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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Real-Time Strategy

 

Publisher

Encore / Monte Cristo

 

Developer

Digital Reality

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

March 2004

 

 

- Great setting and tactics

- Pause and quicksave functions are great!

- Presentation is top-notch

- No resource management

 

 

- The top-notch presentation can bring your PC to its knees

- Some questionable pathfinding

- Game may be a bit too tough for new RTS players

 

 

Review: C&C Generals - Zero Hour (PC)

Review: MechCommander 2 (PC)

Review: Red Alert 2 (PC)

Review: Disciples II (PC)

 

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Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

Nothing quite says, “Real-time Strategy” like a line of tanks thundering toward an objective.  While the tank rush has limited chances of success in Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps, tanks still play a crucial role.  After all, this is North Africa during World War II – a theater that featured possibly the most tank-intensive fighting ever.

 

desert rats vs afrika korps review          desert rats vs afrika korps review

 

While I’m on the theme of “intensive” I should roll out a bit of a warning about the minimum and recommended requirements to play Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps (DRvAK).  The screens for DRvAK before it was released really impressed me.  The detail was particularly good, but the fact our review copy criss-crossed North America in an attempt to get it to someone with a powerful enough PC to run it at an acceptable level – that would be, me – should indicate what kind of hardware you’re going to need to play DRvAK.  Basically, you need the hardware equivalent of a Concorde super-sonic jet getting a push-start from Superman to play it on the highest detail settings.  Scaling the detail back lets DRvAK run at a more acceptable speed, which admittedly, I had to do even exceeding the recommended requirements.  The developers didn’t skimp on the graphics (with plenty of satisfying explosions and special effects) nor with the audio (a real orchestra was used).  Even with my gripes about the hardware requirements, the biggest problem is with DRvAK’s pathfinding.

 

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The enemy AI is generally good – attacking and defending in ways that make sense – but the AI of your units is lacking.  “Unpredictable” is probably the best descriptor.  As long as the terrain is open you won’t have any problems but throw in any kind of wrinkle in there, like a building, and you can quickly lose track of units as they attempt to make their way to your chosen destination and getting picked off.  (Granted it doesn’t happen all the time, just the worst time.)  This is bad enough, but the fact you can’t replenish your forces truly frustrates the matter.

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Instead of managing resources and building a base and more units, before each mission there’s the opportunity to select what units you want to send on a mission (much like MechCommander 2).  The default roll-out is usually good enough to complete the mission, but with about 70 different units both infantry and mechanized (from flamethrower troopers to sappers to tanks) here’s room for some customization.  The only way to increase your numbers is to acquire abandoned enemy vehicles and repair them.  There’s a lot of tactics involved in securing extra vehicles.

 

Helping things on the tactical side is the ability to pause the game and issue orders, set unit behaviors, figure out any bonuses you might get from mounting infantry on a vehicle, etc.  During some of the larger confrontations, this is your only chance for success.  However, if you do screw up, the quicksave / quickload features come in extremely handy.  Both of these options are rarely found in a real-time strategy games, but you really have to wonder why.  If anything, the pause function heightens the strategic elements and makes the micromanagement bearable!  Not only does it make managing your troops easier (particularly around minefields!), but it also helps securing any secondary objectives that might otherwise be ignored or determined to be not worth the time or effort.

 

There is another incentive to complete secondary objectives: Prestige Points.  These points add up to allow you access to better and more powerful units.

 

desert rats vs afrika korps          desert rats vs afrika korps review

 

DRvAK’s game modes include Story, Scenario, Campaign, and Multiplayer.  The Story mode, which is actually kind of intriguing, puts you through all 16 missions in chronological order – from the Axis missions to the Allied missions.  This is probably the most ideal way to play because you get more background on the conflict and added depth to the characters, though you can choose the Campaign mode where you can pick either the Axis or Allied missions without missing too much.  The problem with Story mode is the occasional translation gaffes. (DRvAK was developed in Budapest.)  The Scenario mode lets you play any mission already completed in Story or Campaign modes.

 

Multiplayer is also included, but because of my on-again, off-again (and never-ending) dispute with my internet service provider I didn’t have a chance to really experience this is aspect of DRvAK.  However, if (reliable) reports are to be believed, it’s hard to find opponents online (either through a direct connection or GameSpy Arcade).  I can believe it – DRvAK isn’t exactly a high-profile game that will spawn a rabble of dedicated followers (at least when going up against the likes of C&C Generals: Zero Hour).

 

And let’s not jump to the conclusion that just because Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps doesn’t have strong online support from gamers that the overall game is unworthy of attention.  It can be fun to play – the raw elements of DRvAK should please hardcore strategist, but it needs a little more polish in terms of pathfinding and formation options (which are extremely limited).  As it is, DRvAK is a competent WWII real-time strategy game for those with powerful PCs.

 

- D.D. Nunavut

(June 9, 2004)

 

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