The West Front of World War II is one of the more interesting theaters of the war. TalonSoft’s latest edition to their ‘Campaign Series’ explores this theater of War, which includes the deserts of North Africa, Sicily, the Bleak landscape of Norway and the march across France after the Invasion of Normandy.
West Front is TalonSoft’s sequel to the ill-fated premiere game in the Campaign Series: East Front. Those familiar with this type of wargame will probably recall the volley of complaints that were leveled at TalonSoft after the release of East Front. Releasing ‘unfinished product,’ releasing ‘buggy games’ etc., etc.
Rather than reeling under this criticism, TalonSoft rose to the occasion and, in their now familiar manner, released a series of patches and updates, available from their website www.talonsoft.com as well as on their game CDs produced after the release of the patches, which corrected the gameplay issues. They then turned around and fixed all of the issues introduced by the East Front release, and the result, West Front, is a very good game!
TalonSoft’s definition of the West Front includes battles in North Africa, the campaign for Sicily, action in Norway as well as the march to Berlin from the beaches of Normandy. Just the varying terrain types alone are quite impressive, but then each also has differing effects on gameplay and each presents their own unique problems for the armchair general to overcome. This game includes everything you would expect in a World War II game – opportunity fire, air support, fog of war options, Internet play, minefields, and fortifications. But it also has a few things you might not expect – concealment values based on terrain type, and a complete set of editors for maps, orders of battle and the scenarios, glider drops and more.
You can play any of the following forces in the game – the armies of the USA, Great Britain and the Commonwealth, France (plus the Vichy and Free French), Belgium, Holland, Greece, Norway and Yugoslavia, and updates the Germans and Italians from East Front for their roles in Western Europe and North Africa. Truly this is a treasure trove that will keep you in the commanders chair for many hours of enjoyable gameplay!
Options are also abundant in the game. Right from the start you have to decide if you want to play a scenario, campaign or have the computer generate a random battle set around your choices for setting and force structure. In the scenario section, the choices continue with standard (you VS the computer AI), modem (host or caller for either a modem or direct TCP/IP setup), Play-by-email or hotseat (multiple players on one computer). The options continue well into the actual gameplay. You decide if the scenario’s goals are graphically depicted or not, what type of unit display you like and on and on.
During the play of the game, there are a host of hot keys displayed at the bottom of the screen that allow you to perform a myriad of important and useful functions. These include turning on and off the movement ranges and firing arcs for each unit as it is activated, calling in air support or off board artillery and saving action points for firing or loading or unloading from transports. There is also a full ‘pull down’ menu set that can be activated and runs along the top of the screen. This user interface is quite friendly and takes a minimum of time to get used to.
The graphics are, to put it bluntly, superb. When you are running in the desert you have roads and highways that dramatically speed travel, and the ever-present surrounding terrain that can be hiding ambushes when the ‘fog of war’ option is turned on. There is one scenario (an early one) where you play as the allied forces and have several small, weak and very fast jeep units running without the fog of war, to depict your knowledge of the local area.
On the Axis side, the Germans have a convoy of troops supported by relatively strong armored cars running with the fog of war on! The hit and run tactics that you use here are typical of the kind of rear line harassment possible in the complicated desert terrain. This is a scenario that I played many, many times! Each of the various types of terrain depicts unique set of challenges for the gamer. It is through experimentation, and getting your butt kicked once or twice by the artificial intelligence, that you find the way of using the terrain, such as the bocage of northern France to your advantage.
Gameplay is smooth and flows easily, once the basic concepts are grasped. Like many other complicated games, the first few times through are learning experiences that tune you up for the real challenges of the campaigns, or the playing against a human opponent via Internet, Modem or the hotseat game type options at start up. It is strongly suggested that you play through the three introductory scenarios a few times to get the feel for the game and some of the tactics that work in the various terrain types.
The list of credits, for TalonSoft’s West Front, reads like a who’s who of platoon level war games. Names such as – Richard Berg, Mark Herman and James Dunnigan are well known in the industry, and their unique insights and influence can be seen in the myriad of scenarios and campaigns that form a part of this West Front package.
In summation, a rating of four and one half GiN gems was given to this superb title which will be a worthy addition to any that like to play Historical Simulations. Whether you are running Panzers in the desert, the platoons involved with the invasion of Sicily or glider troops in Western Europe, this game will keep you coming back for more for the foreseeable future.