Take Command: 2nd Manassas
Review by Serapindal_GF
"A well-designed fun game, but not for everyone"
I had heard of this game on a site, and I quickly went to get it. It looked interesting, the price was cheaper than most new games. I quickly devoured the manual, and jumped into the game. This is what I have to say about it.
Gameplay - 9/10
Take Command: 2nd Manassas is frankly a fun and entertaining game. Despite being a hardcore war game designed for dedicated war gamers, the game is quite easy to get into, and it has a well-designed tutorial that will help you get into the game. It may be hard in the beginning, but as you learn, you start playing the game naturally. As it's name describes, it describes the battle of Second Manassas (or Bull Run for you Yankees), as you play through it. When you play, it seems natural, but when you step back for a second, you notice the truly epic scope of the battles you're engaging in. History buffs will enjoy this game, because everything in this game is dead on the center historically. (Excluding the speculative scenarios.), with historical troop numbers, environments, and even orders of battle.
In one battle I played, I was Lt. Colonel Hubert commanding a brigade of 1300 men in Wilcox's division in a massive battle of 100,000+ men on both sides. Despite the scale in this game is about 10 people for each in game model, that's still a huge amount of models. I had great fun as just a small part in this tumultuous battle by holding important junctions and roads, flanking enemies, and working in conjunction with my "army". Large portions of the game run on autopilot (I.E, guided by the AI.) This is quite feasible due to the high quality of the AI. Unlike in many other games, you rarely control the entire army. You can be any rank between Captain and General. Meaning you have to work in conjunction with your fellow officers. The AI is astounding, and is able to stage battles just as well as any human player. This makes playing as someone of a lower rank feasible, and often very fun.
If you're expecting it to act like an RTS like Starcraft, Warcraft, Age of Empires, or etc., you'll be in for a rude shock. Minute detail has been put to realism, and unlike games where your units are perfectly controlled, regiments, brigades, and etc. act like what they are. A group of people who can't instantly react with grace. Your brigades and formations will often be awkward, slow, and disjointed (just like real life formations), but the enemy is also disadvantaged with the same thing. The great part about 2nd Manassas is that you can take control of any unit, having total control over it, and than relinquish control of it to it's commander. (If you're commanding a large army, you'll have to issue orders to your subordinates. This makes maps challenging and realistic, and eliminates micro-management if you're a high-ranked soldier.)
However, this game isn't for everyone. Often, maneuvering your soldiers into position and waiting for combat operations to commence may to tedious and frustrating to many gamers used to RTS games such as Starcraft, Warcraft, C&C, and etc, while being exhilarating to others. Not having total control of your own troops may frustrate some players, while relieving others of the burden of micromanagement. Battles are extremely long, lasting between thirty minutes to four hours. Luckily, you can save and reload as many times as you want. The realism may be frustrating to casual players, while history buffs will have the time of their lives.
Graphics/Sound - 6/10
The graphics are immensely draining on your system during large battles, so for faster loading, and low lag, I have opted to turn them down lower. Many of your soldiers may look a bit blurry and not so detailed. The game doesn't have notable graphics, and its graphics are not what sets it apart. The main feature of this game is its innovative gameplay, but it suffers in graphics. The soldiers are rather plain looking, though sometimes, uniforms may be very unique for certain regiments. ;)
But in all its gameplay glory, Take Command falls flat on it's face in graphics. However, this game was catered through the war gaming crowd, and graphics are not a worry for many players who play this. Second of all, with tens of thousands of men on the field, no computer could survive this game if all of them were perfectly detailed. The graphics aren't great, but it's the best they can do with today's technology.
Sound isn't a great point either, with a lack of atmosphere. A lack of voices, screams, and other sounds hurts the atmosphere and immersion that the game gives you. Thankfully, there ARE modifications out there which affect the sound if you are unsatisfied.
Replayability - 9/10
This game is very replayable. Even after the dozens of hours you take to beat the campaigns, you still have open play mode. In open play mode, you can take control of any individual commander in any randomized battles. Battles are almost never the same, so replayability is very high. This will be a game you'll be playing for a very long time if you enjoy it. The possible battles are infinite. You can take control of any brigade, division, corps, or army on any side you choose in any environment, so the different permutations are massive.
This is a great game for some and not a great game for others. It may be fun and well-designed, but it's not for everyone. If you don't like the slow-paced gameplay, this game may not be right for you. However, if you want to play a historically accurate and realistic game that you can get into, can replay over and over again, and can entrance you into entertainment, this is the perfect game for you!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/28/06
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