Latest in a long line of SSI games to reach these shores from the States is this one, two or three-player wargame simulating the war in Europe from 1939-45. Wargamers will instantly realize the scale of such a simulation and be wondering if it is not, perhaps, a little too ambitious.
Players take on the responsibilities of commanding either the German, Allied or Russian armies, navies and air forces and also must concern themselves to a lesser extent with managing their home country's economy and production. In one-player mode, the player must automatically take control over Germany.
The game is played in turns, with several phases making up each turn. The issuing of orders is usually on a very grand scale, very often involving selecting and issuing orders to whole divisions at once. The game world is divided into 37 countries and sub-divided into 224 strategic areas.
Each turn lasts 3 months of game time and the amount of orders you are allowed to issue during any one turn depends on the season - less orders during the winter in some parts of the world. Orders include attacking a neighboring country, transferring divisions to different areas, sending subs and battleships (among others) out on patrols or raids, organizing air strikes against enemy installations or enemy armies and creating or removing armies.
Generally everything you wish to do that turn has to be done and then 'Combat' selected, which moves the game onto the combat phase and hopefully your armies go goose-stepping all over the place. Then it is the next player's turn, so he attempts to do the same and stomp all over you.
Players can be knocked out of the game if they allow certain sectors to be captured by the enemy, at which point the conquering army takes control of all the vanquished player's land. The game continues until one player is left or summer 1945 comes round and Germany's position is judged.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
There is a definite C64, Apple II and PC look to most of SSI's games and this is no different. It is very simplistic and unimaginative looking, but the graphics do their job and the sound effects are not too bad.
As you might expect, it takes a while to get to grips with and once you have found your feet it takes a while to play each game. There is a multitude of options that can be altered before play to make things easier or harder for yourself, so if you are into this sort of thing you will have plenty to busy yourself with.
The scale of the game is too large, which does not mean it is bad; in fact it is very good and very enjoyable once you get into it. But do not expect it to be as deep as some earlier releases.
Back in the old days, before world leaders who are too wimpish to start a war (good on them), storm clouds regularly gathered over the peaceful plains of Europe. Wars were about as regular as the Olympics and about as casual. The 20th century changed all that. No more popping off to war for a few years and coming home rich and famous. No more letters to The Times complaining that the tea supply had dried up. At last mankind had discovered total war in all its gore. One man most fondly remembered for giving his country-powered eggs, gas masks, the Blitz, evacuated children, air raid shelters, one rasher of bacon a week and Messerschmitt schoulder was Hitler. Now you, too, can stand in the shoes of a man who more than any other in history had a real chance of ruling the world.
Storm Across Europe covers the entire war period from the failed Munich accord to the sacking of Berlin by allied troops. The game is divided into periods of three months during which you can maneuver your troops and mercilessly attack weakly defended positions causing great loss of life.
Three players are represented by the game: Germany, the Allies and Russia (who presumably were not as allied as the rest of the Allies). This means that up to three people can play with the computer playing the role of any country left over with the exception of Germany, which must be played by a human - the strategy algorithms obviously are not up to being a despotic fascist. It takes a human to do that.
Naval power is very well simulated. Actually, it is only adequately handled, but that makes it superior to most other strategy games of this type. U-boat fleets will patrol the Atlantic putting paid to the Lend-Lease scheme and troop transports are absolutely vital in the Med.
Every year the production targets for each country must be reset. This includes research, which can increase the effectiveness of all your units and develop new weapons. The penalty for this is resources - the more you spend on research the less you have left to re-enforce your army. What you do here is probably more important than your strategy in the field.
Of course, resources include raw materials, your population and the number of factories, and these come from capturing territory. The real strategy to this game is the effective management of the materials involved, rather than the fighting itself.
The order-giving system is easy enough to understand and use, but it is best to approach the order phase in a systematic way to be sure you do not miss anything out.
Detail is missing on the actual units - only large armies and garrisons are taken into account, but this must be considered against the scope of the game. On the whole there is not much scope for cunning Rommel/Monty type tactics, just management of large armies battering against each other. And the only time tactical skills are severely tested is during a waterborne invasion.
The lack of unit tactics makes this not one for those who consider themselves the re-incarnation of General Patton, more a neo-Hitlerite interested in the management of a world domination machine.
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