all around.
Speaking of multiplayer, Allies is set to have three distinct modes. The Battle Planner will offer the most customization, with up to eight players able to set factors such as maps, weather, number of air and naval units, and country. Combat in this mode looks to be tactical only, however, but I do hope that changes. The Air Simulator is the mode for players who just want to choose their favorite aircraft and dogfight it out. Cooperative Game mode will allow two players to team up for tactical warfare against the AI.
One thing I do wish would change before the retail release is the games’ music. Being set in the World War Two era, I was expecting to hear Moonlight Serenade, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Farewell Blues, or the like. What I heard was something that sounded straight out of a Russian discotheque. While I would certainly love to visit one, I don’t want to hear it in my wargames. Maybe that’s just me, though. Pacific Storm: Allies will also incorporate many other upgrades to the series, including AI and graphical enhancements. Being able to coordinate three different gaming genres is no small feat, and the fact that Allies looks to have done so very well, may mean that this one may win as many awards as its’ predecessor. However, that’s for you, the gamer, to decide, so look for this game soon!