From: Valrico, Florida
Ummmm...what he said. Grotius does a very good job summing up the game. Run, do not walk to the nearest computer and download it now.
First off, welcome to the forums, Deca. I'll do my best to give my own answers to your questions. But first a couple of general comments. WITP is unlike any other computer game I've ever played. If you want detail, this has got detail in spades. Its scope is massive beyond belief. It models every ship in the Pacific War, all the way from mighty CVs down to individual tankers, submarine tenders, repair ships, oilers, and even barges and PT boats. The game represents every airplane in the theater, from B-17s to flying boats. It tracks the careers of every individual pilot in the theater, though the pilot database is (for lack of complete historical sources) not as rigorous as the ship one. The game can be played in multi-day turns, but many of us revel in its one-day turn option, which mean that PBEM games take as long to finish as the war itself did. And PBEM games are high drama! Do yourself a favor and read a couple of the AARs I've mentioned further on in this post.
The game is not perfect historically, but if you play the AI in a "historical" fashion (on Very Hard), it will give you a good game for a long while. In PBEM, if you set reasonable house rules, your game will play out in a historically plausible way too.
Anyway, to get to your questions: is all this detail playable? I.e., how's the UI? Well, it's a mixed bag. If you ever played Grigsby's precursor to WITP, "Pacific War," you might be familiar with his UI-design style. WITP is an improvement over the PacWar UI, and in the four years since publication of the game, the programmers have added more improvements. It still takes too many clicks to do some things, in my opinion, but it's gotten better. On turn 1, there's no escaping it: you pretty much have to click on every unit in the game to check on it, or give it orders, or tell it to prep for invasion somewhere, or whatnot. Turn 1 is a daunting task -- hours for the Americans, even more hours for the Japanese. But once I'm past turn 1, I find the UI recedes, and gameplay comes to the fore.
Also, I should add that there are some very helpful interface mods. I've recently been playing with "Witpdecoder," about which there is a thread on the first couple pages of this forum. It presents WITP's info in much more digestible form than the game does. You might want to look at the beginning of that thread to give yourself an idea of how one modder has addressed what he sees as annoying UI issues.
-- Numerous facets of the game which are bewildering, not due to the complexity of the game, but rather due to incomplete knowledge of specific, yet, elusive game mechanics even though released back in mid 2004.
This is much less of an issue than it used to be. There are still many small mysteries to a massive game like WITP, but for the most part the game mechanics are now pretty well understood. It's true that the manual, which hasn't been updated, is now inaccurate on some things, such as some details of Japanese Production; but fansites have published corrections and clarifications. It's also true that some "tactical" aspects of the engine can frustrate even the most seasoned veteran: you don't have complete control over whether your planes fly a bombing run, or over which targets your carrier task force chooses. If you get the game, be sure to run the "Coral Sea" scenario to get a feel for carrier ops, which are obviously important to the game; once you get familiar with things, they make more sense. Also, the land combat model kinda stinks, and it has a couple very odd quirks, but you can learn them quickly, and mostly it's relevant to China, which you can relegate to a sideshow against the AI or against an agreeable opponent. Anyway, for me, the mechanics and rules are pretty clear, and I don't consider them much of an issue now. The UI is more of an issue for me, but only a minor irritation.
Having said all the above, what are the battles like? How detailed is the combat? Can a player alter/influence combat once it starts or is everything done & planned beforehand?
WiTP is a strategic and operational game with some tactical elements. It's also a "we-go" system -- both players plot their orders, and then the game executes them simultaneously. The operational focus, and the we-go structure, both dictate that you won't have detailed tactical control over the outcome of battles. In that sense the game plays like AGEOD's "American Civil War" or "Birth of America," if you know those games. You watch combat animations for about 15-20 minutes per turn; you have the option to turn off the animations, but my guess is that most people watch them. It's often pretty intense. You hold your breath as enemy bombers approach your ships, or as your fighters square off against theirs, or as your land units charge.
