Spirit of War
Although there is no shortage of World War 2 themed titles available, the list of games set during the First World War is decidedly shorter. G-OLD has set out to rectify this situation with their release of Spirit of War. Taking on the role of either the Triple Alliance(Germany, Hungary, Austria) or Triple Entente (France, Britain, Russia), you get to battle through all of the major conflicts that took place during 1914 to 1918.
Spirit of War is a turn based strategy title with the action taking place on hex divided battlefields. These types of games typically have a reputation for being quite technical and only favored by grognards, but I found Spirit of War to be quite accessible. Although I typically shy away from these types of games I soon found myself engrossed in this title. Your objective on each of the 48 different maps available during the solo campaign is to either defeat all the enemy units or capture their headquarters. You are given a few units to start out with and on most maps can produce more through the existing factories on the battlefield. The game doesn’t involve any kind of base building, so the focus is on maneuvering your units around the map efficiently and picking your skirmishes carefully. On some maps you are not given the opportunity to build any new units, which means you have to be extra careful with what you are given. Thankfully damaged or injured units can be moved back to factories for repairs and you can capture enemy factories to prevent them from producing reinforcements. Cash is generated by the buildings under your control, so you usually have a choice between producing lower priced units right away, or risk not producing anything for a few turns while saving up for the more expensive units.
Each of the maps is set up to represent real battles that took place during the conflict and skirmishes can take place on the land, sea or in the air. The maps are not overly large, ranging from 15×15 hexes to 40×40 hexes, which means you usually don’t have a lot of time to waste. On many maps it is essential to get to neutral factories as quickly as possible or to reinforce chokepoints to prevent the enemy from overrunning your base. All enemies are revealed right from the start, which allows you to plan your strategies accordingly. I found the early maps to be very easy and they serve as a good introduction to the game mechanics, but the challenge does increase as you progress. On a few maps I found my forces to be outnumbered and had to resort to sneak tactics to capture the enemy base while they were distracted with my other forces. The game is certainly not as in-depth as other titles in the genre, but remained enjoyable throughout. Units do improve the longer they stay alive and the type of terrain also provides bonuses or penalties. Unfortunately, the lack of difficulty settings might be disappointing to veterans who would like to face a bigger challenge right from the start.
The game isn’t lacking in units and feature a total of 47 different ones that are unlocked throughout the campaign. I like the fact that new units are introduced corresponding to their appearance in the actual conflict as it mean that there is always something new try out on each map. The unit variety is also quite good with infantry, cannons, transporters, planes, boats and many more to choose from. When moving a unit their maximum range is clearly indicated as well as how far you can move them while still reserving enough action points to take a shot. The maximum fire range is also indicated when selecting the attack option. Units that are completely surrounded will take more damage and all units have other units that they are weaker or stronger against. I would have liked a way to cycle through units that have not yet been moved or at least get a reminder as I would often overlook a few that blend in a little too well with the environment when I ended my turn.
Visually Spirit of War didn’t blow me away, but does look rather nice. The maps and units are set up to look like miniatures on a tabletop which is a rather neat effect. There is no blood and gore either, defeated units simply sink into their hexes and disappear. The visuals can be zoomed in or out and the level of detail is fairly good. The maps also change according to the seasons, so during winter skirmishes everything will be covered in snow while in autumn the colors are different from spring. From the options menu, you can enable or disable real-time lighting, SSAO as well as anti-aliasing. The lighting in particular allows for much better looking shadows in the game.
During the solo campaign you can brush up on your history of the conflict thanks to the writing of Julien Herviex who is a historian. The text provides some nice context for the mission that you are about to undertake and is a pretty fascinating look into the events that took place during the war. It is clear that English is not the native language of the developers though, with the tutorial in particular littered with spelling and grammar errors. Although relatively minor in the grand scheme of things it does detract a bit from the polish of the game.
The audio is quite mellow, which is great as it remains unobtrusive while you are busy planning your strategies. None of the tracks really stood out as memorable, but they do provide decent background ambience. All units have their own selection, movement and attack sounds and overall the sound effects are quite good. The whole game is mouse controlled and I found the controls to be easy to use and responsive. During hours of playing I only encountered one instance where one of my units suddenly became unresponsive and I couldn’t select or move them in any way.
With 24 maps for each side of the conflict, the solo campaign should keep players busy for quite a while. The maps can also be replayed after you have already completed them if you want to try new tactics or improve your star rating. In addition, the game features a hotseat multiplayer mode where players can battle each other locally. These skirmishes take place on twelve separate maps that are designed to let players compete on even footing. It is a pity that there is no online multi-player, but the hotseat multiplayer is quite addictive and provide a much bigger challenge, provided you play against someone of equal skill of course.
The fact that Spirit of War is not as complicated or in-depth as typical hex based strategy titles is its greatest strength and biggest weakness. Veterans might find it a little too easy for their tastes while newcomers might be scared away by the look and subject matter. Take the time to really get into the game though, and you will find that it is not only very entertaining, but also quite addictive.
- OS: Windows Vista
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 3Ghz
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: DX9 capabilities
- DirectX: Version 9.0
- Hard Drive: 110 MB available space
- OS: Windows 7
- Processor: 2nd generation Intel Core i5
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: 2 Gb Nvidia or AMD DX9 capabilities
- DirectX: Version 9.0
- Hard Drive: 110 MB available space