Scourge of War: Waterloo is an incredibly, deep, detailed and focused game. You take control of a specific officer, depending on what scenario you pick, and order his units around. Your not the commander of the whole army, just of a little slice of it. It’s an interesting idea, and it flies in the face of the majority of other games in the RTS genre, which would have you command every single unit.
However, with all the depth and detail, this game, despite having some really good points and nice interpretations of the history, is overly complicated to such a degree that I can’t remember ever having so much trouble with just the tutorial in any game ever.
The main problem, for the tutorial, and one that seems to run through the game as a whole, is this: if you miss what it’s telling you, such as an important tutorial message, or don’t know how to do what it’s asking you to, then you can’t progress, the game just becomes stuck in a loop. While it’s admirable how much of a historical focus is present in this game, and how much the developers, NorbSoftDev, wanted to make this what the game is all about, I couldn’t help but feel like this game is aimed more at people who have played through previous Scourge of War entries, such as Gettysburg. There’s a hell of a lot to learn, and the game has such a steep learning curve that, aside from the issues I personally had with the tutorial, and as a result, parts of the main game, it can be quite overwhelming. There are tons of different options, myriad buttons available, and all kinds of other non interactive parts of the UI which show things such as “unit rallying”, and while these are all really helpful once you get a grip on it, I found that there was a little bit too much of it there for my liking.
The worst part is, the game isn’t even a difficult one. But it’s so easy to miss your cue that it becomes a real test of patience. It does manage to look quite good, in a sort of Medieval Total War kind of way, with the units being made up of individual 2-D sprites in a 3-D environment, and the sprites do have some good looking animations, with reloading and fighting with bayonets looking pretty realistic and quite fluid. It might not be Crysis quality graphics, but for what it is, it looks really good, and actually works with the way the game plays. The sound is excellent. Everything sounds like what it should. The cannons are huge, booming assaults on the eardrums, at least in big enough numbers. The muskets crash and roll, especially if you can figure out a way to get multiple units firing in volleys, precisely how you might imagine they would. The game runs well, although in some of the later levels, where you control much bigger forces, there can be a little bit of slowdown, although not to the point of being broken. The game is very honest about this, and explicitly mentions that even with the most up to date system, there may be a little bit of slowdown, which I thought was quite refreshing to see.
It’s a real shame, I was excited to have a look at this game, and as a fan of historical battles, I wanted to see how I could match up to Napoleon or Arthur Wellesley. The problems I had with it took away from my enjoyment of a really good premise, and left me feeling a little bit indifferent towards what is, in reality, a very deep system with some really good features.
I did, however, really like the way that you are, as mentioned earlier, responsible for smaller units rather than bigger armies. It adds a bit of personal investment when you see that a unit is struggling, and it also feels like the levels are a series of stories about the trials and tribulations faced by individual officers and the men under their command.
While this game can seem a bit arbitrary at times, the fact that things can turn so quickly from disaster to victory, and vice versa, works both for and against this game. It can at times be a little frustrating, but at the same time, it helps keep the game feeling authentic, as you feel like that’s how these battles really worked.
Overall, I’d have to say that this is a game that had a lot of potential, and while it doesn’t quite live up to all of it, it’s still a very intricate, detailed attempt at bringing to life one of the biggest battles of that period.
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