Birth of America 2: Wars in America
Genre: Historical Turn Based Strategy
Publisher: Matrix Games
Release Date: 08/21/08
Though American historians can tell you the outcome of most of the famous battles and scenarios featured in developer Ageod’s sequel to their popular Birth of America strategy game, not many could recount it in such vibrant detail as the game itself does. Covering over a century’s worth of historically accurate combat, Ageod promises fans of the original a bevy of new features in this addition, on top of the already tried and true strategy formula that made the original a stand out product.
The events, characters and locations in BoA2 are all factual. The level of detail and the amount of necessary research to put together such a historically accurate structure is quite impressive. The sequel covers various American conflicts from the years of 1750 to 1815. This includes a great number of scenarios that were merely fought on American soil, and did not necessarily involve American troops themselves.
The whole air of the experience leaves you with the strong idea that the people at Ageod spent weeks and maybe months with their noses in history books, getting down every last darn detail for the presentation of this product. Among whatever else you may derive from BoA2, one thing is apparent: the game is an effective educational tool, and a beautiful recount of important pieces of American history.
Visually, BoA2 is essentially identical to its preceding game. The game’s wonderfully detailed map is what you’ll be working with most of the time you spend playing, as you organize troops and issue orders. The map depicts in vivid detail and with great accuracy the colonies, towns, coastlines, and even barren stretches of wilderness exactly as they were in the corresponding years for whatever scenario it is you’re playing on. Generals and units are represented with attractive game board-like pieces that are represented by the either the general’s portrait or an illustration of troop, vessel or artillery units. These pieces move around the map after you issue your turn, trailed by lines depicting the route said unit is following.
Suffice it to say, there is no 3D modeling, fancy effects or even animation to speak of in BoA2. And while I personally would have liked to see a bit more life in the experience, I have to admit that the use of such elements in a game of its kind would stand to potentially cheapen the robustly detailed and generally elegant nature the product strives to maintain. Much like a tactical commander holed up in a distant bunker or fort, issuing commands to the front lines, you don’t actually see any visualizations of the effects of combat. What you do get is an in-depth report detailing the various statistics pertaining to the battle at hand. These reports exist to help you understand further battle strategies, take into account what may have gone wrong or right, and use the knowledge for future combat. Though the visual presentation make be lackluster or boring to your typical gamer, and some might even think of the game as being lazy in the department, fans of the genre or people who have their computer area furnished like a revolutionary or civil war museum will appreciate the slick and effective approach the game takes graphically.
BoA2 is light in the sounds department, as it’s one of a few elements a game of its kind does not need to rely to heavily on. There is an appropriately composed score consisting of traditional sounding American and British battle hymns and marches, which act as good ear filler for all the time spent contemplating your next strategy, and everything sounds acceptable overall.
Most of these kinds of in-depth, hardcore, rule intensive, and critically detailed strategy games are the most niche of niche titles. Much like its predecessor, BoA2 is undeniably one of those games. It should be noted that Ageod wholeheartedly understands this truth, and molded their game with this idea in mind as a merit rather than a flaw. The game has no qualms with the fact that the majority of the scenarios are for the hardcore, detail loving fans of its predecessor or games similar in design.
The tutorial scenario will cover the basics and give you a good enough idea as to how the game generally works. One should know that they’re potentially in over their head when certain portions of the tutorial text recommends that you consult the instruction manual for mentioned aspects and functionality it does not cover. While this might scare certain players who are attempting to get into this kind of game for the first time, I can honestly believe such a notion would put a smile on hardcore strategy veteran’s faces.
The actual heart of the gameplay, much like the visual presentation, is practically identical to the first BoA. Commands are issued via an easy to use drag and drop interface that has you attaching more detailed commands to units by way of an icon palette that’s located at the bottom of the screen. Besides moving, separating, and regrouping units as needed for the situation at hand, units can be placed in a number of different preemptive stances, which dictate how they react should enemy troops fall upon them. Once your units are issued orders, ending your turn will have, as I like to call them, the “game pieces”Â moving about on lines leading to their respective destinations. A game turn lasts for 30 days, and travel distance is accurately calculated by way of the days it will take to get to the unit’s destination. The amount of personal strategy one could initiate in any given scenario is almost limitless, and coupled with a newly added feature that allows you to replay a turn which bears forth a wealth of details pertaining to the orders issued therein, the level of detail, again, is very impressive throughout BoA2.
