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Posted on Nov 22, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Advanced Tactics WWII Game Review

By Larry Levandowski

In addition to the random games, ATWWII really shows it’s flexibility with the 25 historic and non-historic scenarios that come with the package. These games are straight-forward, and do not emphasize expansion and exploration. There are 10 historic WWII scenarios, providing a broad picture of mostly the European Theater. The remaining scenarios are fantasy, or tournament games. All of these pre-defined games play like a good board based wargame, but where the computer is handling all of the number crunching. Despite some of the loose interpretation of history, the game engine is very flexible, and is capable of more historic fidelity then a player might think. Grognards may grumble at some of the abstraction of history, but will love the overall detail. Certainly for someone looking for a lighter, highly playable view of the Ardennes, Russia ’42, or the end of the War in Europe, ATWWII is pretty good.


Game play is no-nonsense and fast for small and medium sized fights. Many pre-defined scenarios can be finished in an evening. Random games will take much longer because of exploration and army building aspects. One issue is that with very large random games, with 10 factions fighting on a mega-map, it can take many minutes for the AI to process the turn. The amount of time only gets longer as the game progresses, and by turn 30 these scenarios are almost unplayable.

ATWWII will not win any beauty contests with its wargame grade graphics and sound. There is great game play under a relatively sparse presentation, but that may not be enough for gamers who need state of the art eye-candy. Hardened computer warriors however, will appreciate the different unit counters for each faction, color coded HQ association, accurate unit pictures, and the fact that the interface presents a great deal of information in a concise space. On the interface downside, maps can seem a little dreary, and the interface requires a click too many at times. But in ATWWII, game play is king, and these issues are quickly forgotten once the fighting starts.

One of the great aspects of Tactics is that in all scenarios, the ultimate keys to victory are logistics, logistics and logistics. Long ago, Napoleon’s wunderkind, General Antoine Henri Jomini said,’strategy decides where to act, logistics puts the troops there.’ In ATWWII, logistics is ignored at the player’s peril. Two of the more important units in the game are not the heavy tank or dive-bomber, but the lowly truck, and horse team. Wheels not only allow artillery, engineers and infantry to move faster, but they are critical for distribution of supplies.

The supply system itself is refreshingly sophisticated, yet easy to manage. Units come in two types, HQs and combat units. Each of these can be assigned to a HQ. The role of HQs is to distribute supplies, provide transport, and staff support. A multi-level chain of command can be dynamically created by the player with HQs, reporting to HQs, eventually getting to a supreme HQ. Supplies flow from production in cities, or a supply source to the HQs down the chain of command. How much supply moves is a function of roads, terrain, enemy activity and available transport. Players can easily check how much supply each unit needs, how much each is getting, and how much supply the unit has in it own stockpile. This system creates a realistic logistics tether on the players operations. The most powerful units wither and die quickly without beans and bullets. Attacks over difficult terrain with no roads, will be difficult because of the impaired supply flow. To span such logistical cold spots, the player’s options involve road building with engineers, air-drop supply, or establishing shorter supply lines.

Much of the player’s experience with the game will be against the AI who is an OK sparring partner. At higher levels of difficulty the AI attacks with a heavy hand, and is ignored at the player’s peril. However, after getting some experience in ATWWII, gamers will start to find holes in the AI’s way of war. The computer player doesn’t seem to know how to use combined arms in a coordinated attack, and it learns slowly from its mistakes. The manual also admits that the AI does not know how to use aircraft carriers or strategic transfer. Still, the AI does pull off a trick or two, and even manages to seem clever at times. Overall, the robo-opponent while not perfect, is not a push-over and will provide many hours of enjoyment.

But human vs. human play is the feature that will most likely keep ATWWII on hard-drives well into the future. The game engine seems to be built with mano a mano combat in mind. Out of the box, Tactics comes with ladder scenarios, and secure PBEM / hotseat support for up to ten players. With huge maps being possible, ATWWII promises to offer a gaming experience that is unlike other multi-player strategy games.

For modders and wannabe scenario creators, the game is an amazing open book. Out of the box, there is a fully integrated game editor that does not require any other components. But the documentation of this feature is somewhat lacking, with key concepts getting only minimal mention. But this documentation gap is resolved nicely by a good community created tutorial posted on Matrix’s forums. Basic games will be easy for most gamers to put together. But veteran modders, who don’t mind scripting events and tweaking the data masterfile, can really take the engine much farther than even the developers have. Almost everything in the game, from terrain values, to unit types and graphics can be changed.

So, when dinner is called, and it’s time to end the day’s fight and put the soldiers back in their box, Advanced Tactics WWII passes the fun test with flying colors. An added bonus is that Tactics’ flexibility gives so much replay value, that gamers now know what to bring to that proverbial island where they can have only one thing. Strategy gamers who miss this title will be missing out indeed.

Armchair General Score: 90%


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