Posted: June 14
Early Access Review
I am sorry to have to write this for a game with over 99% positive reviews but the truth must be told.
First off, I must acknowldege that this is a early access version of the game and so there is always hope that the game will improve, but for me there are significant short commings in the version that leave this version far short of what would make this a great Strategy game.
Having studied the strategy and tactics of real 19th century warefare I was hoping this game would be a good way to expereince and explore those tactics. I recognize that no game, no matter how well written would be able to capture 100% the reality of that, but this game lacks all of those elements and for me fails on so many levels and makes the game unable to hold my interests.
The game does offer much as a strategy game and I do acknowledge the many good things about this game which the vast majority of reviewers have already pointed out, but I must provide a negative review in order to provide balance to others considering purchasing the game.
The game touts itself a a simulation of Gettysburg and as such I would expect it to use as much of the real commands and tactics as possible for a game, a goal that Sid Meier's Gettysburg better achieved, although that game had many short comings as well.
To make this an effective civil war startegy game I should be able to issue commands to units that real commanders would issue. There is too much automation in the way the troops behave and act. It seems that the only thing I can tell the troops is where to go. I can not make a decision on how to form, single battle line, double battle line, etc. These were critical decisions a commander would make deciding where he needed strength (double line) and where he needed to guard the flanks (single line) I might even want to order a unit to "dig in" I really only have once choice for forming my units and they are made for me,
If I have a brigade arriving to the rear, I might want to position them in a certain location to be ready to reinforce my line, but as soon as I do that they move from colomn formation to a line formation. In fact, if I even order a unit to halt, they will move from column to battle line. This denies me the tactical decision to leave a brigade in the faster moving column formation until I decide to move them into a battle line. I can't order my calvary to mount or dismount, Gamble's skirmishers remain skirmishers. In reality, once the infantry arrived, I would order them to mount up and guard the flanks or scout the north or west, but I can't do that again denying me important tactical decisions. I can't order my artillary to limber up or un-limber and the artillary seems to move the same regardless taking away another important decision that can make or break a battle. When I order a unit to "Fall Back" an experience unit would accept this to mean a slow withdrawl while fighting a delaying action an orderly process to tactically reposition the troops. Instead it looks more like a retreat, even with high morale units.
All too often, units are automatically moving to "face the enemy" again denying me the tactical decision to maintain my line unless I specifically remember to tell them to hold. In reallity they should hold the line unless they are told to skirmish. A unit in real life would never make a move like that. This often creates units with their flanks in the air when my intentions was to have their flanks anchored by other units or natural obstacles. It seems I have a whole army of Dan Sickles.
Looking in the release notes I see there is work pending on group commands and obliques but not sure if these pending additions will significantly improve these limitations. I also wished there was more granularity in the units as primarily I can only control at the brigade level. It would be nice if I could issue orders at either the regimental or brigade level. For civil war history buffs the role of regiments is of high interest and a good civil war game that fails to recognize the regiment falls short of satisfying a civil war enthusist. Players should be able to control both the regimental and brigade level units. For example, order a brigade to form a double battle line, but during the battle, order a specific regiment in that line to move to a single battle line at the end of the brigade to guard the flank. I should be able to order a single regiment for form a skirmish line in front of the brigade or order the regiment at the end of the brigade to wheel right or left to avoid having my flank in the air. While having division and corps commanders in the game adds historical interest and recognizes these hostoric figures I agree that the way the are implented in the game is correct. Since these roles were more strategic and administative there is not need for tactical commands at the division or corps level. I do look forward to the addition of divisional commander characters to add depth to the game. But the lack of regimental/brigade level tactical commands is a big dissapointment. Ideally, I should be able to issue commands to those units like a real commander would and they would react based on how experienced and well drilled they are. For example. ordering a unit to form a double battle line might be done quickly and smartly for a well drilled and experienced unit but a little slower for a new unit. To me it appears that the developers lack a deep understanding of civil war tactics and army procedures. Even little things like the fact that I issue a "run" command instead of a "double time" command. Nitpicking for sure and an easy fix, but perhaps a symptom of how far off this game is from being a true civil war strategy and tactics game.
So bottom line, a lot of hard work went into this game. The map is beatiful and the game is playable as a basic, simple, strategy game, but as a game claiming to be a civil war strategy game, it lacks sufficient depth at this time to be a rich and satisfying game of civil war strategy and tactics. In a toss up between this game and Sid Meir's Gettysburg, Sid would win. While I hope there is substantial improvement between the early access and final release I can not recommend the game at this time. However, at the early access price of only $9.99 it is worth a look by any strategy game fan and I hope that our early support and honest feedback will encourage the developers to improve on the game and help it to rise to the level of one of the best civil war strategy games ever.