Requirements: Commodore 64 or 128 computer; Apple II-series computer with 64K minimum.
Battlefront is a fantastic new war game from SSG, combining all the best elements of computer gaming. It introduces a great new system of play, is easy to use, has fast and exciting game play, and captures the feel for corps-level command of World War II land battles as few other war games have - computerized or not. And as with previous SSG strategy games, a comprehensive design kit to develop your own battles or edit existing scenarios is part of the whole package.
You have the role of corps commander, leading as many as three divisions of men. The groups are battalion size, represented by a variety of infantry, armor, and artillery units. They are organized into larger formations called regiments, each composed of up to four battalions. Each division has up to four regiments, plus an additional four independent battalions which can be assigned to any regiment to supplement its strength. This makes a total of up to 60 separate battalions you'll be commanding.
There is a substantial amount of emphasis placed on the military hierarchy, and for good reason. Unlike in most other computer war games, you do not give direct orders to every battalion under your command. Instead, you give your general orders to regimental commanders, who then command the battalions to execute them as best they can. So, as corps commander, you issue a general order to each regiment and every battalion attached to that regiment will then attempt to carry out the order. Although this may sound complex, it's amazingly simple once you get used to it.
This system also speeds up game play enormously. Movement is carried out by the computer as individual battalions position themselves to follow your orders. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans often go awry. You may have issued orders to a regiment to storm a certain town, but as the regiment moves toward its objective, an enemy battalion opens fire. You can't very well expect your men to ignore a hail of bullets, so they stop their advance and engage the enemy. If it's a large force sniping at your men from a thickly wooded area, it may take a day or two to dislodge them.
Logical Menu System
Orders are issued through a menu system similar to those used in previous SSG releases. The system looks overwhelming when you're first viewing the menu charts, but it's laid out very logically and is much easier than remembering key commands. After you've played just a few turns, it becomes second nature to cycle through the menus rapidly, issuing orders to specific regiments, reassigning your roving battalions, and crossing your fingers as your men attack the enemy.
As combat ensues, you receive general reports of the fighting, such as heavy losses, light losses, and much more. Additionally, both sides may suffer fatigue and/or strength-point losses as a result of being adjacent to opposing units. If the battle goes too badly against a battalion, the unit may end up running from battle. And, of course, there's always the distinct possibility that a battalion may be killed in action.
You can receive an overall report on your troops at any time while you are issuing your orders. Your men range in their level of experience from green and fairly useless to elite troops of the highest quality. Their fatigue rate-from fresh to exhausted-is also shown. Each battalion's combat and supply state is available as well, so as commander you can insure that your exhausted men are allowed to recover before you commit them to a major operation-if you can afford the time.
The problem is that the value of your objectives changes as time goes on. A certain number of victory points can be assigned to an objective for a set number of turns, after which the objective becomes worthless. So, if you don't cross a river and take a town within two days (eight turns), you may find yourself pursuing a worthless objective. You're under the gun to achieve specific targets as the game progresses, all the while trying to give your men enough rest and supplies so they can be successful in reaching these goals. It's keeping these factors balanced, combined with sound strategy and tactics, that makes for a successful campaign.
There are four scenarios included with the game: Crete, Stalingrad, Saipan, and Bastogne. You can play either side against the computer, or go headto-head with a friend. There is a way to handicap play, but it only changes the values of victory-point ratios at the end-it doesn't give either side more men or expand the computer's intelligence. All the scenarios are great fun to play, and you can finish each one in an hour or two. Other scenarios, and a great deal of design data, will be forthcoming in future issues of RUN 5, SSG's magazine of software support for their programs.
Battlefield Construction Set
If this game didn't have the editing features, it would still be a must for any serious gamer. And that you get a full-blown construction set as part of the game environment makes this package an even better value. You're given complete control to create or edit every single factor of the game, from the map terrain layout to the HQ administration levels. The editing is also run through a menu system, and you can design your own scenarios from scratch, or edit any one of the four included. (But trust me-if you're going to design your own, have it well planned out in advance. It's no small undertaking.)
For those who relish the idea of being able to manipulate any detail of a game system, Battlefront is heaven. Do you think the Panzers don't roll over the Allied troops fast enough in the Bastogne scenario? No problem; just increase their strength and quality-of-equipment rating. Not enough reinforcements in the Stalingrad scenario? Just add another regiment or two, or even a division that will enter on the fifth day. What would have happened if the Commonwealth troops on Crete were expecting a German invasion and were prepared for it? Increase the defense and preparation levels of the men. There is nothing you can't alter within the confines of the game system itself.
There are a few points that could stand some improvement, or at least clarification. No attention is given in the documentation to different types of units fighting each other, such as infantry fighting armored units. The emphasis is placed on fatigue state, casualty level, and supply state of the troops. Although it is stated that combat mechanics take care of the interrelationships, one tends to just push units at the enemy, as long as they are fresh, well supplied, and close to full strength, with no attention given to what kind of units. In that there are 14 different types of battalions you are dealing with, it would have been nice to weight the game to take these differences more into account. Another addition could have been a sighting-only option, as enemy units are always seen. It was rare indeed if WWII corps commanders had completely accurate intelligence as to the placement of all enemy troops opposing their advance.
But these points aside, Battlefront is one of the most exciting new war games to be issued in recent years. It provides a whole new perspective of the battlefield and with it a fresh approach to the computer war game. The scenarios included are balanced enough to challenge the veteran, yet easy enough to learn, so the novice won't be scared away. Battlefront is an excellent game - certainly one of the best of the past year.
Distributed by Electronic Arts
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