Axis & Allies
Axis & Allies started life as a Risk-style board game that enabled you to re-enact VVWII on a global scale. It involved plastic tanks, ships and soldiers, and a huge amount of dice. It was repetitious, though fun. So is this computerised version, minus much of the 'fun' part. Part of the problem is that instead of playing to the original game's strengths, what the developer has devised is a lily-livered RTS that's a pale shade of the Kohan engine on which it's based. You can play a campaign, which is basically a string of tenuously linked missions, or fight over the world map, a la the board game.
The RTS battles are fought over dull, isometric maps. You can zoom in a little, though apart from the odd detail like trees crushed under tank tracks, there's not much to look at. The base building and resource gathering system is fairly interesting, revolving around constructing HQs that produce and manage your armies, and depots that expand your terrain and generate cash, oil, supplies and ammo. An ever-expanding border shows the limit of your power, and within this area, troops can be re-supplied and new constructions built.
Units are grouped into regiments, each with six or so troops, trucks or tanks. The only naval units available are battleships - which are little more than floating HQs. and aircraft are called in one at a time to either bomb or scout. Trouble is, when the fighting starts, tedious drag-and-drop mass assault tactics and creeping defence building ensues, and once again an RTS betrays its genre, featuring very little in the way of the eponymous strategy. Engineers can build bunkers, airborne units can make paradrops, and you can use special powers at the crucial point in the battle. But these are khaki-clad drops in an ocean of military mediocrity. For the most part, you're sat watching a massive clump of your chaps duking it out with a massive clump of the enemy's chaps.
So can you at least play the original board game in the turnbased global strategic mode? No. It's been completely paired down to be little more than an excuse to jump from one real-time battle to another. You can only attack one occupied territory per turn, and there's no air or naval combat. Horribly dull.
If you didn't have any interest in the Axis & Allies brand in the first place, then never mind and turn the page. And if you're an old fan looking for some nostalgia value, you're better off calling some mates, buying some dice and dusting off that dog-eared old board game.
Download Axis & Allies
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Axis & Allies is the king of war board games. It may lack the tactical subtlety of titles like Squad Leader, and Risk may be more approachable, but with its marriage of realism and WWII fun, A&A ticks all the boxes - and can be completed in an afternoon. This is a big plus, when games like A World At War drag on almost as long as the battles they attempt to emulate. So we were very excited by Atari's new plans to reintroduce the game to a new generation of PC war-gamers. Problem is, the last Axis & Allies PC game, released in 1998, covered all the bases anyway. It was a straight-up board game conversion, no more, no less. So what now?
For the all-new A&A, developer Timegate is taking a more radical approach, one that takes almost as much inspiration from the Total War series as it does the original board game. As in Total War, you have your turn-based Risk-style bit (a digitised version of the A&A board game), with realtime 3D battles that blitz onto the screen whenever you or your opponent advance into a defended territory.
Setting aside, the game differs from Total War in one key area - the 3D battles, which are set to follow the common RTS template where bases must be built and resources gathered before you can join a battle. It appears to be a wholly unrealistic way to wage what are supposed to be realistic battles, but the developer sees this as the only way to ensure the war is as enjoyable to play through at the game's conclusion as it is during the tense early stages.
In Total War for example, you could, after conquering a certain portion of the map, rely on numerical superiority to win the game with scant regard for tactics -and in doing so, effect a dreary anticlimax. In A&A, you may (in time) employ a vast global army too, but unless you can build a field HQ quickly and bring in supplies, you won't be able to bring your numerical superiority to bear and could falter against a smaller but more organised foe.
Chains Of Command
Although the global dynamic campaign will be the central focus of the game, requiring you to exercise both real-time reflexes and turn-based brainpower, Atari is planning to include traditional story-driven campaigns too. There will be one each for the joint Allied and Axis side, which in the case of the latter is set to take an alternate route through history culminating in victory - or perhaps stalemate - for the Germans. Whether this includes the subjugation of Great Britain or Russia, or a Japanese invasion of America we're not sure - Timegate is being coy. However, it seems that unlike other WWII-themed games, this may well pull up a few welcome surprises.
