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Posted on Mar 14, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Ancient Warfare: Punic Wars – Game Review (PC)

By Mike Tomlin

All computer wargames involve compromises in design and implementation, and total historical accuracy and realism are simply not attainable. One positive decision taken often closes down decisions in other areas. With Punic Wars going for a hex-based individual unit game, a vast amount of detail and playability can be achieved. However, much of ancient warfare involved massed formations, like that of barbarians, or the disciplined and organised Greek phalanxes. Breaking them down into units of 100 to 200 or less takes liberties with reality. In combat the individual units therein tend to break up and react independently more than I feel is correct. And Roman infantry fought more in lines at this period rather than the manipular formations that came in later in the Republic. So the game loses something here I feel, although the choice of hexes and independent units was almost certainly unavoidable and correct, and has undoubted advantages in certain types of scenario. Plus, in future games, if later Roman wars are covered this will be more and more appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad choice, but some aspects of warfare of this period lend themselves to it well, and some don’t. As I say, compromises are inevitable.


Sound is interesting in that there is no music during the game, but two types of sounds can be selected separately or together. First there are background sound effects – animals/birds, wind, water etc. – particular to the terrain on the map, and second there are movement and combat sounds for the various units. Light and heavy infantry and cavalry have different sounds, and of course there are elephants trumpeting whenever they are involved in the action. All of this makes for good atmosphere.

One irritation I had concerned scrolling around the map. This can be done via keys or mouse, but is more likely to be done by the latter. According to the manual, moving the mouse to the edge of the map causes the map to scroll in that direction, which it does, but moving it off the edge of the map should slow, then stop, the scrolling. This was certainly true for three of the directions, but I found on my machine, that when moving off the top of the map, movement continued despite the fact I was trying to use an icon or activate a drop down menu. As a result the unit(s) or area of the field I was viewing would often disappear from view with the result I had to find it again before carrying out the desired action. It is true that mouse controlled scrolling can be deselected but I found it more intuitive than keys, so I feel this issue needs to be corrected, particularly as it contradicts the manual.

HPS has an excellent game here, and one that offers good replayability and possesses considerable depth and complexity. Like many good games, it is very easy to learn the basics and start playing, but it rewards experience, and can only truly be enjoyed by those prepared to persevere with it. I am certain that more scenarios will be forthcoming from the gaming community, and these can only widen its appeal. There are minor issues that need improving, but HPS have a pretty good track record in responding to consumer-raised issues, and this should not put anyone off. As a first outing for a brand new game engine, this is an excellent attempt, and for those interested in the Classical Warfare period, who don’t insist on state of the art graphics rather than accuracy, is probably the best option on the market. I can thoroughly recommend it, and very much look forward to further games in this series.


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