In WITP, you are generally cast in the role of a theater commander, and the game deliberately puts some limits on your ability to control tactical decisions. You can set the altitude for your combat air patrol and bombers, and you can tell them which airfield or port to attack; on the other hand, you give your CVs only the general order for "naval attack" (though you still can specify particular airfields and ports to strike), and the game determines for you which target they'll attack. You don't micromanage carrier battles the way you would in "Carriers at War" -- at least not as of now. (2by3 has been working on a more "tactical" carrier model for the predecessor game to WITP, "Uncommon Valor," and my guess is that we'll see it introduced into WITP sooner or later. In fact, there's a mysterious announcement about WITP scheduled for around Pearl Harbor day.) To be sure, you make crucial decisions about the missions of your CV airwings, the course of your CVs, the composition of CV task forces, the role of escorts, but the actual combat is resolved after both players have submitted their turns.
What is the single best aspect about WitP?
The rigorous attention to historical detail. After WITP, every other treatment of the Pacific War seems too abstract to me. People who play "Hearts of Iron II" love to boast about the historical accuracy of that game; to me, it's a toy compared to WITP.
What is the single worst aspect about WitP?
The massive time commitment required for PBEM. The AI will give you a good game if you play against it predictably, but sooner or later you hunger for a more cunning opponent. But PBEM takes years. I don't know if UI updates could fix this -- it's inherent in the beast. Even with a streamlined UI, if I play PBEM, you better believe I'll be checking and re-checking the orders I give my most important units. Right now, it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to play a typical PBEM turn. Even with a better UI, I'd still take at least half an hour per turn. That might not sound like much, but when you factor in the delay in the other player's response (especially if not in the same time zone), it can be hard to do more than one or two turns a day. Though some people here seem to do a dozen a day.
Are there any bugs/issues pertaining to WitP that are show stoppers?
Most major bugs have been stomped. A few linger. The most annoying issues I've dealt with are the disappearing-unit bug, which has mostly (entirely?) been fixed; the "leader" bug, which causes mixups with commanding officers, a bug that still lingers but isn't a show-stopper; and the "out of sync PBEM game" bug, which causes the two players to see different combat replays -- there are workarounds for this.
If you had to give a list of 10 pros & 10 cons for WitP what are they?
1. Incredible detail.
2. Massive, mouth-watering game map.
3. Daily control over ship movements -- nothing is abstracted.
4. Gut-wrenching combat animations that have me on the edge of my seat.
5. Painfully difficult decisions for both sides. Where to deploy the IJN strike force? Where should the USA strike back first? How to defend as the UK -- up front, or fall back?
6. A mind-boggling production system (though only for Japan; the USA system is more abstracted). The area of the game that most benefits from UI mods, by the way.
7. Seeing a plan come together after months of real-life and in-game planning. Nothing is sweeter.
8. The educational aspect of this game: I now know more about the Pacific war than most people on the planet -- though still far less than most people here in this forum.
9. A fabulous community here -- my favorite forums on the web. Great bunch of folks. Some of them have a scary depth of knowledge about the war.
10. Some first-rate after-action reports (AARs) in the AAR section. You really should check them out. "Small Ship, Big War" is the tale of WW2 told from the deck of the IJN destroyer Hibiki. "From here it only SEEMS like eternity" is sort of like WITP meets M*A*S*H meets Catch-22. There are some real geniuses in this forum.
1. Length of PBEM games. This isn't exactly a "con"; I'm not sure I'd have it any other way.
2. The AI. It could use some work. But it still entertains me after four years.
3. The UI is functional but not sleek. Too many mouse-clicks sometimes. Information often could be presented in a more comprehensive format -- but mods deal with this to a fair extent.
4. The land combat model kinda stinks. I don't love fighting in China. If your concerned about uncertain game mechanics, this is the area in which such uncertainties are most likely to arise. Remember, though, this is primarily a game about naval/air action. One thing I like about the AI is that it and I tacitly agree to a stalemate in China, and we go about our business fighting with ships and planes and troop-transports instead.
5. I think the game could use stacking limits or penalties for atolls, not to mention aircraft in some cases. House rules can handle this.
6. Personally, I'd like more direct control over tactical carrier ops. Personally, my guess is that this is coming, sooner or later.
7. Seeing a plan fall apart after months of real-life and in-game planning. Nothing is more painful. :)
8. The price is a bit steep, I suppose. Worth it to me.
9. Many other players here are better at using their naval and air assets than I am.
10. I wish there were a greater variety of music, though what there is is quite well done. I turned it off long ago. I probably would turn it off even if there were ten times as many tunes.
Hope this helps. I say go read an AAR or two. Then buy it. :)
"Going slow in the fast direction"