Back in December 2006 I was given Massive Assault Network 2 to review and I was very impressed by it. Now I've been given the spiritual successor Galactic Assault: Prisoner of Power. Can it better the punishing yet rewarding system that was found in MAN2?
The story of warring factions in a post apocalyptic world is far from new. It's a shame that the developers have gone in this direction, especially as many of the lesser titles in the strategy genre have gone down this path. The story as a whole isn't brilliant and is more there to explain why each mission exists rather than to draw you in for you to enjoy. In a few places I've noticed that the text appears to be a little odd, as if it has been written by a none English speaker, or possibly someone quite lazy.
Graphically the game won't win any awards. It doesn't use all the latest lighting and shadow effects, though the game isn't a significant let down either. Units are well modelled and terrain is rich. For a turn based strategy the game does more than it needs to, though if you are used to modern real time strategies prepare to be dissapointed.
The game shares several similarities with Massive Assault Network, in fact the game engine appears to be near identical. At its core the game is a turn based strategy. The game plays out in phases. Your first phase is combat where you get to move yours units and attack the enemy. Each unit has a number of movement points and terrain can effect how far units move. Once you have moved your units the recruitment phase starts. During this phase you get to build additional base structures, build and repair units. Then your opponent gets an opportunity to do the same.
Like most strategy games the game starts at a gentle pace giving you access to a few units and game features and gradually expanding on those as time passes. There are all the expected unit types such as infantry, tanks, artillery, naval and airborne, with each type having its own strengths and weaknesses. The developer seems to have increased the complexity of each units stats compared to some other games, though this is more of a confusion and frustration than anything. Missions are a mixture of attacking and defending though generally feel a little bland and uninspired. The base building element of the game is remarkably uninspiring, there were games made decades ago that outshine GA. In terms of unit recruitment, rather than constructing the ideal army based on your strategy, it turns into building units to counter the current enemies in an almost rock, paper, scissor fashion.
Unlike MAN2, GA has a greater focus on a single player campaign, and this is quite a great failing. Where MAN2 played out like a game of chess GA plays out more like a generic RTS/Turn based strategy.
Sadly the system does not work quite as well as it did with MAN 2. The intricate strategies don't seem to gel as well as they did in the previous title. Where MAN 2 had you plotting surprise attacks and thinking many moves ahead, with multiple strategies available, GA is far more formulaic. Each mission plays out like the last with you relying on the same strategies time and time again. The game doesn't challenge you to develop an adapting strategy and ends up feeling more like a middle of the road real time strategy game. In fact on some maps it feels like there is only one viable strategy and you are forced to conform to this via trial and error. In my opinion a game of this type should have numerous strategic options and really allow you to explore many different approaches.
Whilst I've been fairly critical of the game in this review there is still some fun to be had, especially if you are a huge fan of turn based strategies, or are a real time strategy fan and are looking for something with a little less pace. The sad truth is the game mixes turn based and real time elements and doesn't capture the good points of either. It's a great shame that the final product doesn't work, MAN2 was a great game, taking the games engine and moving it in the single player direction is probably a mistake for the developer and hopefully they will soon return to what they do best.