Pacific Storm: Allies (PC) review
"There’s a magical moment in each game of Pacific Storm: Allies where all the tiny nit-picking in the planning stages and the tweaking to your forces manoeuvres in-battle all come together to form one huge, working scene of battle, or darting attacks and sneaking counterattacks. To watch you plans take effect and wipe out an enemy fleet or to watch a hail of torpedoes you failed to plan against smash into the bow of your battleship from the cockpit of a defending fighter is a unique feeling. Total control puts victory or defeat squarely on your shoulders and yours alone."
The Pacific is yours to defend. Or conquer.
Look over your forces. Your naval fleet awaits their commands and to be equipped suitably for the tasks you offer them. The once-calm blue skies above them are filled with the buzzing of swooping fighters as they launch from their carriers. They all need to be designated orders, they all need to be outfitted and they all need to be strategically placed. Over time, these machines will become outdated as the enemy field stronger armourments, so you too need to be wary of the changing of the times. A clever general invests in research; he makes his ships hardier, his planes faster and his explosions rock their targets with unheard of force. But be wary: the enemy is doing likewise. Pacific Storm: Allies is a deep strategy title.
Once your fleet is war ready, it’s time to set your plans into action. While the strategic preparation stage is all done via a turn-based system, engaging in battle switches to a more familiar real-time interface. You can speed or slow down the theatre of war, giving you time to issue new orders or advancing the action to see them unfold. Your units are not just confined to simple “shoot that, defend this” but are the proud owners of a diverse set of options. Battleship cannons blaze, fighter planes offer up liberal servings of death from above while anti-aircraft boats pepper them with fixed machine-gun placements in way of retribution. Pacific Storm: Allies is a clever RTS war sim.
And should you want to jump into the action, you can take direct control of fighter planes, individual ships or gun encampments. Instead of taking on the usual action role of you-versus-world, you are charged with carrying out the very orders you’ve previously issued. Protect your carrier from within your heavy machine-gun from the dive-bombing planes that swarm above your head or shoot down the bombers from within your own cockpit. But do so in the middle of a raging battle rather than spear-head one. All around you, your forces clash with those of the opposition, your plans and tactics ultimately sink or swim while you efforts are funnelled into a single thread of the tapestry being woven all around you. Pacific Storm: Allies is an involving multi-layered slice of war – and it drops it all onto your lap in one big chunk.
You don’t need to start shooting up the foes yourself if you don’t want to, because, ultimately, the victor of each battle is the general that out-thought the other. There’s a magical moment in each game of Pacific Storm: Allies where all the tiny nit-picking in the planning stages and the tweaking to your forces manoeuvres in-battle all come together to form one huge, working scene of battle, or darting attacks and sneaking counterattacks. To watch you plans take effect and wipe out an enemy fleet or to watch a hail of torpedoes you failed to plan against smash into the bow of your battleship from the cockpit of a defending fighter is a unique feeling. Total control puts victory or defeat squarely on your shoulders and yours alone.
In this, it’s not totally different to the sequel released last year, Pacific Storm. The same tri-genre interface was employed there to much the same success. Again, we take to the seas to fight out the oft-ignored Pacific battles that raged though WWII, highlighting once more the U.S and Japan fleets, but this time, also making the United Kingdom forces a playable option this time around, giving the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) coalition more of a standing within the game. On the axis side, there is still only Japan, with no playable options for their allies in this conflict, such as the forcibly-cohered Thailand or makes much note of the enlisted help from both German and Italian stock, but [snip: Yes, EmP’s a history nerd, and he’ll not be best pleased to see his historic ranting deleted for your reading convenience. But the lack of 1,000 words on the huge scale of the Leyte Gulf battle, the co-occupation of Guadalcanal and the liberation of Borneo is a good thing in this case. Promise – editor]
Succinct version: You can now play as British troops as well as American and Japanese ones. This is historically acceptable as it was the British colonies that were first [snip: stop it! – editor]
The usual line up of sequel improvements also makes an expected appearance here. Almost as expected as Thailand’s decision to fold under Japanese hostility and allow them to build airbases upon their land, giving them an easy corridor into [snip: Last warning – editor]. The graphic interface looks all the sharper, the added incentive to control ships is a most welcome one and the damage system has been suitably spruced up, giving you a full break-down of what’s been hit, bent or busted.
All you need to do is avoid the batch of games released in the UK where the short-sighted publishers decided it would be a super idea to completely change the copyright protection software at the last minute without fully testing the after-effects that so much code-tampering would produce. Subsequently, some copies of the game run with some sound problems and a complete lack of explosions when you pepper an enemy ship with torpedoes or bombs. This goes beyond a mere cosmetic hiccup as, without these prompts, it’s increasingly hard to tell whether your carefully-planned attacks are hitting the mark or not.
This is a depressing state for such an otherwise solid title to find itself in and hopefully one that will be shortly rectified with patches. As of the time of writing this review, the developers, Lesta Studios, are hard at work trying to fix the problems Excalibur Publishers have added to their game, which is a commendable stance to take. Buyers from the ‘states need not worry about this rather amateurish glitch and, thanks to this, come away with a unique look at the Pacific War and a strategic brain-buster that will keep you thinking and fighting for months to come. Maybe even as long as it took the Washington-based Pacific Council to induct committee members from the allied countries of the Philippines and India into their [snip: that was your last chance. This review is now over – editor]
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