It's always interesting when a company produces a game based on a historical era that is rarely if ever visited by gamers. So when War Along the Mohawk (known in Europe as Fields of Fire) was announced, it was treated with some enthusiasm because of its time period, the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years War in Europe). When it finally came out in the US, it was immediately met with skepticism. The price point was low - $20 - which was not a good sign from the quality perspective; it apparently was yet another real-time strategy game during a deluge of RTS games; and it was conceived by Edward Grabowski. Grabowski has produced some interesting games in the past, such as a variety of microminiature wargames for Impressions and more recently the Grand Prix Manager series, but these games have often failed in execution. So is War Along the Mohawk more of the same?
The premise behind the game is actually very ambitious. War Along the Mohawk claims to mix role-playing with real-time strategy, while set in a very historical and somewhat dynamic backdrop - war in America around 1757. You can choose one of two sides, the French or the British, and one of a total of 40 player characters, each with differing characteristics and special abilities as well as their own unique voices, similar to Jagged Alliance. Of course, the voices run the gamut between believable and farcical - one in particular has a voice reminiscent of Ringo Starr. You are then thrust into the first mission of the campaign with orders to report to the commanding officer at the local fort.
Besides the tutorial, each campaign (one for the British and the French) consists of 18 missions that must be completed in succession; failure will result in having to play the mission over until finished. After a briefing by the local commander, you are then given a list of other player characters to fill out the makeup of the party, the size of which is dependent on the mission (about four or five characters is average). Success in a mission typically revolves around the characters available and which you pick, so pay close attention to their abilities in regard to the mission at hand.
Missions usually involve traversing the main map around the fort to a designated flag where the party is then transported to a new map where the main mission is to transpire. This is all where the real-time engine takes form. The game's controls are similar to other real-time strategy games, as are the situations. While the main characters are out traversing the camp map (which is rather large although the fort is not) the fort can come under attack, and you are forced to defend against enemy incursions. All sorts of wild animals inhabit the woods and can cause problems for the characters. The missions themselves are very objective oriented, and sometimes the exact way of figuring them out is not always intuitive. Thankfully the game manual has a nice hints and tips section for each of the missions.
When one thinks of a game based on a historical situation, like War Along the Mohawk, one would tend to think that it has some form of historical realism about it. Well, War Along the Mohawk has almost nothing of the sort, except for the period feel, characters, and weapons involved. It can take four of five hits with a musket to kill a man, and pitched one-on-one battles are often nail-biting musket slug fests to see who shoots whom first the most times while standing ten feet away from each other. If attacked by Indians, a British soldier might get a useless shot off before becoming easy meat to an Indian's tomahawk, since many are inept at close combat. While this is not a call for realistically modeled combat in essentially a typically real-time strategy game, combat in War Along the Mohawk needs some serious work.
So many bears and other nasty creatures inhabit the world that one wonders how anybody ever survived without getting mauled a dozen times. Character artificial intelligence is weak and lacking in quite a few areas, although the pathfinding is actually quite decent. The game's graphics are functional at best, and frequently units can become lost in the graphics, such as being masked by a fort tower or another building, which is very annoying. Characters also have some pretty strange abilities that hark back to fantasy RPGs - abilities like "wolf control." Sounds of battle (or just some poor trader getting accosted by furry animals in the woods) can be heard from anywhere on the map, but you may have no idea where from.
War Along the Mohawk has some interesting facets to it, but as a whole it falls flat. Unlike other real-time strategy games, each of the characters has a particular facing, so if a group of characters is looking in one direction, the area behind them is obscured with a fog of war. Unit formations and formation manipulation commands are also supplied, which can become important in certain situations but is sure easy to disrupt. The role-playing elements are at the very least an interesting addition, as the character can acquire items during the course of a mission (dead forest creatures for instance may be skinned for useful furs), sell them, and buy new pieces of equipment from the fort's store. Hiding from the enemy, use of elevated terrain, and ambushes are also incorporated into the game, as well as multiplayer support.
War Along the Mohawk consists of a lot of good and ambitious ideas thrown into a melting pot and mixed haphazardly. It has potential, but it is lost in the bland graphics, odd combat resolution, and dreariness of moving from one map to the other at a snail's pace. With an initial price of only $20 one cannot expect too much out of a game, but War Along the Mohawk could have been worth so much more.
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