Preview By: Gabriel Strange | Posted: 10/03/2004
Age of Empires was a game which defined how many RTS games should be, DRvsAK, does not detract form this standard but adds to it. There are many RTS games on the market and each tries to be unique and do something different but most fail and are just clones of one game or another. DRvsAK, manages to actually use the RTS format in a different manner. From the seamless way the story and game play are woven together to the way you gain and control troops, this adds something extra to the RTS format.
The story takes place during the North African campaigns of WWII, many of the missions and much of the story is based on the events during this era. Every detail from the back story screens to each unit and vehicle has been researched very well. All the parts of this game give a good feeling and mood of the things that happened during this era. The back story and pre-briefing screens have images and photos taken from the time, from the old ration books to patches and badges from the time.
Through the games twenty levels, you take command of the Axis (Germans and Italians) and the Allies (English, US and Australians). With the story told in two halves, you start by playing the game as the Axis, and your captured and then stranded in African territory. From here you have very little in the way of resources, and units, but what you have is very useful and ultimately not expendable. As you progress through the levels you need to gather salvage and steel vehicles that you find on the battle field. With no way to build new vehicles you need to keep every thing you have in good condition. Eventually the story leads on in to a situation where you no longer running and trying to avoid damage, but you need to use what you have gathered to take on the Allies in a number on onslaughts.
After you have completed the Axis series of levels, you move on to the Allies, and in a similar manner to the Axis you start with very little but you build up units and get reinforcements faster. Faced with the Axis and their superior technology in the early stages, all the tanks in the world won't save you, so skill and being sneaky is the best ploy.
The story is well thought out and the characters are unique and very well designed, and the interaction between many of the levels and the back story, just adds more to the depth of the game. Many things have been researched, from the German Olympics and that two of the main characters were competitors in them, and the interplay between those characters, to the French Resistance.
Most of the game play is seamless, a few things at this stage which the developers are working on, such as the path finding can be a bit glitchy and slow, but not enough to distract from game play. Also I have seen tank models blend together where it seems the collision protocols need tweaking, this though amusing at times still does not effect the enjoyment of the game. Possibly the funniest thing is they have tried to build some courtesy in the units. This can lead to situation where three of four tanks are lined up and each on is waiting for the other to go and they all inch forwards moving a few pixels each in turn.
The rest of the game play is fine, easy to get to grips with and like many of the great RTS games out there the interface and control method make play a breeze. One aspect that enhances this type of RTS, is the control over the game speed, you can speed up the game and slow down the action so you can give orders to your units and not loose a battle because you weren't fast enough.
One of the best aspects of the game, and the one thing that I love about this game is the way you nave no control over the creation of your units. At each briefing screen you select your units from the last level and any reinforcements that may have arrived. So you cannot sit their and pump out tanks, what you start the level with is all you have. Unless you salvage and repair tanks that have been abandoned or you managed to disable and steel the enemy's vehicles. This also offers another element to this game where any vehicles that survive a level will gain one star of experience, so if you can keep vehicles going through multiple levels you can get better and more experienced units.
This style of gaining units and preparing for the next level, also adds re-play factors to the game as there are a number of sub goals which you can complete to gain command points and get more units to use. Also you may want to try and play the game and not lose any units and salvage everything you can as this can add more of a challenge to any level of play.
All of the game play elements work wonderfully well together to create an addictive and enjoyable game. I think the only thing they should have added was limited ammunition or at least given you the option of it. As with limited ammo you would need to salvage more and use more strategy than you would ever do in other RTS games.
One aspect of the game which take this game beyond that of other RTS games is the AI, which is cunning and has a habit if stealing you vehicles should you leave them around. As well as taking out key units of you army so that their units can take their strengths and use them to their advantage.
One element that can suffer in RTS games is graphics; DRvsAK has some of the best graphics I have seen in the genre. Everything from the smoke and explosions to the sand storms and the detail of each unit makes this game visually stunning.
You can zoom in very close to many of the units and buildings, and its rare that any of the textures or graphics loose detail and become fuzzy. The best thing is you don't need a state of the art system to run the game in max quality. The only time you will notice speed issues is on a few levels and only when you crank up the game speed, but most of this is the processing of the AI.
One thing I would like to see in this game is day and night cycles, which can reflect upon what your units can do. So you could use stealth by waiting from night to come, this would add even more to the strategy of the game. Possibly day and night is something that could reflect in the briefing and give you a series of time slots where you can start the attack, so you can choose what style of game play you want to take.
Though there is limited GCI work, much of it is done well and gives you a good feel for the era and the conditions of the time. Though not ground breaking or the best in the world, it adds to the story and dose the job it needs to. As this game is not about ground breaking CGI but about strategy and creating a good feel for the era and the battles that took place.
The music and sounds for thins game are tremendous, from the sound of bullets bouncing of armour and the sounds of landmines. All of them work and blend well with the graphics to add a good feel to this game. The sound track is good and gives you the fell of a WWII movie, it works with the style and none of it sticks out as being wrong. Everything fits nicely together.
One of the best parts of this game, and I hope they don't change it in the final compile, is the voiceovers and accents. Many of the are camp, and rather amusingly stereotypical, but they work well and every time you hear them it will bring a smile to your face. Even the death cries are wonderfully done, and are worth playing the game for. Each unit has a common sound and what seems to be a series of rare sounds, and these rare sounds are quite amusing in places, and you could probably imagine some of the British troops shouting this as they are dying.
What ho chaps its spiffing
I hope they do a mission pack for DRvsAK and add other elements such as a limited ammo option, and day and night cycles so you can choose what time you what to run the scenario. I think these elements would add more to the game and defiantly up the strategy part of the game.
Also with the mission pack they could add more playing time for the Italians and other countries, so you can run the same story form the point of view of the other side. Other things could be done a mission pack, but I hope they put the same attention to detail in any expansions as they have in to this game.
DRvsAK is a game which should sit on your shelf next to Age of Empires and its related games. The game represents what many of the next generation RTS game need to do, with story and the limiting of units, to promote thought and the need to use strategy.
If you're a fan of RTS games, this needs to be in your pre-order list, if it's not nip over to Amazon or down to your local game store and order it. You will not be disappointed by this title and with such a good team behind the game any mission pack or games using this engine will no doubt add even more enjoyment.
Current Rating I would give the game: 91%
One of the first RTS games that you actually need to sit and think about, and formulate strategies.