There are short scenarios that last only a handful of turns until an outcome is reached, and there are lengthy campaigns, like a fine game of chess, that could see you playing for several days or more until its completion. There is no shortage of quality in the experience, though the undeniably hardcore strategy to be found in BoA2 is not for everyone, and it doesn’t try to be. If it’s for you, you’ll know, and I can guarantee you’ll be in for quite a strategic treat.
You can replay any of the available 22 scenarios infinitely with different options and difficulties in tow, and even make attempts at your own personal conquests outside of the given scenario’s goals. The inclusion of what is known as “engagement points”Â allows a wealth of economic and political statistics to come into play during the scenario that can greatly influence the assumed outcome, depending on how they’re handled. It might sound like a bit much, but once again, if the hyper detailed turn based strategy game genre is to you liking, these elements are nothing but pluses.
BoA2 boasts improved AI over the preceding game, and boy they weren’t kidding. With the exception of the tutorial scenario, the CPU will usually go for the throat with little to no mercy, which means you have to carefully think about, plan, and execute your war strategies with utmost diligence. Like a hard boiled game of chess, one wrong move could drop the curtain on your campaign.
The game flows nicely, and most of the time you’ll be researching various statistics and surveying the scenario map to plan your next moves. At most times there seems to be too many options to consider during the course of a turn, but as I’ve mentioned before in this review, that’s why your either going to love this experience or hate it.
Balance: Above Average
Being an almost identical representation of the first BoA game from 2006, there isn’t much praise to be had with this sequel in terms of originality. Though the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”Â rule essentially applies to many elements of this type of game, being as new content in a sequel is generally the most important characteristic, some tweaks and alterations on the title’s aesthetic attributes might have made the product stand out a little more from it’s older twin brother. Though this complaint will probably bear no weight to those this sequel was made in mind for, I believe it’s warranted to mention.
In the heat of a scenario, the right kind of gamer can get totally engrossed in what BoA2 has to offer. Finding yourself knee deep in options and potential strategies can be the cat’s meow if you’re up for it, though if it’s not your thing, then you undoubtedly wouldn’t have read this far into this review anyway. BoA2 is all about hardcore strategy, to such an extent that playing a long scenario might have you thinking about possible strategies while at work or even in your sleep, then have you eagerly loading your game in progress to see how your strategies pan out.
Given the hardcore nature and the simple, yet elegant visual presentation, it’s safe to say that Ageod had no real intentions for BoA2 to be appealing to much more than its core fan base. A fan base, as you might have guessed, that consists of fans of the developer’s other works, or the strategy elitist who may have, though I don’t see how it’s possible given their resume, missed Ageod’s other strategy offerings.
I can say however, that if you find yourself enjoying the occasional game of Chess, Risk or Stratego you might be able to appreciate the otherwise extreme niche experience of something like BoA2. If you’re not from any of these two distinct groups of gamer in regards to this product, there’s a good chance that BoA2 will not be for you, and that’s probably what Ageod expects anyways.
Appeal Factor: Poor
BoA2 runs fine, and is not taxing on your PC’s resources, though the game really doesn’t do much to test graphic or RAM hardware. The load times are quick, and the game takes seconds to close down.
I would like to mention that even considering the small demographic this game will appeal to, and how fans will most likely not have a problem paying the admission fee for they’re hardcore strategy fix, the $50 charge to download ($59.99 for retail box) what essentially is an expansion from the 2006 version, is a bit steep in my opinion as a consumer.
Balance: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Poor
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary:
Strategy elitists and historical scholars alike can certainly have a good time with Birth of America 2, and if you happen to be both of those things, then this game will undoubtedly be right up your alley in a speeding car. Improved AI, a turn replay feature, and the inclusion of economic and social statistics adds even more depth to the already impressive historical emulation the original BoA game offered. The product is not for everyone, and it doesn’t try to be; just make sure you’re in BoA2‘s target demographic before you place your order for the product, because the $50 download price will be a tough one to justify for what comes across as map database to the casual gamer.