Sunday, November 27, 2016

Preview/Review: Ultimate General: Civil War

What a fun game!

This is the second  game in what is now a series, called Ulitmate General.
The first game dealt  only with Gettysburg, it had a series of battles that got affected  by how you did,  like if the union held on the first day,  the battle would be different  from how  history recorded the second  day  of Gettysburg.  

The game  was fun, nice to look it, and the selling point was the ease  of control and the AI

Now this second game, will let you play the entire civil  war! (when it's done, as it's in early  access, and the game ends after  Antietam)

You start with creating  your general, through a sort of "light RPG" character creating screen,  You create a general, You choose  which studies you had at West Point  and so get various  points.

Here we meet the first problem, the nr 1 skill  you  have to put points  in is; Army Organisation. This skill is needed to get; more brigades, bigger brigades,  and more corps. You just have to dump  your skill points as much as possible into it. This kinda defeats the purpose of having a choice in  your character creation. The second skill you need  to dump stuff  into is reconnaissance, so you'll be able  to see at least some info on enemy strength. The other skills seem much less important  and you simply fill up some of them  after getting as high as possible in Army Organisation.

The first screen in General creation process.

You then do small battle, where  you have  to  take  a town with  a few thousand men at your disposal. Then hold the town against a counter attack. After this you'll start to build  your army!
After you win the battle  you  get a new skill point(which  goes straight into  army  organization.
And you get; money, manpower, and reputation. Money  is spent on creating  brigades and buying  weapons, manpower is how many recruits  you   have available. And reputation is a sort of political  currency. It  can buy used to "buy" more men, weapons or  generals. But it's also your life-line, if you loose to much reputation you will be fired! 

To start your army  you'll have whatever is left after the first battle. You'll need  to add brigades and divisions as soon as possible. It's relatively cheap to make a new brigade, as  long as  you have enough weapons  in your armory.  However adding veteran reinforcements to brigades you  already have is extremely expensive.  When I neared the battle of Antietam, it cost me some 50 000 to  add 500 veteran reinforcements to my best brigades.  Because  you do get best brigades. Not only can you  buy better weapons to them, But they level up, a  Level 3(the max) Brigade is  a monster compared to  a level 0 brigade. If you got a level 3 brigade with 2500 men(the biggest you can  get a brigade) You can count on them standing under extreme pressure. 

But as I said it's extremely expensive to reinforce them(you can reinforce them with rookies, but then the quality  of the brigade goes down) 

You  move your brigades by simply dragging the mouse from the unit to where  you  want to  go.

You have 4 types of "brigades" Brigades in  this game is a sort of generic term. First and most important is the infantry brigade  which is a proper brigade. They can  be up to 2500 men strong. 
You also have Cavalry brigade, which  can be up  to 750 strong. You have artillery brigade that can be from  a small battery in size(4 guns)  to 24  guns.  And finally you have skirmishers, that ca be up to  500 men.

Each brigade is added  to a division, in the start  you can  only have 3-4  brigades pr. division, but when you have upgraded your army organization   you can  have 6 brigades per. division and  4 divisions per corps.

For  my first proper game, I mostly had 4-5 infantry per division and a battery. Some of my divisions  had cavalry and some had Skirmishers. But at Antietam where I had 65 brigades, I  only had 3 cavalry units, 3 skirmish units, The rest was  regular infantry  and artillery.  

While  you only spend 20% of the game in the Army Organisation screen, I'll  make the claim it's actually  40% of the game,  A badly made army will make it impossible to win.  You'll spend a lot of time taking care of your army. You'll need  to  find officers for your units,  you'll see   both officers and  units level up(promoted for officers) You'll spend a lot of time  finding the right weapons for them. You have many weapons  to choose from,  but availability is a pain. Not only do  you need  the money  for the guns, But there might not be enough guns to supply your brigade. 

And the guns got stats of course, very broadly speaking, the short  range smoothbore have higher melè, while the rifled-muskets have  better range and accuracy.  Why exactly  a  musket is better in melè  then a rifled-musket I do not know, But it's a game. 

But it dosen't help having super fancy guns  if  you can't resupply them after a battle. So often you  end up  using weapons  you captured  after a battle.  

You also  have supply you need to look  after, Each corps have a supply wagon, that resupplies  your army  in a battle.  It will run out! You  can max have 25000 supply. If  you  got 30-40 guns going off and a 20  000 soldiers firing  of  their weapons, those  25000 will go in minutes! You  can capture the enemy supply wagons, these can be used  in the battle,  but if you don't use them up in that battle the remaining supplies  will be added to yours after the battle. 

