World at War Review
World at War is a strategic World War II war game on the grandest of scales – the entire globe is your battlefield. While war games on this scale can often be quite complex affairs, World at War does a good job of abstracting many of the details that come with managing a global conflict. Casual gamers can even leave production, research, and other planning operations to the computer so that they can just have fun directing armies and navies. The result of this is a war game that is at once simple to play and challenging, and one that is very accessible to war gamers of all levels.
|Europe under the Axis thumb.|
In World at War the world’s powers at the time of World War II are divided into five factions, the Axis powers (minus Japan), Japan, China, Russia, and the Allies, and you can select to play as any of these factions. Neutral countries are always computer-controlled and only enter into the game if their country is invaded. The globe is divided into small regional areas along the lines of games such as Risk and Axis & Allies, and it is for these regions and their industrial bases that the powers are fighting. The regions correspond in size to that of a small country, with the larger countries in the world broken into a number of individual regions. To conquer France for instance, you’ll need to capture three separate regions. You can scroll around the globe map by moving the mouse towards the edge of the screen, but this feature is not implemented well and you’ll find yourself warping to the edge of the world without any chance of stopping the scrolling. Luckily there is also a smaller “radar” map that will let you click on a region to center it on the map in the main window.
The game comes with several campaigns which differ in their starting year but all run through 1946, letting you choose the point in the historical conflict at which you want to jump in and take over. Curiously, the earliest starting point is mid-1940, so the game does not allow you to try your hand at invading or defending Poland, or give you the option of trying a new strategy such as invading France before Poland.
Play proceeds in a turn-based manner with each faction in turn conducting a movement phase followed by a production phase. Movement is accomplished by selecting a region, picking the desired unit from a pop-up window of unit icons, and then clicking on the destination region. This sounds pretty easy but the interface can be a little squirrelly at times and it may take a few clicks to pick the right unit and put it into the right region. Movement requires supply points drawn from your nation’s supply pool which is generated each turn during the production phase, so if you find your industrial base shrinking due to lost territory it will become more difficult for you to conduct the war and get your troops to the front.
When enemy units occupy the same region combat ensues. The combat is resolved on a screen that is one of the cheesiest screens I’ve seen, and this is in a genre of games known for cheesy screens. The units involved in the battle face each other from each half of the screen, with a side’s units sprinkled around their half of the screen. The unit icons look fine even though they are not nearly to scale and the game gets kudos for using authentic looking units for the factions involved in the fight, but then the shooting starts and things head down the seriously cheesy route. Units fire in turn with each attack represented by a fast moving bullet aimed at an individual unit on the other side. Numbers and little MASH tents then appear behind the targeted unit to represent casualties and the next unit then fires. It’s time consuming and goofy-looking, so in no time you’ll have your finger poised over the Esc key to quickly bail out of the screen each time combat is resolved.