Although Rome: Total War remains at the top of our most-wanted strategy game list, Axis & Allies looks set to command a respectable position in the chain of command. Right now, we fear only for the 3D battles themselves, which appear to follow the unsubtle C&C formula too closely. Of course, the full-scale war has yet to begin, with plans still being drawn up, so we reserve judgement till then.
There's Been a constant bombardment of World War II strategy games of late, and it's been so relentless that I'm sure we're becoming numb to it all. Shells from Commandos, Blitzkrieg, Soldiers and Codename: Panzers have been landing all around - and there's still no let-up. The RTS cannon is loaded with the likes of Codemasters' promising World War II: Frontline Command and the sequel to my personal favourite, Hearts Of Iron 2.
Between them and the various war-themed shooters they've covered every theatre of war imaginable, from all sides and every perspective. So why should we be getting excited about Axis & Allies? Well, the clue is in the name. In its various board game incarnations, Axis & Allies has shifted over two million boxes over the last 20 years. With recent versions of the game set specifically around D-Day and the Pacific War, not to mention a revised edition earlier this year, it's clear the board game still has plenty of fans. Enough, Atari is no doubt hoping, to ensure similar successes will engulf the interactive edition.
Common to both tabletop and desktop is the fact that the game allows you to fight the Second World War across the entire globe, from the well-worn fields of Europe to the less travelled regions of central Africa and beyond. Moreover, not being linked to any linear campaign (although the game features those as well) you aren't limited to sticking to what happened in the history books.
As Germany for instance, you could quickly subjugate Russia before hopping over the Bering Straits and fighting battles across the American mainland, or maybe swing down into South East Asia instead. To a certain degree this is A&A's appeal; that it deviates from historical reality in response to the players, but while victory for the Allies is always likely, it isn't a foregone conclusion.
Closer to Risk than something you'd find in an atlas, Axis & Allies' world map is carved into geographical regions and dished out between the five major powers. They're roughly consistent with how they were in 1942 when Germany was marching towards Moscow, Britain was camped in the motherland and America was waking up after Pearl Harbour. The subsequent aim, as either Britain, the United States, Germany, Japan or Russia, is to conquer the capital cities of your sworn enemies, by building up resources from each of the territories under your control and buying infantry, mechanised or armoured armies and moving them around the map.
Old Game, New Rules
In contrast to most of the boardgame conversions we've had to endure over the years, Axis & Allies doesn't just do away with the need to have a flat surface and a couple of friends in close proximity - it does away with most of the rulebook whose title it depends on. Where in the board game you'd move a tank into North Africa and hope to roll a one or a two on a die to dislodge the enemy infantry and claim the territory your own, now you must - assuming you don't want to select 'Quick Resolve' - fight each battle in 3D. As soon as battle becomes inevitable the engine then runs through its map generation routines, and depending on the latitude and whether the territory under dispute is predominantly coastal in nature, will quickly knock up a fitting environment. Despite the fact that the version of the game we were privy to only seemed to know how to construct temperate land-locked levels, we're assured that no map will ever be quite the same in any one game.
Once the computer has decided on the topography of the landscape, it's then up to you to decide how you're going to capture it. At this point, on the face of it at least, A&A appears very much to follow the C&C template, as a base must be built first and resources hoarded before victory is assured. This design decision actually makes for a lot of sense since whilst the side fielding the most armies will have an obvious numerical advantage, the process of base building gives the defending nation a chance to repel an attack. This is because while one army may be able to quickly get three divisions ready for battle compared to the other side's one, supplies will be stretched so thin that unless victory is quick and decisive, the outnumbered enemy might well deliver a fatal counter-attack.
The units themselves need to be paid for and in Axis & Allies the more supply depots you have in operation, the faster the money stacks up. The problem is that most buildings and units also have running costs in ammo and fuel, so weapons dumps and fuel supplies have to be built as well. As complicated as the resource management might appear, it is actually very simple to understand - the problem is in trying to keep resources at a healthy level while the enemy are constantly making demands of them. Since all units are pre-assigned into divisions, the battles are no less manageable than any other RTS. Various buildings can be upgraded to instil certain units with various abilities, and depending on the General you choose to play as (each nation has a choice of four), various special abilities will become available as the experience of your troops builds up. With paratroopers, Blitzkrieg tactics, V2 rockets and nukes, there'll be plenty of toys to look forward to when the final release rolls around.
