Theater of War 2 demo – Tutorial AAR
So I got around to trying the Theater of War 2 demo and thought I would provide my impressions via the AAR format. I’m new to the Theater of War series but had heard that this episode would be the one to watch for. Lets see if that’s true…
The demo has a tutorial and a battle. I thought I would AAR the tutorial first so as to provide a complete overview of my experience, as a newby, to the series. I’ll try the battle later on.
The game opens with you commanding a jeep driven by a single soldier. You’re ordered to proceed to the waypoint to collect other soldiers. There’s supposedly a waypoint on the mini-map but I couldn’t work out how to zoom the map so the icons on the map remain merged together. I gave up trying to use the mini-map and figured I’d look around and work it out on my own.
In TOW2 the standard RTS conventions are at play with the camera controlled by arrow keys (among other things) and unit selection and movement the usual left-click and right-click malarky. Zipping the camera around I found a group of soldiers down the road and a quick right-click sees the jeep on the way. At this point it’s worth noting that the graphics are attractive and the sound seems appropriate as well, grogs don’t need graphics, but we do like them when we can get them, right?
After meeting the soldiers I’m ordered to take control of a machine gun and to use it to fend off approaching Germans. Click-dragging to select my soldiers and jeep I right clicked and sent them towards where it appeared the bad guys are approaching from. At the edge of town I found a machinegun to play with! Two soldiers are told to man it and get themselves in place.
The boys quickly started blazing away at some soldiers in the distance. As you can see from the shot above you can get full information on the soldiers (box on the right) and easily see the arc of fire for the unit as well. Line of sight does play a part in the game so you can only see on the map what your soldiers can see. I must admit I found this a little confusing as it’s not immediately apparent what your soldiers, in total, can see. What’s worse, it’s really hard to find your soldiers. I spent a lot of time just moving the camera around and even by the end of the scenario had no idea just how many I had, whether they were structured in sections, or where they all were on the map. I may have missed something, but I don’t think so, there’s no indication of a master unit list.
Below is a picture showing a typical example of the problem. At the top edge of the town is the MG nest under the scrim netting, throughout the other buildings are about half a dozen friendly soldiers, but they are damn hard to spot!
In the distance are burned out German vehicles (started that way) and the bodies of machinegunned Germans. Approaching is a German tank I was instructed to destroy using a bazooka to be found in a nearby crate. I sent the jeep driver to go find it, which he did after a fair amount of fiddly clicking around by me. It’s not clear whether you need to right click on the box (which I may have done and not realised) or just move the guy over the stash. The tutorial doesn’t elaborate.
Thus armed, I sent him off to chase the tank which was now in town trying to machinegun our boys. I wasn’t sure exactly which ones he was trying to shoot, or where they were, but I could hear lots of shouts of distress, so I figured bad stuff was happening and I better stop it!
I set the driver near a gap in the wall, hoping the tank will pass by and present a nice shot. The tank doesn’t move, so I tried to deploy to a better position. At this point the jeep driver took matters into his own hands and stepped around the side of a building, in front of the tank, and put two rounds into it. This was enough to finish off the tank, but the fact that the soldier operated so recklessly, and without orders, confused me somewhat. Is this normal behaviour in TOW3? Oh well, at least he lived… For now!
Here’s a shot of the finished tank and crew (one shot by our bazooka man as he tried to flee). I couldn’t get any better shots because my screenshot program died on me. Oopsie!
Next order of business is to defeat approaching German tanks, we have an air strike button now and word of approaching bad guys! Here come the planes!
With one tank down the half-dozen ground-attack bombers come around for the second tank!
Boom! Hurrah! Victory! Game over! But wait, didn’t we have a jeep driver out there somewhere? Oh yeah, he died. Here’s how I found out:
Conrad O’Daley: Killed in action. Where did he die? How did he die? No idea. I think he must have got machinegunned, but I couldn’t find his body. I guess that this won’t matter if you’re dealing with a company-level battle, losing soldiers here and there, but if we’re dealing with mostly platoon+ scale battles it’s going to be very annoying, very quickly. Perhaps I’m missing something, but with no obvious unit list and with no clear way to highlight your units (even looking through the controls I couldn’t find anything) I’m not too encouraged. Let me know if you did better than me!
So, final impression? Although it’s pretty and there’s great wargamey detail, I never felt in control of my boys. From their propensity to rush off and do their own thing to the difficulty of finding your guys on the battlefield to the seeming pointlessness of the mini-map, it’s all a bit hard to follow and thus make meaningful decisions. I’ll be watching this when it comes out but can’t say it’s on my “must buy” list right now.