Focusing on naval and airborne battles between May 1942 and December 1943, Uncommon Valor: Campaign for the South Pacific offers 2D turn-based action in 19 historical and "what-if" scenarios including campaigns for New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland, and the Solomon Islands. Veteran war game designer Gary Grigsby's team of developers provide players with a wide selection of in-depth customization options and details, ranging from critical hit locations on individual ships and experience ratings for crews in day and night combat to incidental damage from weather.
More than 200 ship classes and nearly every type of aircraft that saw action in the South Pacific during WWII are available from a vast database. Players will track hundreds of individual aircraft, ships, vehicles, guns and squads, factor in unit strengths and weaknesses (pilot experience, ship gun range, and so forth), and manage every aspect of battle from transports and mine warfare to sub patrols and reconnaissance flights. Ground units, air units, task force missions and more are monitored with an array of screen reports and databases as battles rage in a variety of terrain including jungles, mountains, roads, coastal areas, beaches, rivers, and the ocean.
In addition to solo play against a savvy computer AI, Uncommon Valor: Campaign for the South Pacific supports play-by-email (PBEM) or head-to-head "hot-seat" action for two players. A hypothetical battle tutorial is offered in the short printed manual and a comprehensive manual is provided in .PDF format on the CD.
To many gamers, Gary Grigsby is the Sid Meier of wargaming. Both have long and storied reputations within their respective genres and have produced some of the more notable games in computer gaming history. But, although Meier has dabbled in wargaming, he made his name in strategy, while the reverse is true of Grigsby. Grigsby's War in Russia and Pacific War are wargaming classics. Neither are user-friendly, neither are easy to learn, but both accurately portray the theaters of war for which they were designed.
Unfortunately it has been a while since I've played anything new from Mr. Grigsby, but Matrix Games has brought that dearth of Grigsby titles to an end. His new game -- Uncommon Valor -- is a strategic / operational game that covers the war in the South Pacific during the years 1942-43. Thankfully, the wait was worth it; UV is quite a game.
Make no mistake, this is not a beginner's title, nor is it a game for someone who felt StarCraft was complex. Uncommon Valor puts you in charge of the entire South Pacific campaign. You must assemble fleets, send them on their way against the Japanese flotillas, fly squadrons of bombers against Japanese bases, conduct amphibious assaults against Japanese-held territory, and orchestrate all the other typical minutia associated with "gaming" a war.
Uncommon Valor contains a ton of detail. It is crucial to manage a myriad of information from supplies to resting your troops, ships, and airplanes. It is a wargaming grognard's dream, but may put off anyone else. That would be a shame, because underneath this detailed spreadsheet-type interface is an intriguing strategy game. The game is going to draw comparisons from Grigsby's other great Pacific wargames, but that's expected. Compared to Pacific War, Uncommon Valor is a snap. The interface has been streamlined, the amount of micro-managing necessary to run the campaign reduced, and the excitement level ramped up. In all, it is a much better effort.
While Uncommon Valor isn't going to win any graphical awards, but there is a spartan elegance that makes for an attractive ambiance. Combat pops up a window with detailed pictures of the combatants. If Zeros rise to meet your bombers, the window displays a beautiful still of the Japanese fighter in one panel and your B-17s in another. Flashy? No. But in these days of glitz over guts, it's an attractive, understated look.
Also understated is the game's ground combat. Yeah, yeah, we all know that the Pacific campaign was a naval campaign, but when I think Pacific, I think of Marines wresting steamy jungles from hordes of Japanese infantry. You'll be able to wrest those jungles in Uncommon Valor, but it's a bit generic. Nevertheless, Uncommon Valor is a game of grand strategy; to expect tactically-flavored battles would be asking a bit to much.
Problems? This is a complex game. If you're looking for something to play on a quick break, you best look elsewhere, and the interface does little to help -- in fact, it's somewhat like managing a spreadsheet.
Spreadsheet or not, Uncommon Valor is a game worth getting into. No, it's not flashy, easy, or interface-friendly, but those who take the time to appreciate its ambiance, study its nuances, and master its interface will be rewarded with hundreds of hours of play.
People who downloaded Uncommon Valor: Campaign for the South Pacific have also downloaded:
Wargame Construction Set 3, Strategic Command 2: Blitzkrieg, Stars!, Star Trek: Armada, Third World War, Steel Panthers 3: Brigade Command (1939-1999), West Front, SuperPower 2
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