Real Time D-Day

Fortress Europe
Reviewed On
Available For

A real time simulation of the Allied invasion of France in 1944 sounds VERY interesting. Too bad Matrix Games and Lamb Software did not end up with a product fitting of the intended scope, possibly due to the scope itself being too large.

Problems start right at installation. No manual came with the game so there is no immediate help in getting started.

I installed the game and no icon came up on the desktop. No problem, just open and close the CD door to get the CD to run. Hmmm, seems like the only option is to install the game or look at the manual. I checked the website and found no help. So finally, after exhausting all other possibilities, I clicked on the install option to install the game again. NOW I got the option to change languages, install, or play the game.

Ok so now I know how to get it started. As is normal I launch right into the game thinking that since there was no manual, aside from the one on the CD, there would be a tutorial built-in to get you up to speed. WRONG. I suddenly find myself the Commander in Chief of the Normandy invasion forces. All the transports loaded with men and equipment are heading for the beaches and I haven’t the foggiest idea what is happening or how to control it. Needless to say this particular sortie was less than productive.

I must have gotten a bit heated in my reactions, as I soon notice the family dog (most sensitive of the three) heading up the stairs, followed by the cat and in short order my son follows suit (hehe they have all learned that when Dad starts swearing at the computer is the time to give him plenty of distance).

Ok I log out, grab a beer as it looks like it is going to be a long and tedious road to becoming proficient enough at the game to write a review of it. I break down and look at the manual provided on the CD and make copious notes as having the CD open during the game does not seem to be feasible.

The game has three main views. 1] The big picture – large scale strategic display of the invasion site and the Normandy area where the action takes place. 2] A box on this strategic screen shows where you will focus on when you go to the tactical level screen – where you can see troops moving and take control of local action. 3] The Reinforcement screen – where your reinforcements arrive at the docks in Britain for transport to the battle zone (large strategic screen). Unfortunately there is no indication that reinforcements are available in the other views, so you have to check this screen often during game play.

Ok now I am getting somewhere.

I restart the invasion and send my divisions to their beaches. I did not see much happening on the Strategic screen so I zoomed in on the American landing zones. My god, what a mess! The graphics are well below today’s standards, which by itself is not a problem, but when the low-end graphics impact the ability to see your forces and control them, THAT is when they become a problem.

This is also when I noticed that you have absolutely no information on enemy troop strength. Accordingly, you only know that a tank or an installation, such as shore batteries which were taking a deadly toll on nearby ships and incoming transports and landing craft, are destroyed is when their on screen icon gets a destroyed appearance.

Also, I do not know how they figure damage, but when a battleship catches an enemy tank on the ridge near the beaches stationary and pumps a full broadside into it (read this as seeing the shells land on the tank and explode in the square the tank occupies) only to have the tank just move away is very wrong. A direct hit from a battleship will destroy any tank in the world, then or today.

Ok yet another reread of the rules and clarification of my hand notes and I am back in the game. This time I took control of the battleships first and guided them in to pound the ‘ever lovin’ out of the shore batteries, beach bunkers and anything else that looked interesting and was in range. Man, those shore batteries could take a licking and keep on knocking the tar out of my ships. This time the actual invasion by the landing craft did not kick off until late in the afternoon of June 6th.

This is when the in-game problems started. Problems like ordering a Division to go to a specific place only to see it go way wide of the target and approach from a completely different angle than ordered to were common. At one point an entire British armored division ended up at the extreme southeast corner of the map and out of fuel do to the path it chose to get into the battle. The landing zones themselves were total chaos and you had to periodically take local control just to get landing craft unloaded or troops off the extremely congested. Then there are the landing facilities that get a blockage like a destroyed unit or some such obstruction preventing the unit further out on the wharf from ever getting into the action. And did I mention reinforcement ships coming in along the shore of France that had not yet been cleared of shore batteries, which of course, bore no resemblance to the path I had ordered them to take? Scratch another division.

I got all excited when reading that you can take control of individual tanks or groups of tanks and change their turret headings, facing and such. My goodness, why did they bother to implement this level of detail? Seldom will you have the luxury of time to be this careful with your units. Plus there is no need. You click on the unit or battalion or regiment, bring up the attack crosshairs and give them a target – the units will do the rest. You usually have enough time to zoom in on a trouble spot, quickly gather up what forces are near by and eliminate the problem and then go back to the strategic screen to see where the next trouble spot is brewing!

Being very persistent though, I actually figured out how to play the game and, surprisingly, had an enjoyable time with it then. However, a decent tutorial or manual would have helped greatly. The manual on the CD [once I found that] was enough to get me going in the right direction, but only with copious notes to remind me of stuff while I played. Due to the myriad of problems and the frantic pace of the game once you actually do get the hang of it gives this product a 2 GiN Gem rating.

It’s not for the feint of heart, but if you REALLY like large scale real time military simulations and do not mind the mediocre graphics, lack of readily available information on troop strength and the like, and are a whiz with getting to trouble spots taking local control to get rid of the trouble and then popping back to see what else has gone south while you were fixing that problem, you might even find this game worthwhile.

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