Making History: The Calm & the Storm Review
I think that grand strategic games of World War II would be one of my favorite strategy game subgenres if anyone could ever make a decent grand strategic game of World War II. The latest to give it a try is Making History: The Calm and the Storm. While itís not a bad game in its own right, Iím still waiting for that elusive strategy game that gets World War II right.
Making History is played out over a map of the world divided into territories that are grouped together to form the nations of the mid 1930s. You play as the leader of one of the major countries involved in the war, ranging in power from China and Italy to the US and Germany. As is befitting a game of this scale, youíre in charge of your nationís economy, research and development, diplomacy, and military. The game is turn-based and on each turn youíll need to dig through all of the informational dialogs to ensure that production, research, and diplomacy are all on track, as well as maneuvering your armies and navies on the game board-like map. Making History is not the most complex World War II game of this nature that Iíve played, but it does have a decent amount of detail to it that will take you some time to get a handle on. Youíll need to keep the treasury afloat through production that youíd probably rather allocate to cranking out military units, treaties, and international trade, while ensuring that youíre fielding a viable army equipped with the best technology possible. The controls to manage all of this are pretty easy to use once you figure out where everything is, although the game could definitely use some charts and status screens to help you get the big picture on the state of your nation.
All of this makes Making History enjoyable enough, but it suffers from some of the same problems seen in other games of this nature. First and foremost, the AI for your allied and enemy nations never really follows a grand strategic plan. Other nations tend to be in a reactionary mode, pursuing a course of action in response to your latest move, or in a kind of haphazard, opportunistic state in which theyíll invade random territories here or there or shuffle there armies about. Historical combatants begin the game with a tendency to clash with one another, but thereís no real personality to the AI. Germany should be very aggressive both diplomatically and militarily with a strong tendency to backstab other nations, France should buckle under diplomatic pressure in a desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable conflict, and Stalin should take the slightest diplomatic impropriety personally. You get none of that in Making History Ė youíre playing against a group of seemingly interchangeable automatons. In the game it is entirely possible to begin the mid-1930s scenario by putting all of your energy into building a Franco-German alliance and then leading it against Italy and Spain. While this may sound like a ďwhat-ifĒ scenario, it should not be at all possible in a World War II strategy game. Germany at the time had such a deep-seeded animosity towards France because of the war reparations that were part of the terms of Germanyís surrender after World War I that such an alliance would have been incomprehensible, and in fact Hitlerís ability to tap into this animosity was in part responsible for his rise to power. Because of all this you donít so much have a World War II game as you do a generic strategy game where the factions just happen to share their names with those of World War II.
Another issue that pops up in Making History that Iíve seen before in these types of games is that thereís no real attempt to model logistics. I donít mean that the player should necessarily be forced to take a hands-on approach to maintaining supply lines, but itís ridiculous that an army can enter an unoccupied territory on one turn and then move out the next and have that territory remain under the invaderís control and contributing to its economy. Youíll often see a lone army go hopscotching around your territory behind your lines because a minor neutral decided to declare war on you or a country agreed to allow your enemyís armies to pass through its territories, forcing you to chase it down with one of your armies while liberating every territory it passed along the way in some sort of twisted version of Q-bert.
If you can look past these issues you can have some fun with Making History, but itís more a version of World War II Risk than it is a strategic simulation of that war. Iím still waiting for that World War II strategy game that gets it all right.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 70%. It wonít make history in the annals of strategy gaming, but Making History is a decent enough diversion for those with an interest in World War II strategy on a global scale.