Fields Of Fire
|a game by||Edward Grabowski Communications Ltd.|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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At first glance, Fields Of Fire looks uncomfortably like one of those old Impressions wargames - complete with naff-to-average graphics, a boring overhead view and simplistic controls. So what's it doing on sale in 1998?
Fields Of Fire is a cross between an 18th century musket-and-shot wargame and a role-playing adventure set in the American colonies in the 1750s. You play the part of any one of 40 characters, from rangers to redcoats, Mohawk Indians to upper-class idiots. They in turn command an almost unlimited number of subordinates, either militiamen, braves or privates.
You can improve your characters along the way by picking up extra equipment - if you want to buy it you have to raise cash by erasing the wildlife from the map and selling their skins. Your characters can also learn skills such as tracking, trapping, controlling bears and all kinds of daft camouflage tricks. There are 17 missions, ranging from ambushing an enemy patrol to rescuing prisoners, blowing up bridges and storming forts with cannon fire and explosives. You direct your men around the rather cartoon-like map, which has all the terrain features you'd expect, such as hills, rivers, trees and boulders. Much of it is impassable cliff or rock but it still manages to confuse the Al, which isn't very good at the best of times.
Fields Of Fire suffers from the same disease that seems to infect all strategy games, namely an AI that thinks a route is blocked just because somebody else happens to be using it at that point in time. We can build computers that fly billion-dollar fighter planes or that can search the equivalent of a public library in seconds, so why can't we build AI that realises that a character moving through a door won't be there a second or two later?
It takes around ten minutes to get through each of the missions, so it won't take you long to complete all of them. Worse still, there's only one way to complete most of them. Once you've worked that out, it's goodbye to any further lateral thinking.
There's a random element in the form of native Americans who constantly attack your cosy lifeless little cartoon fort. You've got to keep a garrison in or around the gates and order reinforcements when you need them. I say 'around the gates' because you won't see the enemy doing anything as clever as scaling the walls.
To liven things up - a fraction - you can play head-to-head via modem or serial link, or with up to four players over the Internet. In this mode, Fields Of Fire shrugs off any pretence at being an RPG and turns into a mildly amusing strategy game where each player sneaks around one of the 20-odd maps, peering through the fog of war and trying to spring surprises and traps on the other player. It's a good way to spend an hour or two, but no more...