Scourge of War: Gettysburg – PC Game Review
Scourge of War: Gettysburg. PC Game Review. Publisher: Norb Development Software, Inc. Developer: Norb Development Software, Inc. Digital Download $29.99 CD + Manual $59.99
Passed Inspection: High level of historical realism. Units and topography authentically modeled. Multiplayer is smooth and rewarding. Best Civil War game available to date.
Failed Basic: Steep learning curve. Playing the Tutorial is a requirement.
Every great once in a while, disparate roads can converge to create a new reality. In the case of Norb Tempko’s PC game Scourge of War: Gettysburg this has proven to be true again. By building on a tremendous legacy established with his work at Mad Minute games, Mr. Tempko has struck out on his own and independently released this game which should easily set the standard for all Civil War wargames. To go independent as a software developer in this economy is certainly a gamble. To compound the risk, he tackled the most often studied battle to take place in this hemisphere. His reward for such audacity is evidently this: he has created a stunningly impactful game which should please casual strategy gamers as well as discerning Civil War buffs everywhere. The game’s impact is so powerful because it not only delivers precisely on critical issues such as topography and historical accuracy; it has the benefit of an evolved gameplay system which allows for a fluid and dynamic battlefield environment.
In gaming, as in life, first impressions are critical. The first impression I had upon receiving the package in the mail was, “First rate—this could be good.” The packaging for the CD, and its contents, were indeed promising but I was still hesitant. As a Civil War historian and gamer, I have been gaming this battle for many years, but most experiences have been disappointing. There have been many haphazard and downright awful games that have come to market and few have been able to do this nation’s most critical land battle much justice. So imagine my surprise when I loaded this game. Civil War photos and quotes are present to set an anticipatory mood while the game readies. This would be the first of many small touches that so distinguish this game. Shortly, the player is transported onto a 3D battle arena that has enough topographical detail to please any avid historian. Place names from history such as McPherson’s Ridge, The Devils’ Den, and The Peach Orchard all come graphically alive. Again, the graphics package is superb as is the sound quality. Begin battle and you will hear the crack of musketry, the wind rippling authenticated battle flags and see the immense smoke clouds which so characterized the 19th Century Battlefield. This battlefield environment is unfailingly lush and alluring.
The playability of Scourge of War: Gettysburg is also one of its strongest assets. This is latest a new game engine called Scourge of War. Informally the gaming community has dubbed it “the next iteration of the Take Command! System,” though technically that is not the case. The Scourge of War System allows for the player to control the strategy of every unit from the Corps level down. However, this level of interaction can be challenging to players. Indeed, issuing orders haphazardly in this game can lead to disastrous results; as in battle, there are simply too many things happening all around you to allow you to focus on any individual unit for too long. The Scourge of War System is an honest yet unforgiving one. If mishandled, your units will suffer grievously. Master it and you will come closer to experiencing command in the Civil War than any other game currently available. One of those things to concern you is not that your orders may not be followed; thanks to an ingenious Courier System, which is used to deliver battlefield orders to units, those orders may not even be received. I have seen dispatch riders get blown to smithereens, and have watched others ride perilously close to the enemy ranks only to be summarily shot. Add to those souls the riders that I can only assume got lost, and you may begin to feel a measure of the realistic tactical confusion found in the game. Locking the camera view to that of the tactical commander also adds to the pulse-pounding sense of immersion that can occur while playing Scourge of War: Gettysburg. (I would, however, humbly submit a recommendation for the development team. Please consider adding a “Shoot Courier!” command to the game menu. It could have come in very handy during one particular scenario).
Of course, the element which truly distinguishes the game is the ambitious level of historical accuracy which they have attained in this game. Truly, this game was written with the Historian in mind. The level of detail is flat-out stunning. Each unit is rated due to its known historical prowess, and the better units behave accordingly. Highly realistic Unit Flags and unit-distinctive uniforms are the order of the day. For any avid Civil War buff, the ability to see units such as the fabled Iron Brigade coming along wearing their distinctive black hats should be worth the cost of the game itself. The game comes with all of the major battle sites, as well as an intriguing “What If?…” scenario featuring the divisions of mighty Stonewall Jackson. The game also allows for non-historical scenarios, which are entirely hypothetical. Particular care has been given to scenarios featuring cavalry operations. The units in this battle fought primarily as dismounted cavalry, and as such they exhibit unique characteristics and firepower which demonstrates their peculiar status as hybrid units. The topography of the battlefield is spot on. Given the differing topographical conditions found on the wide-ranging battlefield, their impact on the battles are critical. New patches also bolster artillery effects to more realistically reflect ballistic impact vis-à-vis unit formation. Here again, the key goal of the game is historic realism, and their work has paid off handsomely.
When the men of Major General Henry Heth reached Marsh Creek and opened fire on the arrayed troopers of Brigadier General John Buford’s First Cavalry Brigade, they ignited both the three-day Battle of Gettysburg and endless years of debate among historians. Indeed, the study of Gettysburg is fundamental to any military historian. Given that Norb Tempko chose this classic battle to launch his independent company, it is amazing that he seems to have created a classic. The game Scourge of War: Gettysburg offers a chance for both the casual PC wargamer and the avid historian to experience the challenge of command at that critical battle. The multi-player environment is where the game comes to life as the competition there is excellent and very fun. The dual attention given by the entire development team to painstaking detail and instinctive gameplay pays off handsomely for the gamer.
This game offers hours of non-repetitive gameplay, and I would heartily commend it to any gamer.
Armchair General Rating: 95%