From the first battle asUnion

I  will tell you, you  will be attached   to your units. For simplicity's sake, I made each of my divisions  "state divisions"  So my   first division was  a New York division. With 1st New york Brigade, 2nd New York  Brigade, 1st New York Artillery etc.  My Second was a Maine division. 
I also  had Rhoad Island, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio etc.

Two units I did get very attached  to was 1st New York Brigade and 1st Maine Brigade. 
1st New york, had been with me since  the first battle.  And my 1st Maine was my Killer Angles and  had been  with me since my second battle. After  Antietam, they had like 12000 kills after  over a year of campaigning, I   almost lost them  twice, at Shiloh  they were down   to 350  men and at Gains Mill they  were down  to 240 men, At Antietam, they lost  1300 men. 

The screen  you get  after winning the first battle.

When you've  finished  playing in the army organization screen it's time to do battle.  Before each major battle(1st Manassas, Shiloh etc.)  you have optional  battles, smaller actions  that will let  you get experience, money,  and manpower.

The battles play  out mostly like the first game, they  have  improved stuff, making it easier  to create cohesive  battle lines. They have also   made artillery  much easier to   handle, no need to micro them, simply put them  some place, and the rest is automatic,  the guns unlimber and they also choose  the ammo them self. So  they automatically go for canister at close range. 

But the battles are also  the biggest problem so far in the game. They are not dynamic. 

So  if I loose 20 000  men in a  battle, I'll need to reinforce my army with  whatever resources  I  have.  This does not  apply to the ai. You can almost wipe the ai   army of the face of the planet, and the next battle it's at full strength. It's a shame, it would be very cool if   you could win the game by simply destroy  the enemy army in a giant battle. But you can't and  I guess they won't add it,  As  the campaign  will be many hours long, but if   you win after 4 major battles the campaign will be 4 hours  long not 25 hours long. 

My Army  early in the game.

A little later,  with  a 2nd corps added.

And the second big problem with the battle is the scripting.
One of the more dramatic examples of this is at Shiloh, At the start of the  battle,  you need to  hold Shiloh Church and the  Hornet's nest. And I did, I held them both. Yet in day 2 my entire army gets magically  transported to Pitsburg landing. And I have to retake  both these places. I had by the 2nd day almost destroyed the  CSA army, I   had probebly a  5:1  advantage in  forces. So  I why would I pull back?

Other   then these  problems, there are just some bugs here and there(again not a finished game)

The rebs throw them self at my lines, you see all those brown/grey corpes in the stream? Yeah a dozen 12 pdr Napoleons will do  that over a few hours.

After doing two smaller actions, I  have only 1st Bull  Run left,  and I need to do it, to continue on.

There is also  the problem  with the difficulty, I played my first  proper campaign as Union  on easy, I won every single battle(  you aren't suppose to win  all battles)  While I was challenged  in the battles and needed   to keep on   my toes. I still won them all. I'm  going to try now on Normal, But I'm afraid Normal will be too  hard  and I'll never reach Antietam. Because I played on  easy I  had 25% more manpower and money. So I could have 5 brigades I always filled with veteran reinforcements. This gives me an edge. 

How it looked before Antietam. 

The game is extremely fun, I spent almost 15 hours on this first campaign, so a full one  with all the battles will  last at least 20 maybe close to 30 hours.  I have laid out the things I'm not a fan   of, I doubt most of them will be changed. As I said,  it's a bit frustrating destroying  an enemy army just to  see it complete and intact the  next battle but if  you don't do it, it's perfectly possible you'll never see  half the battles as  you  destroyed the enemy army early in  the game. I  mean I lost 18 000 men at Antietam, the south lost 24 000 out of 46 000. I still  would have over 60 000 against their 22 000, So I  would most  likely have won the war after the  next battle.

 Now again I played on easy, this would be much harder on  normal or hard, but then some people are much  better than   me at this, and so even on  hard some players would destroy  the enemy early on. The one thing I  hope they  do change is the scripting  of the battles. We might not get a dynamic  campaign, but dynamic  battles would have been nice.

I recommend the game as it is now, without hesitation , but if you want  to wait a few months, you can do  that,  the game is on early accsess, but the game is quite complete, so it won't be years and yeasrs in  early accsess hell.

The game is out on steam  now, and when  done will also come to Ipad.

The Death of the confederacy? Kemper with his back  to the river getting shot up by  30 canon and thousands of soldiers.


Victor said...

I like the Gettysburg game (I have it on my iPad). The one thing that annoys me is the full strength units that return battle after battle. Like you said, it should be dynamic and I wish they would make it that way. It would make anyone playing it think more like a commander.

Gunfreak said...

Yes, I do hope they do some changes to make it more dynamic.