Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: O~3 Entertainment
Developer: Digital Reality
Release Date: December 7, 2004
D-Day pits gamers against the strategic masterminds of the German military during World War II. Take command of the Allied forces from early June 1944 and see if you can recreate the Allied success, or if you are crushed under the heel of the relentless Axis armies!
Everybody's first experience with a game is with the installation process. Good games have installation sequences complete with images and sounds that help to get you excited about the game you're spending time installing. Unfortunately, D-Day's installer leaves you a little fearful of what you're about to experience. To cap off the process, you are then required to reboot your computer before the game will launch.
When you finally launch D-Day, you are greeted by black and white movie footage taken from World War II along with a voiceover that introduces you to the current state of the war. While the film is nothing earth shattering, it does serve as a good introduction to help set the mood for the game — early June 1944 in the European theater of World War II.
D-Day's opening menu is slightly confusing, offering many options with no clear guidance. Campaign? Scenario? Tutorial? I opted for the tutorial in the beginning, desiring to familiarize myself with the controls and available interactions.
Unfortunately, I managed to fail the tutorial. The developers attempted to create a self-guided tutorial to enable advanced players to skip ahead to parts they care about, but they fell a little short. The friendly voice advises that if you don't care to learn about basic movements, move to the blue area. Blue? What blue? The water's blue over to the east, the people are blue to the southwest, and off to the northwest are some other blue things.
Just as I figured it out, I managed to fail the tutorial by shooting some flammable containers. The area of effect fireball damaged some of my own units, ending the tutorial with a proclamation that friendly fire is not allowed. Word to developers: ejecting your player from a tutorial is at the very least a surprise, but more likely, a confusing and annoying experience.
D-Day calls the segments of the game chapters, and each one opens with other movies and voiceovers to explain the coming section of the overall campaign. The audio and video stuttered at random spots in the sequence, but not so badly that it couldn't be followed.
The player is then presented with the mission briefing screen. I really like the way the developers have done this part of the game. The briefing itself isn't very unique – a list of objectives, a map, a textual description of the problem; however, there are two buttons along the bottom that are quite intriguing to inquiring minds.
The first button pulls up another screen that gives you background information about the war up to this point. It provides information about why these particular objectives have been chosen and why they are important to the war.
The second button provides more background information about things that are related more to the war as a whole and not this particular campaign. This information is often accompanied by an illustration from the era, helping to show the player what is being described.
D-Day provides more background information than most other games, placing it a notch above similar historically based pieces of software. If you are the kind of player who plays not just to be entertained, but also to learn, you may find this aspect of the game very interesting.
Once you've read through the briefing and accepted the mission, the game begins. The first thing I noticed is that every time I clicked on a unit, a help dialog appeared, telling me more about that particular unit. This seems to persist until you forcibly disable the hints, which, unfortunately, aren't all that useful.
For those who have played the Command & Conquer series of games, you will be right at home with the operation of the units within D-Day. You have your standard rifleman (low power, low range), bazookaman (high power, low range), sniper (high power, high range), flamethrower (high power, low range, works on armor), etc. There are certainly no surprises with the range of military available – everything is familiar, but this also means it doesn't really break new ground. (Of course, there's arguably not much ground to break when you're recreating a historical period.)
One thing that is different from other RTS style games: D-Day is a finite strategy game. At the beginning of the mission, you set out with all the units you will have for that mission. Reinforcements may arrive, depending on the mission, but there is no recovery from bad decisions. If you lose all your infantry to a pillbox … well, time to restart the mission!
In this way, the game is able to help reenact the famous battles from World War II without giving the user too much ability to game the system. (Not that you'd need to, the "easy" difficulty level is pathetically simple anyway.)
The enemy AI has not made much of an impression on me. Many were the times that my snipers (I love snipers) would be carefully picking off the enemy troops one by one, getting no response. Two enemy units would stand side by side; one would go down and the second would continue standing as if nothing had happened. "Oh, Bob got shot in the head. Poor guy. Guess I'll keep standing here."
An interesting feature of the game is that all buildings can be occupied. You can direct your units into any structure where they will take up residence and fire at any nearby enemies. Buildings provide your units with extra cover, armor, and a better view of the surrounding area. However, a tank or flamethrower can easily shell the building, leaving your occupants dead. If you come across a building owned by someone else, you can also instruct your units to enter it and engage in melee with the opposing forces. If you win, the building is yours.
Vehicles are also implemented in an interesting fashion. When you put a unit in a vehicle, the stats are adjusted depending on what type of unit it is. For example, loading a scout into a tank increases the distance the unit can see. Loading in other types of units provides other bonuses, such as rate of fire increase, accuracy increase, and speed boost. Most vehicles can also hold multiple units, allowing for multiple bonuses per vehicle. Very useful indeed!
The end of mission tally screen breaks down your losses versus the enemy losses, and it also provides a brief rundown of the results, but it's nothing special. You're quickly taken to the next mission briefing, where the action heats up once again at the next part of the war.
As the missions progressed and began taking more time, I noticed that the game would start having framerate issues. A short hop out of the game revealed that it was taking up about 500 megabytes of RAM. My system, while possessing a healthy 1 gigabyte of RAM, was beginning to stutter due to the burgeoning resource consumption. Eventually, it got bad enough that I had to turn the settings down to "low" in order to continue playing.
Another issue I noted was an unfortunate tendency for the game to lose keyboard focus. Many times, I was unable to convince the game to access the menu, group units, or otherwise use the keyboard to interact with it in any way. (Strangely, it was still registering when I pressed Control, allowing me to force fire.) Using alt+tab to get out of the game and then switch back in fixed it for another few minutes, but it was a very frustrating problem that I was unable to resolve.
Visually, the game is not overly impressive. The units are cookie-cutter with little distinction between all the little infantry. It was very difficult to tell them apart without wasting precious seconds hovering the mouse over the individual units to determine which one was the sniper. The vehicles were done fairly well, and the terrain is varied enough to make the maps interesting. The interface is also pretty standard, not overly lacking or excelling in any particular areas.
D-Day provides a variety of sound effects that are well timed with the action help to provide a fulfilling aural experience. Unfortunately, the music tends to be a bit too dramatic. Mission after mission of swelling crescendos tends to get repetitive, without lending much overall ambience. What music there is, however, is of pretty good quality. Few were the times the music made me stop and take notice.
All in all, D-Day is nothing special as far as real-time strategy games go. It doesn't break any new ground, and it doesn't rise to stand on top of the pile of other games in the genre. Some gameplay quirks and glitches detract from the overall experience, but the authentic touches from the portrayed era help to bolster the title to make it a relatively average offering. For fans of the genre and period, this title might be worth your time if you can find it on sale, but casual gamers should consider passing on this.
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