Reviewed: April 29, 2006
Released: April 19, 2006
Think you got what it takes to command troops from the Civil War era. If you think it’s easy you have not played one of these well made historic RTS games from MadMinute Games and Paradox Interactive. Take Command: 2nd Manassas is the second in this series that lets you take charge of armies on either side of the Civil War.
Take Command features:
Ordering troops and positioning them according to the doctrine of the era is neither quick nor easy. The troops marched in columns, fought in rows and positioning them took time plus there’s your artillery. Six horses pulling one cannon with a field box behind that has to be unlimbered or set up into firing position, which takes several minutes.
Once your troops are fighting you have to watch your battle area and ensure no one out flanks you. You also have to resupply troops when they run low or they’ll be caught in the middle of a firefight with no ammo. You also have to watch their fighting status to make sure your troops don’t become too fatigued in combat.
All these things and more come into play as you work toward the goals of your side in this national conflict. To see your troop’s line up orderly and trade gunfire with others on a huge scale is a unique sight. I wish I could have seen it more often or quicker. My first views in Take Command: 2nd Manassas were watching my men go every which way but where I wanted them to go. This was no fault of the men below me in rank or the actual fighters. This was the fault of their commanding officer, me, who was either impatient or could not understand how the men were supposed to fight.
Your men have to be in line and set before they will return fire on the enemy. I found this out one of the first times I went into battle. I waited to see where the enemy was and then sent my men in too late to be of any use. I found out that this game is all about tactics and letting your decisions fully come to an end before making new ones. You cannot change your mind in the middle of your troops deploying or you get that neat confusion of men going all over the place that I had the first few times I played.
I then went to the forums for help and found out how to fight Civil War style with the tactics they used. The level of command that this game uses is great and a bit confusing to begin with. You are always in charge of at least a company of troops and have to lead them correctly. When you’re in charge of the entire army you have to worry about all of the infantry, cavalry, artillery and supplies.
You can play in three modes, Historical, open play or custom scenarios you or others have made. The Historical mode is real battles that you have to try to win as any one of several commanders. The game plays like a campaign for the Historical mode where one battle and its outcomes affect the next battle and so on. When you do good in one you have more troops to jump into the next fray and have that much more to start with. But when you do badly, you get the results of not enough troops to continue on with.
Open play is where you get to pick the size of your forces by choosing the commander, the battlefield and your opposition. You’ll have the battles of varying sizes and different objectives like capturing and holding specific points on the map or just hunting and killing the enemy. This is a good place to start after completing the tutorials to get used to the game and the tactics you need to use.
You can also download the SDK package and create your own battle scenarios and then play to your hearts content. You can download many battles others have created on MadMinutes’ website. Many are finding out the fun of modding and creating variations of real battles or fictitious ones and making them available for others to play.
Whichever type of game you choose the story is basically the same, you’re in charge of troops and they depend on your leadership to win the fight. The gameplay is very well done considering the size of the armies and all the various commands being carried out during some of the larger battles.
The command structure of the AI is very impressive considering how many levels of command you see being affected on a battlefield. Orders can go through several layers of command before getting to a particular group of soldiers and this is hard to accomplish in a game engine.
The AI works very well even when it is in charge of your army when you choose to only be in charge of lesser divisions and follow the lead of your General. This is how to learn the tactics, use of various troop types and effects of different types of attack or defend commands. It’s a good way to learn other than the simple tutorials that come with the game. When you do try your hand at the main battles of the 2nd Manassas you will try many times to win the day as the computer does a very good job of planning it’s tactics and countering things you try to throw at it.
The graphics in Take Command: 2nd Manassas uses sprites for the individual troops in each of the armies. You can tell who’s who in battle by the colors and the rest is left up to your imagination. The games textures and detail leave a bit to the imagination as well but they had to sacrifice this in order to have the intelligence for the actual combat being carried out on such a grand scale.
But the game does pretty well with the graphics it uses. Trees and ground details look fairly well while you’re playing and the combat looks good. The shooting with the billows of smoke is a good thing in this game as it helps to know which units are actually firing. Sometimes you get orders mixed up or you don’t have units attached and it helps to see them actually firing and confirming you got their orders correctly.
The screens for loading are very informative and well made with facts from several of the real battles with some historic maps. The in-game screens for your commands and information of your units are nicely laid out and easy to use. For the infantry and cavalry each soldier you see represents about ten men so the troops you see on screen are not all the troops you have. You need to watch your units strengths and each units count to get accurate information for your whole army.
The sound is a little better in Take Command: 2nd Manassas than the graphics. The times you’re riding you do get hoof beats and your armies marching will have the usual sounds of the pounding feet of whole divisions marching. When you move away from the troops and go to scout an area with the camera you’ll hear the sounds of your soldiers in the distance if they’re near or just the sounds of nature when your alone.
The trill of cicadas or the lonely call of a bird is the sounds you get while you’re scouting areas with no one else around. But the real thrill is when you hear the “wheet” a bullet makes when it goes by close to you while in combat. And you’ll get plenty of these while you play. The sounds are the usual ones you would expect to hear in combat with some extras like the cicadas when appropriate.
To pick up Take Command: 2nd Manassas and win the three main battles that are included will not be an easy task. And it will probably not happen the first time you try either. This game is one of those practice makes perfect games that will require some learning other than the tutorials and the smaller fights you probably should start out with. The tactics and maneuvers used in this kind of fighting are not easy to master and the AI keeps you on your toes.
With all of the various battles available in 2nd Manassas it would be a pretty good game but you also have the community that is creating mods for extra fun and gameplay. The game will take awhile to master and there is quite a variety of modes in the open play plus you can play on either side of the conflict in all of the historical battles. Even if you have played the previous Take Command Battle of Bull Run this sequel is well worth the cost and a great addition to the historical line of RTS games.
Take Command: 2nd Manassas is a great historical real time simulation that puts you in command of troops, cavalry and artillery during the 2nd Manassas campaign of the American Civil War. The game's AI works very well considering all that is happening during conflicts on a scale like this. The game uses a scenario tree where the outcome of one battle affects the next in the historical mode but you can also play quicker battles in open play.
Take Command: 2nd Manassas makes a great strategic addition for anyone who enjoys a finely crafted RTS game.