Set in the African Mediterranean during World War II, this fully 3D real-time strategy game from Monte Cristo prides itself on historical accuracy and attention to detail. Missions vary, from small reconnaissance operations to full-scale assaults. Each mission begins with a briefing, which puts the operation in historical context and informs the player on battlefield details and other particulars. Including tanks, infantry, air support, and specialists, as many as 70 different units types will fall under the player's command at one time or another, according to mission settings and objectives. Once a mission is accomplished, players are ranked on a three-tiered scale according to their performances, and are awarded a commensurate experience bonus. To allow focus on precise tactics instead of broad strategies, the single-player game can be paused at any time, so commanders can survey their situation, compose a plan, and give the right orders to the right units. Multiplayer modes support up to four players.
Desert Rats Vs Afrika Korps is an RTS (Real Time Strategy) game based around the infamous battles of World War Two. As an avid RTS fan I was excited about the prospect of such a game, however I must admit to being a tad skeptical as to whether or not Digital Jesters would pull off a master stroke and deliver a game worthy of such a historical event.
You can either choose to battle as an Allied troop commander or alternatively an Axis Commander. If you choose to become an Allied commander you are at a disadvantage as, with keeping with history, the Axis forces were much stronger than the Allies, which bodes well for the rest of the game.
There are 3 modes of play in this game: Story Mode, Campaign and Scenario. The story mode consists of 16 missions, which is more than enough to sink your teeth into. Campaign Mode allows you to go directly to either the 6 missions of the Allied Campaign or the 8 Missions of the Axis campaign. Scenario mode basically lets you replay any of the Allied or Axis campaigns that you have completed. Not only is difficulty based on which side you choose but there is also an option of selecting Easy, Normal, Or Hard.
One of the main selling points of this game has to be the graphics, as for an RTS game they are superb. The textures are rich and colorful and when zoomed in on the action looks and feels as good as any PC game; perhaps more importantly the graphics look better than the vast majority of RTS games on the market. The environments used in this game are superb they range from rainfall to desert sand storms raging in the distance. The effects of these are nicely put together, which greatly improves the look and feel of the game.
There are a lot of cut scenes for an RTS game which occur before each mission. There is a varied introduction with full English dialogue and sub-titles, including some dodgy accents, which takes a little shine off the game overall. But the cut scenes do their job and help set the scene for the mission ahead. The graphics on these cut scenes are above basic but nothing to flashy to detract from the actual game playing experience (something which is becoming more frequent in new games).
Graphically the menu interface of this game is simple to use. There are full character models when selecting your inventory for certain missions. This helps to make choices a lot easier as they include RPG style stats, enabling you to compare and contrast units to get you the perfect set up for battle.
One of my main problems with the graphics in this game is with the zoomed in camera angles. They feel forced and hinder your game playing experience, which results in you best leaving them alone to play the game from the more traditional view point.
If you are familiar with the RTS genre then you will be able to get playing straight away as the control system is the same as many other RTS games (E.g. the inclusion of 'Hotkeys'). For beginners the control system is easy to use. You select your units by dragging a selection box of said units in order to select them, then you point and click to deploy your unit(s). Simple enough and it's a tried and tested formula that works well.
There are a range of tactics for you to deploy to help beat the enemy. This aspect offers a lot more than most 'get as many men as possible' RTS games. There are military known tactics such as getting your forces to 'dig-in' and prepare for an oncoming assault. The AI in this game proves to be a challenge as they do not hail from the over the top school of military tactics. The AI actually looks for your weak point and attacks it, meaning that you have to watch places such as your flanks, your rear and not to mention if they call in an Air Strike!
As with most war games regardless of the genre you are treated to the melody of sounds that you would expect. There are gritty tunes to inspire you to victory with the intention of instilling dogged determination. Also included are a range of military weapon sounds, resulting in the game sounding like a true battlefield. A plus point about the in game music is that it is not overly noticeable when you're actually playing, but as with most games now you can change the options to turning the music off completely or not.
With around 30 missions in total (including both story mode and campaign) there is a lot here to keep you going for a while. As for re-playability it is what you would expect from an RTS. Fans of the genre will get the most enjoyment out of it, but casual RTS fans are also likely to continue to play this game as it is very solid and entertaining.
I like to measure how good an RTS game is by one scenario and that scenario is as follows. Can you sit down and play this game only to look over at the clock and realize that 2 and a half hours have past since you had a break? For me Desert Rats Vs Afrika Korps has this. It is everything you would expect from an RTS and manages to capture the mood and scenarios (as best a game can) of the period in which it is set. There is a lot to keep you entertained and would make a good addition to most people's RTS collection. However this game is not without it's faults. One of my main gripes being the zoom feature and subsequent camera angles. Yes it's good to be able to play zoomed in on the action but only when it's been implemented well, but unfortunately this has not happened with DR Vs AK. When zoomed in on the action the resulting view is difficult at best and restricts your view of other things that are happening around the battlefield. It would have been a good addition if you could choose between multiple view points as this would help matters. This particular game could of also of benefited from the exclusion of voice-overs as a sub title would be sufficient for setting the scene for the missions in this game.
Generally a good game and well worth getting hold of to improve your RTS collection and general games collection. It's not the greatest RTS game of all time but it more than holds its own at the top end of the pecking order.
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D-Day, East Front 2, Divided Ground: Middle East Conflict 1948-1973, Great Battles of WWII: Stalingrad, Combat Mission 3: Afrika Korps, Codename: Panzers - Phase Two, Close Combat 5: Invasion Normandy, No Surrender: Battle of the Bulge
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