UMS II: Nations at War. (game software) (evaluation)
by Alfred Giovetti
Have you ever wanted to fight a battle in a war game that hasn't been developed yet? Have you ever wondered what would have happened had Napoleon faced Alexander the Great in battle in the twenty-first century with nuclear weapons, missiles, and air power? This capability is what Ezra Sidran and the staff of Intergalactic Development have programmed into their new Microplay release, UMS II: Nations at War.
UMS II is a computer war game simulation which purports to have real artificial intelligence and a depth of simulation not yet realized in any other war game. This may or may not be true, but UMS II certainly does have complex algorithms that define thousands of variables including leadership, morale, supply level, experience, dificiency, and unit strength. The game player can set and reset these values to study the effects of a variety of combat circumstances. Terrain, weather, elevation, and military formations must also be taken into account. For the realist, these are welcome details.
UMS II has the further advantage of being a game system that promises the imminent release of a planet editor that will allow you to create your own planetwide battles. While the editor doesn't come with the game, it's easily the most appealing aspect of UMS II. Expect the editor to be available within the next two months, though there is some confusion as to whether the planet editor will be a free upgrade to the original program. Unlike its predecessor, UMS, UMS II transcends the limitations of a mundane, geographically limited battlefield and engages you in planetwide conflicts instead.
Obviously, UMS II targets the true war gamer who has hours of time to pore over manuals and to enjoy and master the intricacies of gameplay, not the average gamer. Even when you use one of the three enclosed scenarios, the game isn't an undertaking for a few afternoon hours. Schedule a whole day or night to complete a single game.
Functioning better with a mouse than a keyboard, the interface is adequate, but not obvious or easy to learn. Expect to make many mistakes, and don't expect the manual to answer all your questions: The documentation is not quite sufficient. To make up for this problem, the designers provide a free newsletter, complete with tips and warnings against pitfalls.
Offering no sound effects and possessing limited color graphics, UMS II has sacrificed glitz to afford players greater control of the simulation. When designing the artificial intelligence of generals, for example, you decide whether they're passive or aggressive, or desire the destruction of opposing forces over the conquest of territory. But if you're looking for a stereo shoot-'em-up, this is not your game. Only the highly cerebral need look into this military simulator. The current version of UMS II is version 1.2.4. You need to send your original game disks and registration card to Intergalactic Development to get the upgrade. This new version improves on the earlier version and addresses many user complaints. The newer version runs faster and is far more capable of unattended play than the prior game. Lengthy battles need trouble you no longer; array your forces and let the game resolve the combat while you clean the garage or make a sandwich. Upon your return, view the results and issue another set of commands.
UMS II: Nations at War is by far the most monumental and ambitious undertaking in military war game history. Be aware of the drawbacks of the system, however, and remember that this game is not for everyone. I would recommend UMS II for anyone who intends to purchase the planet editor (assuming the upgrade isn't free) and who is an avid war gamer--or perhaps for anyone who enjoys alternate history or wants to set his or her own conditions for worldwide conflict without actual bloodshed.