Civil War Generals 2: Grant, Lee, Sherman
Civil War Generals 2: Grant, Lee, Sherman rides into the fray of Civil War gaming on the heels of Sid Meier's Gettysburg and the success of its predecessor Robert E. Lee, Civil War General. Returning to the bloodiest battlefields in United States' history, CWG2 builds upon the easy to learn, turn-based system of the first version, and adds comprehensiveness and depth. Players can now assume command of the Confederacy or the Union, replay battles in both the Eastern and Western theaters, and rewrite the outcome of the war while playing "the big one" campaign, which utilizes all the battle scenarios. If that is not enough to keep you gaming into the wee hours of the morning, you can develop your own battles with the Scenario Editor.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Regardless of scope, the deciding factor for all historical strategy games is the game's ability to strike a balance between realistic detail and playability; too much of one can kill the other. CWG2 succeeds in this area by utilizing simple point-and-click mechanics and a straightforward turned-based structure (in contrast to the shift towards real-time action in strategy games). Both of these allow the beginning player to enjoy the game without having to understand all the complexities of strategy and the unit types -- you can "smell the gunpowder" without having to know how to load a rifle. Despite its simplicity, the game still has a lot of detail and nuance, which you discover as you play more and more.
The movement and controlling of troops consists of right and left mouse clicking for moving and attacking, with a toolbar at the ready for more specific tasks, such as changing formations. The view controls and maps are a bit cumbersome, and take some getting used to. An Overview Map provides a good macro view of the battle and terrain, but its larger size means it would get in the way of moving troops sometimes. They also added a zoom feature in CWG2 which I found useless, as it reduced the display to board game-style graphics. Overall, some useful tools and some annoying ones; the more familiar you become with the game, the more you'll know which ones to use.
The game has three basic levels of skill: basic, intermediate and advanced, which determine the AI of the computer. The AI in general has improved since Civil War General, with better response and variation within the same scenario. However, your best bet is still to force the computer into attacking you.
In addition to AI, I really like the visibility option settings of Full, Line of Sight, and Line of Fire, which made battles even more interesting when vast numbers of enemy troops suddenly started appearing out the woods.
Graphics and Audio
Although CWG2 functions as an upgrade to the first version, there are no major changes. Everything pretty much keeps the same basic feel of the original. The troops and the terrain details still look good, and the cries of sergeants, whoops of attack, and the whinnies of horses, all help set the mood of the battlefield without being distracting. An animated explosion of smoke and dust accompanies each battle skirmish. However, the period music gets old fast and the battle videos, which look good, slow the action down way too much. Luckily, you can turn both off.
The game includes the standard issue manual that covers the mechanics and gives you some good tips about Civil War tactics. It also has an updated multimedia historical supplement, which gives an overview of the military and economic strategies of the war, so you'll understand why and where you're fighting.
The game supports Hotseat, modem, null modem, IPX and Sierra's Internet Gaming System (SIGS). SIGS is supposed to be installed by default, but I had to download the updated files and manually copy them to my Windows directory to get it to work.
Minimum: Win95 or Win3.1, 486/66, 16 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster compatible sound card, SVGA, 50 MB free hard drive space.
Preferred: Pentium, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 90 MB free hard drive space.
Reviewed On: Pentium II-266, 64 MB RAM, 20X CD-ROM drive, Matrox Millennium (4 MB), Integrated Yamaha soundcard
Windows 95: ftp://ftp.sierra.com/pub/patches/pc/CWG29511.exe
Windows 3.1: ftp://ftp.sierra.com/pub/patches/pc/CWG23111.exe
CWG2 is a solid turn-based strategy game that effectively balances historical realism with playability. It is a definite must for fans of the first game and Civil War aficionados, especially considering the amount of multimedia information included with the game. CWG2 is not a breakthrough game for the genre, relying on the tried-and-true turn system, but I would recommend it to those who are looking for an easy-to-learn strategy game with lots of playtime potential.
Download Civil War Generals 2: Grant, Lee, Sherman
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