Currently we have a few issues with Axis & Allies' centrepiece World War mode (see Why Don't You?, above), but there are still some months to release and our version of the game was created back in May. Mind you, with two full-length campaigns in the works (one each for Allied and Axis forces; the former a traditional romp through history, the latter a series of 'what if' scenarios that the developers have yet to fully reveal), you have to admit the game certainly won't be short of content.
Sadly, while there will be a skirmishstyle game available online and off, the game will only be single-player. As to whether there'll be a direct translation of the Axis & Allies board game included, the generals have still to make up their minds. The good news is we've got complete access to their war room and will have a full review next issue.
Keeping It Real
This Isn't The First Time A&A Has Made An Assault On Pc
Veteran war gamers may remember one-time game publisher Hasbro (the worldwide board game publisher that still holds the rights to the A&A board game) released a version back in 1998, followed by an add-on, Iron Blitz, a year later. It was a solid if unspectacular conversion, but it captured the look and feel of the tabletop edition and at long last allowed A&A fans to play the game online.
With TimeGate and Atari undecided as to whether they'll be including the traditional board game rules, it looks likely that if you prefer the board game rules to all the 3D frivolity of this new version, you'll have to trawl a few online auction houses or car boot sales to get the original.
Axis & Allies started life out as a strategy board game. A board game that has gone through a couple of revisions over the years and is still popular to this day. In 2004, TimeGate Studios was the studio who brought the game from the living room floor or table to PC screens.
Play As The General
In Axis & Allies, you need to pick a general from one of five factions. You can choose from the Allies which is the USA, Russia, and the UK or the Axis which are Germany and Japan. The unit that your team will result in you having special military units that are exclusive to them. For example, the Russians have awesome snipers and the UK can make use of these tremendous tanks that can shoot fire.
Three Ways To Play
Axis & Allies has three different modes of play. This may not sound like a great deal, but for a game that is over a decade old, it is not bad at all. You have a campaign, WWII mode, and a custom mode. The campaign is a pretty solid story (although it could have been a bit more cinematic) and the presentation is actually pretty great. The WWII mode is pretty neat, especially if you are a fan of the board game. I have never actually played the board game, but from what I understand it follows it pretty well. You can either take part in the battles in the standard RTS format as you do the rest of the game. Or you can do a quick resolve if you want the game to be more like the board game and less like a video game.
Who Will Win?
Depending on what side of the way you play as you will have different ways to win the war. If you are playing as the Allies then you can win by capturing the two capitals of the Axis. The Axis though can win by taking two of the three capitals or by establishing an economic victory.
Know What You Are Doing
The way that you win is by employing a solid strategy. There is quite a lot to do in Axis & Allies and the game certainly has a really solid learning curve. You will need to use your resources to get new troops, make buildings and bases, weapons and so on. Money ammo and oil are the resources that you need and if you play things smart you can have a steady flow of cash that allows you to fight the war the way you want to fight. If you make a few wrong decisions though things can get really tricky.
No Way! That Was Cheap!
One thing that many people have a hard time with in this game is that the AI can be very frustrating. It adapts to what you do in a very clever way and it can sometimes feel rather cheap they way it reacts to everything that you do. It is like no matter what you do the AI is sometimes a few moves ahead. I am sure in multiplayer battles (I was not able to play multiplayer) with an opponent at the same skill level as you would be great.
I think that if you are a fan of the board game Axis & Allies would be something that you have a lot of fun with. As a strategy game, it is actually quite fun, but the learning curve is very steep so please keep that in mind. If you are a fan of strategy games I do feel that this is one you should look into tracking down or downloading.
- 5 different factions to play as
- Three different modes of play
- WWII mode is like a digital version of the board game
- Makes you think about each move
- The campaign is far better than you would think
- The AI can be a little on the cheap side
- The learning curve is pretty steep