At a Real Madrid formal dinner David Beckham stands up to make a speech 'They're small, white, minty and they freshen your breath' The teams manager Fabio Capello says out loud 'David you idiot, you were supposed to talk about tactics!'
It may seem a little odd for me to start a review with a joke, but what's even stranger is the game I am reviewing is not a MMO. For those expecting an MMO review, do not despair I will be reviewing plenty more in the near future. Like my little joke above Massive Assault Network 2 is all about tactics and also puts a smile on my face.
MAN2 is a futuristic turn based strategy game. The game doesn't have a set story line instead the game is made up of one-on-one battles against human opponents. Winning battles improves your overall standing and a rank is given based on points earned. The rank system is useful as it allows you to choose an appropriately skilled opponent.
The game plays out in one of two ways. You can play the game in one go, where you and opponents take turns, or turns can be submitted to the server and be played out similar to play by e-mail games.
The game has a range of units as would be expected, covering land, air and sea. Each side is balanced with no-one having a distinct advantage, for every unit there is an opposing unit which can counter it.
Unlike many strategy games units deal a fixed amount of damage. So for example a tank may deal 2 points of damage and attacks do not miss.. In many games there is a random element, e.g a tank may deal 1-3 damage. In MAN2 this forces you to think more strategically, no praying for a critical hit or sending units in hoping your opponent will miss. This means you must rely on strategy rather than chance.
There is more to the strategy element than just choosing which units are most effective and where to move and attack. There are broader aspects to consider when locked in a battle. You buy your units with revenue gained from owning a territory, each turn you have the option to invade neutral territories. Taking over a territory generates further income thus enabling you to control more expensive units. What's quite interesting is that when you invade a territory the guerrilla forces that try to stave off the offensive are controlled by your opponent. So again you are not relying on chance to defeat your opponent, you have the opportunity. The wild card in the whole invasion section is the secret ally. When a game starts each player has a number of secret allies, these are territories that appear to be neutral, but in fact are owned by the relevant player. Each turn a player can announce the ally, this brings the territory completely under the players control and can create units. One strategy is to lure an opponent into a territory that they believe is neutral only for it to be a secret ally. This allows the player to hit back hard as the guerrilla forces will be significantly larger and the territory won't be as easy to take over.
The game is a little forgiving in one aspect and that is the rewind feature. At any point during your turn, you can rewind to the start of the turn and redo your moves over again. This removes the frustration of missing an obvious opportunity. Also at the end of your turn the game will tell you if any of your units have not moved or fired.
Graphically the game is quite impressive, units are nicely detailed and the various effects are used with a great deal of success. The game takes place on a variety of planets, with play areas varying from up close and personal islands to sprawling landscapes that require tactical thinking on a much greater scale.
The game is quite addictive and a whole lot of fun. For such a simple concept, the game feels very well polished and each gameplay feature is executed with remarkable precision and success. I can't see the game having mass appeal, partially due to the heavy tactical element of the game and the difficulty. In a lot of ways the game is similar to chess. You can't just jump in and be successful immediately, you must develop a style and have multiple levels of strategy, be able to adapt to your opponents style and second guess every move. With MAN2 there is no pick up and play element, it requires dedication, concentration and a tactical mind.
It's clear to see that the game has done exactly what it set out to do. Assigning a score to this review is very difficult. If you are looking for a turn based strategy game, then this is the only choice to make, anything else looks like a poor effort in comparison. If you are a casual gamer or dislike investing many hours into a game until you are no longer having your ass handed to you then you will hate the game. This game is unlikely to turn people on to strategy games but if you're looking for an honest strategy challenge, that has all the polish of a blockbuster title, Massive Assault Network 2 is the ideal choice.