Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 72 / MAY 1986 / PAGE 61

Europe Ablaze
For Commodore
And Apple

Neil Randall

Requirements: Commodore 64 (or 128 in 64 mode); or an Apple II-series computer with at least 64K RAM. Disk only.

Europe Ablaze is the third game from the Strategic Studies Group of Australia. Their first effort, Reach for the Stars, remains one of the most popular computer wargames ever released, and their second, Carriers at War, won the Charles Roberts Award at last year's Origins gaming convention for best computer game of the year. Add the fact that SSG's games are now being distributed by Electronic Arts, and we can see that SSG has quickly become one of the leading designers of computer wargames. And when you're at the top, people expect great things.
    For those expecting excellence, Europe Ablaze will not disappoint. The game is a simulation of the World War II air war over Germany and England. The three scenarios included with the game cover the Battle of Britain, 1940 (the one with Churchill's famous speech); the summer 1943 U.S. and British bombing offensive; and the 1944 attempt to bomb Germany into submission.
    Like Carriers at War, though, Europe Ablaze is not restricted to the scenarios provided. A detailed but remarkably easy scenario design kit allows you to alter the existing scenarios or add new ones of your own. One such scenario, which covers the Mediterranean bombing campaign of 1943, is included in the design book. With sufficient research, historians and air war buffs can work up their own.
    Like Carriers at War, Europe Ablaze is entirely menu-driven. By simply asking you to type Y or N, the menus guide you through all the game's activities, from formatting a disk to ordering an interception. You can command your squadrons to perform reconnaisance, execute sweeps and raids, or, at the heart of the game, fly bombing missions to the target of your choice. And you don't just send them someplace; you tell them how to get there and what to do. You can target bombs against ports, against communications facilities, against industry, or against population. And you can fly straight to the target or divide the flight into two or three "legs" to confuse the enemy. In other words, you must make the same kinds of choices your historical counterparts had to make.

Two Different Roles
To this end, Europe Ablaze is actually two games in one. If you want to avoid the detailed mission and squadron planning, you can assume the role of Commander-in-Chief. In this role, you issue general orders to each of your Air Fleets, and the computer carries out your orders. If you want to take your Commander-in-Chief's orders and carry out the actual missions, you can select the role of Air Fleet Commander. This role is more time-consuming, but because you have more to do it is also more interesting.
    You need not restrict yourself to one or the other, however. At the beginning of the game, the program asks you which commands are to be human-controlled and which computer-controlled. If you're playing the game with friends (up to 12), each can take a different command, and the realism multiplies as each commander demands missions and materials to suit his own objectives. Europe Ablaze impressively establishes the levels of command; as Commander-in-Chief, you will be helpless once you've issued your orders, and as Air Fleet Commander, you must often make the best of orders you don't agree with. That's the way the Air Force works.
    As mentioned earlier, those expecting excellence should be very satisfied by Europe Ablaze. But those hoping for innovation may not be. Europe Ablaze extends the menu-driven system of Carriers at War, smoothing it out and allowing the player a bit more freedom. But sometimes the game plays too much like its forerunner.
    Still, we're beginning to see more and more refinements of existing wargame systems, and as long as designers refine-and not simply copy-the result will be games of superior quality. Europe Ablaze is a fine simulation that uses a proven game system. We can't ask for much more.

Europe Ablaze -
Strategic Studies Group
(Distributed by Electronic Arts)
2755 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403