by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Ageod is at it again
There are two types of games that let you live through historical events: strategy games and role-playing games. While the latter game type focuses on individuals and their lives in a historical environment, strategy games focus on the battles – the stuff that filled the pages of most history books in school. AGEOD has long been a name to be respected when it comes to ultra-historical strategy games, and their latest creation, Napoleon's Campaigns, will surely not disappoint the fans of the genre.
And, now, for those more familiar with such strategy games as Civilization IV rather than hardcore strategy games, let me deal you some of the facts: you will be playing the absolute general of your armies, taking care of the supply lines, soldiers' morale and the chain of command. You will also spend an inordinate amount of time studying the statistics on your officers' abilities and the relative strengths of your military units and their morale. In short, AGEOD's games remind me more of the tabletop strategy games of the old, rather than your usual modern so-called turn-based strategy games. With this in mind, let's look at what Napoleon's Campaigns has to offer.
If you are a student of Napoleon's battles, everything that you will see in this game will be familiar to you. The European map has been recreated in great detail, taking into account the actual topography and the political borders that affected Napoleon's battles. The map spans from Scotland to Egypt and from Portugal to the Urals, and is based on 3D satellite projection that has been re-transcribed into 2D.
The battles themselves are all recreated, from the victory of Austerlitz (1805) to the most famous of them all: Waterloo (1815). The world events that affected those battles are also presented correctly chronologically. What's more, you will see the the portraits of actual officers who served under Napoleon and their individual strengths and weaknesses as commanders have also been turned into sheets of statistics. In fact, there are over 1500 characters and historical figures in the game, each equipped with specific character traits. In everything that you see in the game, it is more than evident that the developer team included two PhDs in military history as well as numerous other well-read history buffs.
However, the game also lets you deviate from the written history. Since it will be you battling the battles in the shoes of either Napoleon or his adversaries, you will be moving your units differently and thus different officers will gain experience in different ways than they did in reality. In addition to field experience, you can also improve your units through training. Thus the units and officers will gain experience and improve as the game progresses and their effect to later battles will be different from the established history. To top this all off, you can also try your hand at Napoleon's dream, invading England, in a special scenario. Or, if you so prefer, you can crush this dream by controlling the defending forces.
Personally, I could only find some historical and geographical mistakes in one of the minor campaigns, "Russo-Swedish War over Finland 1808 - 1809", which actually doesn't really involve Napoleon at all. However, the map misses the very important water routes of Finland (as well as 80% of Finland's land area) and some place names have been misspelled. The biggest mistake is perhaps the fact that the major city outside Sveaborg (an important Finnish fortification), called Helsinki, is completely missing from the map. This city (nowadays the capital of Finland) was actually burned down in this very war in real history, so it is a wonder that it is not at all presented on the game map. However, since this campaign is clearly in a minor role in the game, these faults should be considered minor.
Managing all the information
Because of the great detail of information that the game is based on, you, as the player, must have an easy way to browse through all that information and use it in your decision-making. Fortunately, AGEOD has honed their interface in their past games and one can find nothing at fault here. The tooltip feature, already praised in our review of AGEOD’s American Civil War: 1861-1865, is present here as well. It allows you to study the strategic map in great detail as you roll your mouse pointer between units, cities and regions and the respective tooltip appears on the screen, detailing the information about the region, the statistics and complement of the stack of units, or the pertinent details of a city.
AGEOD's press material praises that the gameplay has been simplified and that you don't have to micro-manage, but I must admit that, with my experience from the Civilization series, Napoleon's Campaigns still requires you to do a lot of what I would call micro-management: from assigning officers to particular military accompaniments, organizing your divisions, armies and corps and monitoring and establishing the proper supply lines, you will still be very engaged in the strategical decision-making. Still, this is basically all that you do in Napoleon's Campaigns, so it is merely a question of a change of perspective for me personally given my past experience.
No Pros and Cons at this time