We take a trip though history once again with AGEOD's grand-strategy simulator sequel Birth of America 2: Wars in America
Despite what you may think of the Indie gaming scene, they do actually do quite well for themselves, and just like their multi-millionaire counter-parts, they're capable of releasing sequels. Birth of America 2: Wars in America is the follow on game from AGE Online Distribution's original Birth of America title. Covering a period of history that isn't often covered in videogames, even historical videogames, Birth of America two lets you play as either side in the various wars that occurred in America between 1636 and 1815, although the official time line is 1750 – 1815. Games of this genre and period tend to only focus on the revolution, as the British Colonial period before that may not necessarily appeal to the entire market. So it's actually quite nice to see that the time period is being more extensively explored in videogames.
A turn-based strategy title, the game's overall style is similar to that of Europa Universalis; focusing more on grand strategy and management over any meaningful form of tactical combat. This is neither positive or negative, as it is simply a matter of taste, but even games Superpower 2 or Galactic Civilisations managed to fit in at least a visual representation of battles. The only visual indication that a battle is even occurring is a circle that appears on the screen, with coloured bars representing each side. (The bars change as a side starts to win/lose). It's over so quickly though that you can't help but wonder 'what just happened'? As you're then confronted with a summary screen that informs you whether you won or lost. It's a very detached and blunt way to deal with combat, and really detracts from the feel of the game. It's not even properly explained what factors effect battle, and unfortunately you have to think ahead because if a unit of yours is attacked during the AI's turn, then there's nothing you can do to influence the outcome.
The game map resembles the old paper maps from back in the day, quite authentic
Ships can be used to transport troops up and down the coast. Very useful when you need move stuff quickly
'WIA' as it is often abbreviated too follows a similar structure to that of its predecessor, except that there's just more off it. The game is broken down to several scenarios, including a couple of grand campaigns, each of varying size, length and difficulty. Each scenario is meant to be a reconstruction of a particular battle of campaign that happened during the games period, and the player can chose any of the available sides to play as. There's s fair few of these to go through, so plenty of gameplay to occupy initially, however the smaller ones especially offer very little scope or creativity, confining you to a specific area with little room to manoeuvre, and few tactical options. You probably won't want to play them more then a couple of times, which leaves only the two grand campaigns, and they're not exactly perfect either.
AGEOD has included several new features for this game, including Engagement Points, Updated Rules, New units and leaders, Improved AI, added scenarios and a replay function. The game map, while only really being a representation of the eastern seaboard and a few other bits and bobs, is still pretty large, and it can be easy to lose track of what's happening and where. Unfortunately, even with all these changes, it still seems a bit overall complex and inaccessible. The in-game tutorial teaches you the basics of how to play out a scenario or campaign, but there's still a lot it doesn't tell you, and some of these things would fit into the 'crucial' category. For example, in one of the mega scenarios, all of your assets remain locked to you, and only unlock themselves as the game progresses. This may be related to the new rules or the engagement points, but the game doesn't make it at all clear, and so you are left with a feeling of mild frustration as you try to play the scenario out. Granted, the smaller ones aren't as bad, and are a little easier to get the hang of and play through, but because they usually deal with individual battles or campaigns, they may not appeal to the wider audience.
The game doesn't seem to perform too well on slightly older machines either . A turn can take a good couple of minutes to calculate, especially in the larger scenarios, and zooming out can cause a bit of lag, forcing you to click-drag yourself across the map. This is pretty strange to be honest, as the game lacks any 3D or serious graphical elements at all. The map is completely flat and 2D, and the towns, forts, units etc... are simply icons placed on top of said map. The game doesn't even have cut scenes. Still, what it lacks in graphical sophistication it probably makes up for in things like the AI movements, stratagems and processes.
Rivers can be crossed, but you incur penalties. Make sure you don't get attacked
Knowing who controls what isn't always clear, so you can toggle some colour-coded settings to find out
No online mode makes this a purely single-player experience, which is unusual for a strategy title, but still not unheard off. There's also some authentic, well recorded, and slightly annoying period music courtesy of the U.S. Infantry’s Third Regiment Fife and Drum Corps.
Top Game Moment:
BIRTH OF AMERICA 2: WARS IN AMERICA VERDICT
With out a doubt this is a game for the fans. The updates are still significant, but they do nothing to broaden the games appeal. History enthusiasts and the fan base will probably like this new instalment, even if it may seem a little aesthetically outdated. Whilst it does also prove a decent enough challenge to a strategic mind, you’d probably get just as good an experience from Europa Universalis or Hearts of Iron, and probably more satisfaction as well.