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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Real-time Strategy

 

Publisher

Strategy First

 

Developer

Legend Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

March 2004

 

 

- Some intense real-time battles

- Good unit balance

- Play both sides of the conflict

- Good detail

- Just one big load time when you start the game

 

 

- Hard to differentiate units

- Units move at an insane pace

- Scripted AI can drive you bonkers

 

 

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War Times

Score: 6.5 / 10

 

Just imagine a monster truck announcer, with his whiskey-soaked vocal chords, husking these words:

 

It was the worst of times.  It was the best of times.  It was WAR TIMES!

 

War Times is a real-time strategy game set during World War II -- the Axis and Allies doing their best to decimate each other -- and has absolutely nothing to do with monster trucks.  It sticks to the conventions of real-time strategy games without adding any new wrinkles, which is just fine by me.  Thereís no "explosive new features!" that marketing departments everywhere like to splash on game packages.  But what War Times (WT) does, it does pretty well.

 

war times pc review          war times pc review

 

The view is from the traditional three-quarter, overhead perspective.  WT uses a 3D engine and camera that can be zoomed in and rotated for the best view of the battlefield.  The graphics engine isnít as spectacular as C&C Generals but there is still plenty of detail and the buildings and flora are fine to look at.  The explosion are rather satisfying, too.  Where WT trips up is making the units distinct enough that they can be identified at a glance.  The developers did an excellent job replicating what the units looked like in real life -- from the infantry to the planes to the tanks, which is cool -- but the result is that you have to take the time to learn what each unit looks like.  For example, there are subtle differences between a flamethrower infantry and regular infantry unit but itís damn hard to tell them apart if you're even halfway zoomed out (or the default view).  The same can be said of many of the vehicles.  This means much clicking of units to know exactly what kind of forces you have at the ready.  It gets easier as time goes on, but it never gets as easy as just glancing at what you have and carrying on.

 

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And on the subject of units and clicking, you'll also be clicking your units a lot thanks to some chaotic pathfinding.  Some of the pathfinding woes can be avoided by putting your units in the right formation, but just selecting a group of units and sending them from point A to point B can result in some very "interesting" unit behavior -- thereís no guarantee that your entire group will get there on their own.  You also have to deal with the 

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insane pace of the units.  Everything seems to move at double the speed you might expect.  It can actually be a challenge sometimes to select a moving infantry unit.  Having to be a constant babysitter can get on your nerves, fortunately for WT the action still remains fun... for the most part.

 

Throughout the campaign mode, you'll come across some scripted encounters that had yours truly ready to smash his keyboard.  For example, one of the early German missions tasks you with building a headquarters after trekking to the middle of map and engaging enemy forces.  I made it to the location for building with a small handful of units.  The moment -- and I do mean, the moment -- I "placed" my headquarters an Allied strike force came through the fog of war and wiped out my remaining forces and leveled the headquarters.  It's theses "trigger" events that you really have to be aware of.  The lesson is the tried and true, "Save now, save often," so that when you do hit a trigger moment you can re-load before that moment to prepare for it.

 

war times pc review          war times pc review

 

The campaign missions take their cues from actual battles of WWII.  (The opening mission for the Allies is the Evacuation of Dunkirk.)  The variety is good so the action never seems to get stale.  And if you tire of campaign mode, you can always jump into the skirmish mode or online.

 

After an adjustment period, War Times turns into an enjoyable game as long as you can come to grips with its flaws.  The setting is not one often visited in the real-time strategy genre and the conventions are present and accounted for, including good unit balance, resource collection and tech trees.  The pathfinding problems might be enough for people to become completely frustrated with WT.  If you can stick it out (or patiently wait for the inevitable patches) WT is an all-right RTS game but compared to current RTS games it's lacking.

 

- Omni

(April 9, 2004)

 

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