Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Publisher: Strategy First Inc.
Developer: Muzzy Lane
Release Date: March 13, 2007
I will be the first to admit that I am not a big fan of "turn-based" strategy games. This would probably strike you as being odd considering my favorite gaming genre is "real-time" strategy; in fact, I actually collect RTS games. After hearing some good things about a new turn-based strategy title called Making History: The Calm & The Storm and having an opportunity to review it, I decided to put away my gaming prejudices to see if I could get along with one of those dreadful "End Turn" buttons.
Making History: The Calm & The Storm is every bit as sophisticated and detailed as some of the insanely complex turn-based strategy games, but somehow it accomplishes this without the usual myriad of dizzying interfaces and the steep 10-hour learning curves. Making History: The Calm & The Storm includes over 80 nations with over 800 regions and takes into consideration the economic, geographic, diplomatic, technological, political and military elements of each nation. You can choose between five scenarios covering periods between 1936 through 1945, and you will select one of eight primary nations to control.
The economics model in Making History: The Calm & The Storm has both national and global elements to it and offers players opportunities to establish trade relations with other nations, request aid, and even engage in open global trading of resources. Also of significant importance to gameplay are both the research and alliance systems, where even small changes in technological sophistication or strategic alignments can drastically affect outcomes.
If all of this weren't enough, Making History: The Calm & The Storm is also a sophisticated learning environment. Detailed student/teacher reports and analysis are available for generation at anytime during or after a game, and you also have the ability to act as an observer during a multiplayer match and interact with players through the chat system. You can even load a saved game at any point and "walk through" each turn, switching between the various nations to examine the cause and effect of actions taken.
Making History: The Calm & The Storm contains an integrated text-based tutorial which can be completed in approximately 15-20 minutes. The tutorial does an adequate job of describing the user interface and the general flow of the game. Concepts are defined in greater detail in a printed 47-page player's guide and folding reference card.
Complete statistical information and assistance is available at anytime while playing Making History: The Calm & The Storm by accessing what is called "The Book." It provides, in a series of well-organized tabs, detailed statistical information in the form of charts and tables for all of the nations in the game, scoring information, and a detailed "encyclopedia" which provides helpful information such as concepts, how-to's … and detailed explanations of all of the elements of your economic and military systems.
You won't find fancy special effects or 3.0 shaders in Making History: The Calm & The Storm, but you will find a crisp, uncluttered interface which is remarkably easy to navigate, especially when you consider the amount of information to be monitored and adjusted. The game's graphical map is just as clean and crisp as the gaming interface, and you can easily navigate to different geographical areas by moving your mouse to the edges of your screen. You also are provided with the ability to zoom in and out of the map to have a better focus or overview of activity, and objects are easily identified and selectable at any level of zoom. The title's sound effects are subdued and will not be overbearing or a distraction during gameplay. You can make adjustments to both sound effect and music levels through the game's options menu. The included symphonic soundtrack fits well with the World War II war-gaming theme.
To win any of the scenarios in Making History: The Calm & The Storm, you will want to be the nation with the most World Power Points (WPP). Depending on the scenario or settings (in the case of a multiplayer game), you will win by either being the nation with the most WPP, the alliance with the most WPP, or the ideology (Democratic, Communist, etc.) with the most WPP.
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to adequately describe in detail what is occurring while you are playing a single-player scenario in Making History: The Calm & The Storm. I will instead summarize some of the key areas of focus both internally and externally to your nation which are required to be managed or taken into consideration during a typical game. Internally, the economy of your nation is based on income generated by selling goods, food, and various resource exports weighed against your expenditures for your military, research, infrastructure costs and imports. In each city within your nation, you set (and periodically change) what will be produced: goods, research points, military units or city upgrades.
Military unit production includes soldiers, tanks, aircraft, ships, and submarines, and all production times and associated costs are based on the regional quantities of Industrial Power Units (IPUs) and Manpower Units (MPUs) These units can be increased through upgrading the industries of your nation (city and industry upgrades). Military strength is increased through researching new technologies and establishing and adjusting military production. Externally, you will need to consider the effects of the numerous alliances between 80 nations, your own alliance, the expansion and contraction of your nation's borders, conflicts, the protection or defense of your nation's borders and even the effects of seasons.
During my course of playing Making History: The Calm & The Storm, I only had concerns regarding one aspect of the game — why certain odd alliances were being made, especially when in reality, it would be highly improbable that these various alliances would even be entertained. Needless to say, this element of gameplay can make for some interesting situations.
The multiplayer capabilities of Making History: The Calm & The Storm allow you to play against, or with, your friends using the same scenarios that are used for the single-player games. You also have the option of utilizing computer players in your multiplayer games if necessary. In keeping with the educational elements, there is an observer-only mode available where you can monitor players and communicate with them through the chat system. Although the multiplayer system seems to be designed primarily for LAN use, you could easily use a program such as Hamachi to create a VPN- (Virtual Private Network) based game server over the Internet.
I must admit, Making History: The Calm & The Storm was not overly complicated or time-consuming to learn, and it was actually incredibly fun to play. The uncluttered interface and visually pleasing design seems to help reduce the information overload that is often associated with this genre. If you are like me, and you don't normally consider playing turn-based strategy titles, give this one a try. I bet you will also be pleasantly surprised.
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