|Desert Rats Vs. Afrika Korps|
|Developer: Monte Cristo
Publisher: Digital Jesters
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1, 1-4 via internet (Gamespy) or LAN
There must be something in the water - it seems that every other game at the moment is related to some war or other.
Desert Rats sees the war of choice being World War II and takes its background from the struggle between Monty's famed 7th Armoured Division and Rommel's Afrika Korps in North Africa. In gaming terms it's rather untouched ground of late, it's a battle that provides a huge number of units to play with and fortunately DRVAK also allows you to play from the viewpoint of both Allied and Axis perspectives.
At its most basic DRVAK is a RTS (Real Time Strategy) game; however all of the resource production and raw material harvesting has been stripped away which allows it to focus on the S part of RTS. The game should have plenty of tactical potential and is full of historical authenticity.
From the start you have the choice (in single player mode) of "story mode" "campaign mode" or "scenario mode" - The game pretty much steers you towards story mode which is both the Axis and Allied campaigns played out back to back - the Axis campaign coming first as it's supposed to be easier. Within seconds of starting "story mode" I was let down very heavily. You see I was taken in by the box artwork, taken in by the large explosions, 70 different units, real time shadows and visible damage effects. I was also taken in by the promise of that "tactical potential". It was not to be. The story mode starts with a cut scene, and whilst it does not look that bad (using the game engine) the source of my disappointment was the script…
I have honestly seen more convincingly subtitled films in my Hong Kong Legends collection of DVDs. Reading the words is bad enough, but listening to them is worse. Imagine some poorly paid actors trying to "do" accents and failing miserably, and you are there - Dick Van Dyke did a better English accent. And it's not just in the cut scenes that this is present. One of the first lines has your group of men discussing how to move across the desert quicker - seeing as they are on foot one of them suggests you try "a jogging" - perhaps I am being picky, but this really did take that authentic shine off things.
Anyway back to the game. The most appealing aspect of the game is how simple it looks and plays. Even from the start with the four single units, things look nice. There is plenty of animation and not just from your men. The actual desert itself is a living, breathing environment; the sand gets blown around creating convincing storms whist the terrain effects units and strategic potential. As the game progresses you to get your hands on some of those 70+ units and they all look and act differently. The tanks look especially convincing as they bounce around and recoil from their fired rounds. You also get to see the promise of the destructible environments made true.
When it comes to playing the game those with even the most modest of RTS experience will be able to send units around the map with the utmost of ease, even grouping them together is pretty much second nature. As mentioned there is no unit production or harvesting to worry about. Instead you start a mission with a number of points and you use these to purchase additional units for the forthcoming mission. The more powerful the unit the more points it will require. The choice of a large group of infantry or a tank (both costing the same amount of points) is down to you. The better use of these units you make and the more tasks you complete during your missions, the more points you can earn.
There is plenty of opportunity for strategy available to the armchair general. Your troops can operate vehicles or fixed gun positions - they can even use buildings for added protection and cover. Another neat factor is that of being able to target specific locations of enemy vehicles and the like - this means that you can disable it and then make use of it yourself (once it's repaired of course)
Once I managed to get over my initial gripes and the very dodgy dialogue I did discover a rather nice little strategy title with the added bonus of some very good use of the graphics. By replacing the unit production with the point system Monte Carlo has allowed for more focus on the strategy, you do have to make better use of the units you choose, and having to accommodate units from the enemy also adds to the strategic potential.
When you have finished with the single player side there is also a multi-player option. For some reason our review copy wouldn't let me use it, but there are supposed to be three different game modes including capture the flag and death match.
- Nice graphics.
- Some clever strategic options.
- The dialogue, scripting and the way the story mode works is disappointing.