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Third World War (Sega CD) artwork

Third World War (Sega CD) review


"Strategy game players love nothing more than CONQUERING THE WORLD. In games like “Warlords” or “Birthright”, you set about conquering a fictional world. This is fun, but not not so much as conquering EARTH itself. "



Strategy game players love nothing more than CONQUERING THE WORLD. In games like “Warlords” or “Birthright”, you set about conquering a fictional world. This is fun, but not not so much as conquering EARTH itself.

“3rd World War” let's you do just that, provided you don't nuke it out of existence. What's more, in this game you can do this as one of 16 nations of the world, all somewhat realistically portrayed in their populations and GDP as of 1995.

Imagine mixing RISK with BALANCE OF POWER. The world domination part of the first with the monetary management and brinkmanship of the second. Sounds awesome, no? Well, “3rd World War”, likewise, sounds awesome.

As you play, the awe shifts from the awesomeness factor to the “how come Micronet did not realize this particular mechanic is not exactly fun?!” side of things.

The difficulty level of the game depends basically of the scenario you pick and the nation you choose to play as. Playing as Russia in the 1995 scenario is a lot harder than it is playing on the Cold War scenario. South Africa, likewise, is a weak country on most scenarios except the one where it is strengthened. The USA always start out as the top country in every scenario, the UK and France tend to be medium-difficulty players, and Lybia is always one of the underdogs (but ya gotta love a game where Libya can ultimately conquer the world!).

Once the game begins, you get into your nation's war room and see a computer display of the world blink and flash as chaotic events are announced in the bottom bar as it is on CNN. The atmosphere of a world in turmoil where at any time a nuclear strike could happen has been nailed correctly by Micronet. Kudos to them about that.

Anyway, the time will come for you to issue orders. To do so you need, of course, resources, just like every other strategy game out there. There is only one resource here: BILLIONS of dollars. Not thousands, not millions, bu BILLIONS. Every action you do costs a varying amount of BILLIONS of dollars, the more you spend the better.

To earn BILLIONS, you must first tax your nation. Taxes come mainly from your GDP, so the number of your GDP is a paramount number in this game. And here things start to go haywire...

You see, your GDP seems disembodied from your territory. Got your home country overrun by foes? No problem, if you still have 1 territory you seem to have pretty much access to your entire GDP. Which, mind you, is probably a good thing since there is ONLY ONE notification message that things are not well in your lands:

“One of the territories we control is experiencing economic difficulties. Please send aid IMMEDIATLY!”

Not very useful once you have 42 territories, huh? Bah, it's not useful even if you have just 2!

To increase GDP, you can only pretty much use your BILLIONS to increase your BILLIONS of GDP. Each turn you generally can increase GDP by, oh, 0,1%. 0,2% maybe. So number crunch away as you spend money to make money.

~//~

Of course, no WORLD DOMINATION game would be complete without battles between armies to spice things up!

In the “battle” department, Micronet succeeds in making something memorable. As in “Boy, remember how absolutely awful that battle system was?!”.

First off, you must invade another country or territory to commence battle. If you invade a country that you have a LAND border with, battle begins immediately without much fuss. But otherwise, a nightmare ensues. Imagine, for instance, that you are playing as the US and are invading Cuba. (get a map now and see how FAR Cuba is from the US). To invade the country, you'll need AIRCRAFT CARRIERS to get airplanes to the other country. Even if they depart from the US to Cuba. Once you get you carriers, airplanes, warships and armies to set sail for the enemy country, which is a ridiculously costly endeavor, you'll see a small duel ensue as your troops do a amphibious landing. Only after this landing the battle properly starts.

In amphibious landings, unless you have about 2 times the amount of planes and warships covering your armies as they land, you army gets wiped out whilst the foe loses NOT ONE ENEMY UNIT. I remember a time when I sent my US planes and warships to help US infantry depart from the Middle East and land in southern Russia. I had sent some 1400 planes and 250 warships, all at a cost of some 350 BILLION DOLLARS. The Russians defended with 2000 planes and 250 warships. I expected to lose, as I did, but the Russians DID NOT LOSE ONE SINGLE PLANE OR SHIP WHILST DESTROYING ALL THOSE OF MINE!

But fine, assume you invaded via land, or that you miraculously completed an amphibious landing. You'll then enter real-time battle mode, the most ridiculously badly game aspect implemented ever. Not even the folks who made 'Dark Castle' can top this!

At one side of your screen, your armies. At the other side, the foe's armies. Fine thus far. Then you'll order your troops to move. Make sue you order them to do so in a straight line with no obstacles, like PEBBLES. If there is an obstacle, the unit will turn and move to another square of the grid. If then it cannot move because of another PEBBLE to the square it intended before, it will turn around and go back to the other square. The end result is that, before long, your tanks will get stuck moving left to right because there are two PALM TREES in the way.

Some of your most useful (and expensive) units are the helicopters. These machines theoretically can fly. I say “theoretically” because here they behave the same as tanks. This means that they get stuck when blocked by a BUSH. Or two bushes.

And then you order your units to fire. Well, when ordered to fire at something in their range, they'll fire correctly. If the target is not within range, the unit will move VERY VERY CLOSE to the target before shooting, way after they get in range.

And firing orders are always aimed at SQUARES, not UNITS. So if you order your tank to shoot another tank, an the enemy tanks moves away one square to the left, your tank will endlessly fire at the original square until you order it to stop.

Still, winning battles is easy because the AI never stops moving his own units left to right in his side of the field. You can easily send your troops over there and order them to fire from a safe range until the foe dies. Except, of course, if you order an air or missile strike in the battlefield.

If you have planes available, you can call them to do an air strike ONCE per battle. This air strike is notorious for the fact that it is the same size no matter how many planes you order to attack, be it 10 or 1000. Also, the pilots in the planes are absurdly bad at aiming. I never, or maybe 1 or 2 times max, was able to hit enemy targets with the air strike. The missile strike, coming from your warships, or the orbital strike, from your high-tech satellites, are also usable only once, but actually can be useful sometimes.

And, after you order a strike, the enemy AI suddenly wakes up and charges your troops. You then die miserably because your troops are incompetents whose tanks and helicopters cannot get past BUSHES.

~//~

The Third World War is called by some “the best game on the Sega CD”. “Some”, in this case, are people who never played “Dark Wizard” or “Robo Aleste”. It would be much better if at least the battles results were rolled by the computer, or if there were real threats of nuclear strikes (here, enemies will only nuke you if you nuke them first: so yes, you can invade the US or Russia and not fear getting nuked).

Still, if you are a strategy gamer who can cope with 1$ to buy this game at Ebay or shamelessly download it, I'd recommend doing so. After all, if you are like me, you definitely will enjoy seeing the many countries' stats, their GDPs, their geography, and how the world was back in 1995, when Americans still thought Libya was a much bigger concern to the them than Iran.

Maybe, just maybe, you may enjoy it as well. Maybe for all the wrong reasons.

~//~

PS:
Originally, I had written a far more "un-serious" (in case you think this was actually too serious) version of this review.

I submitted it to HonestGamers as a Fan Fiction. Feel free to read it.

Rating: 5/10

zanzard's avatar
Community review by zanzard (January 31, 2008)

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