Cuban Missile Crisis: The Aftermath Review

Cuban Missile Crisis: The Aftermath postulates an alternative outcome to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In its alternate history, the shooting down of a U-2 over Cuba turned the standoff into a shooting war that started with an American invasion of Cuba and quickly led to a limited exchange of nukes. While this certainly is a plausible scenario, the game’s storyline soon becomes over-the-top and melodramatic and will invoke a little eye-rolling. But who really plays strategy games for the storyline anyway? The developers wanted an excuse to create a strategy game with units from the middle of the Cold War and the story serves that purpose.

The game has four campaigns, one for each of its four factions: America/England, The Soviet Union, Germany/France (look who’s finally playing “nice” together), and China. The story in the campaigns is conveyed through large passages of text and each faction in practice pretty much plays the same way, so there’s not a lot of personality to the factions. Just pick the one with your favorite tanks and sully forth.

The campaign is played as a series of scenarios, but they are not structured as you might expect them to be in a real-time strategy game. Each scenario presents you with a strategic map of the area that displays the current locations of your armies, special strategic sites, your ultimate objective, and any enemy armies within sight. To win the scenario you’ll need to capture the objective, but how you get there and how many battles that you fight along the way are up to you. Armies are maneuvered on the map in a turn-based manner and if you move your army onto an enemy army or strategic site a real-time battle will ensue. The real-time battles are winner-take-all affairs, with the losing side paying for their defeat with the complete loss of an army or a strategic location.

The strategic map also serves as your resource and army management center. Resources are generated by strategic supply sites and controlling them means more resources that can be spent on new units to add to your armies or that can be committed to a battle. Committing resources to a battle ensures that your units do not run out of fuel or ammo during the fight and is therefore critical to victory.

The strategic map adds a welcome layer of depth to the game and adds a good degree of replay value to the scenarios. On the downside the presentation is pretty Spartan and has a war room map feel to it. On the other hand, the information given to you about the scenario’s significance to the war and your objectives is far too verbose and overwhelms you with large reams of text in very small fonts. I know it sounds crazy, but I prefer to spend my game time actually playing rather than reading.

When the action moves to a real-time battle things will look very familiar to anyone who’s played any of the Sudden Strike games before. This is because the game is from the same developers and they took the Sudden Strike engine into Cuban Missile Crisis. Unfortunately this means that Cuban Missile Crisis suffers from the same maladies that plagued Sudden Strike. First of all, pathfinding is atrocious. Units given orders as a group will split up at the first sign of an obstacle in their path and begin to scatter across the map. Units will block each other’s paths and get stuck trying to get around each other. Others will blindly run across the open in front of enemy positions and happily let themselves be mowed down. The list goes on, but the gist is that the game is one of those RTS exercises in unit handholding and babysitting.