We Are All Prone, My Faithful children, to the occasional lapse in judgement. Every once in a while we will tune our television of life, however briefly, to the Noel Edmonds' House Party of fate. Sometimes the demon alcohol is to blame, sometimes it's fatigue. Sometimes it's even a mild curiosity. But suffice to say, we can all on occasion misjudge things. I committed such a felony only the other day. I'd been given Cove Wors to review by the powers that be after having had the pleasure of writing a Blueprint about it the month before. Thing is. it looked nice enough on face value, and EIDOS' PR chappie was enthusiastic while taking me through it, but I couldn't help but think that it was all a bit, well, basic. I kept wanting to say, "You have seen Command ft Conquer, haven't you? You do know that strategy games have moved on tremendously over the past two years, don't you?"
But I didn't It would only have upset him. Plus I would have been wrong - as I found out when I started playing the damn game. "My god," I remember thinking (which was odd since my affinity for religion is on a par with my love of squeezing live eels into my eye), "this is actually pretty damn good." As I say, we all have the occasional lapse.
Why I doubted it
I should point out that it's hardly the best strategy game ever to find its way into the Zone office in-tray. One of the things that limits the game is that it's very fussy. The idea is the age-old one: you take command of a race and have to build up its military forces and civilisation from scratch over an ever-expanding landscape. You encounter other races and hack them to bits and pour table salt onto their festering arm stumps to teach them a lesson. And eventually you conquer the planet and live happily ever after. Probably going mad in your dotage and decreeing all sorts of weird proclamations like forcing everyone to call each other Susan and making Thursdays official Pie-Wearing days. Just because you can.
But because Avalon Hill are primarily known for their really deep table-top wargames. they've decided to appeal to the anorak in all of us and make things as unnecessarily finicky as possible. If you want to mine some bronze, for instance, essential for making sure your soldiers don't get all embarrassed fighting with swords made out of wood, you can't just tell a mining crew to go over there and get the bronze. You have to line the team up manually next to the supply. Tell them to cut away at the rock surrounding the material. Wait for them to finish and then tell them to start mining. It's all very fiddly and could have been easily avoided by just giving the miners a teensy bit of intelligence, reducing the whole palaver to just one mouse click. Instead you have to keep checking the team each turn to make sure they've arrived and then to see whether they've finished digging and so on. Which is a real pain when you've got a load of other things to worry about. Cave Wars is full of 'little things' like that. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is automated. Not even slightly. Meaning that your initial thoughts on the game arc likely to be unfavourable. As were mine.
Why I ended up liking it
But the reviewer's job is to spend time with a game. And the more time I spent playing Cove Wors, the more I started to enjoy it. Certainly, I got enraged every time I tried to click on a new troop only to inadvertently give the previous troop a new set of movement instructions because the stupid thing didn't automatically close the Move options after I'd set them. But I was increasingly more willing to overlook the faults as the meat of the game was proving to be rather tasty.
Part of it is that, as you generally find with all resource-management games, when you get a bit of expansion under your belt you start really getting into keeping everything working. Unlike quite a lot of resource management games, Cove Wars somehow manages to keep that hook embedded in your moistened lip a little bit longer than most Part of the charm is the interesting setting - the world(s) contain various levels. Not difficulty levels but different terrain on top of each other, which means you can perform some sneaky tunnelling raids on enemy towns if you want. There's a good progression curve as well. It's easy enough to get the hang of the basic principles and then as you start expanding, the game opens up to match. Mostly I think it's just the inherent sense of fun that Avalon Hill have injected into it - for instance, one of the races has a Mass Murder special ability, while another race are basically cowards and have to have their feet nailed to the ground to stop them retreating.
It docs have its problems, as I said, and because of this Cave Wars is likely to appeal mainly to the more anoraky of strategy gamers. But beneath the off-putting exterior there really is a very enjoyable game within. There are better titles around, but there are also a lot worse taking up valuable shelf space in your local gaming stores.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP