Pacific Storm: Allies Review
Pacific Storm: Allies is what happens when you go straight from the brainstorming stage into coding, entirely bypassing the design phase. No thought has been given to which features actually enhance the gameplay or to how they will together to produce an enjoyable game. The developers took an "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to game development that may produce an impressive list of features on the back of the box but makes for a convoluted mess of a game.
The basic premise behind the game is that you take control of one of the nations in the Pacific Theater of World War II and manage every part of the war effort, including production, deployment, strategy, and battlefield tactics. At one moment you may be directing the development of a naval base on Hawaii and the next you can man a machine gun mounted on the side of a destroyer. While this may sound appealing on paper, in practice it is largely unmanageable and makes for a game that takes micromanagement to its most tedious extreme.
You can have a successful and enjoyable strategy game that includes both a large-scale strategic component and real-time battlefield action, but doing so necessitates some abstractions at either or both levels. Pacific Storm: Allies fails to recognize this need for abstraction, though. On the strategic scale you need to micromanage things on an incredible scale. You need to ensure that raw materials and resources are moved between territories to manage industrial production. You need to build up bases structure by structure, building things like medical clinics and shooting ranges, and to do so you'll need to transfer engineers to the base to do the construction - and this may involve transferring them to a ship at one port, moving them to the new base, and then manually disembarking them at the new base. Commanders must be shuffled between bases and assigned to ships and fleets, you need to order training exercises to improve the experience of your troops, and on and on. The amount of busywork that you need to do far away from the battlefront is simply ludicrous, and only the most bureaucratically-minded gamer would find all of this remotely enjoyable.
When you actually get to a battle - which can take quite a while in the campaigns that begin in the pre-war period - you switch from a strategic map of the Pacific to a 3D battle map in which the combat takes place in real-time. These battles have a certain amount of visual appeal to them as they can involve hundreds of ships and planes. However, when the shooting starts this appeal will be quickly dissipated. Again, part of the problem is micromanagement run amuck. Is it really necessary to have to set the altitude of each squadron of planes in the battle? That's why real militaries have training, mission briefings, and battlefield doctrine - so commanders do not need to constantly tell each pilot what to do at each moment of a battle. It's not just that the AI can't figure out what altitude to maintain for a torpedo run or a bomber escort mission; it can't seem to do anything useful without your constant attention. I don't mind the need to tell the bombers which ships in a flotilla should be targeted first, but I find it ridiculous that I have to command a fighter group escorting those bombers that they should attack approaching enemy interceptors or that I need to constantly order them to stick to the interceptors instead of getting distracted and chasing after whatever target they happen to notice nearby. This constant need to babysit your forces makes it completely impossible to utilize the game's feature that allows you to take control of a unit in the battle. Tooling around in a plane or firing an AA gun on a destroyer does so little to impact the battle and comes at the cost of losing complete control over what your units are doing that it's a completely useless feature. It doesn't even matter that the controls are so clunky and unresponsive that it's not that much fun to take over a ship or plane anyway.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 45%. Pacific Storm: Allies tries to incorporate so many features from war and strategy games that it collapses under the weight of it all, crushing all fun out of the game.