Actually, I don't think Road to Moscow looked all that great. I had a very early beta.
You might enjoy this then - I wrote this "review" about a year ago
- - -
As some of you might know I was recently offered the beta 1.10 version of
this Loch Ness monster of wargaming. I promised a review so here goes :
Game Concept :
Detailed geographical map of Europe where units of Brigade/Div/Army level
move and fight - all in real-time. You, as supreme commander literally
"draw" up the battle plan(s) which get executed by your AI commanders
whom you can shuffle around. A very detailed OOB + TOE and a nice choice
of scenario's complete the package.
Concept execution and detail :
The most interesting concept is the drawing board - you literally select
a portion of the battle field - which gets copied to the drawing screen
where you "draw" up a battle plan. You can set primary and secondary
objectives and tell your units where to move to. You then approve the
"plan" which gets executed by the AI.
This all sounds pretty nifty - though we could do without the separate
drawing board - the problem is : it doesn't work.
The reason it doesn't is because you can draw up a plan that looks good
on paper only to have it botched up by the incompetent own unit AI -
sounds like real life (tm) you'd think - not really - especially playing
as the Germans you'd expect the battlefield commanders to be smarter than
the guy sitting in Berlin but they aren't and that's where frustration
sets in because you lack the means to control the action.
Example : let's suppose you spot a Russian infantry army with their left
flank secured by mountains/rough and a refused - but open - right flank.
Let's say you have a German inf div, a mountain div and a panzer div at
your disposal - what plan do you come up with ? I want the inf div to
move up, make contact, make probing attacks but nothing serious and act
as a screen for the panzer division to swing behind and move behind the
Ruskies right flank while the mountain div infiltrates their supposedly
secure left flank. A minimum amount of coordination should ensure succes
in rounding up the Russians. Let's say you draw up this fail-safe plan in
RtM, you sit back smugly and watch it all go terribly wrong as soon as
you turn things over to the AI. The inf div will slam hard into the
prepared Russian positions and take numerous casualties, the mountain
unit will get lost in the mountains and the panzer division will arive in
the Russians rear and decide to await further orders amidst the Russian
rear echelon units.
So where did it go wrong ?
Well, for one thing this game oozes ambition - the entire Russian front -
in realtime - in 1997-1999 on pentium 2/300 machines with 1 MB graphic
cards .. Technically it couldn't have worked on the machines available
back then - my 2.8 gig / GeForce 4 machine has barely enough horsepower
to run it. No wonder it was reported to run in sub-realtime with every 5
minutes of game time taking 15 minutes of computer time - this would mean
a 12 year continuous runtime for the entire campaign. Madness.
The concept of "drawing" up a masterplan sounds good on paper - but the
own unit AI is so incompetent in carrying out your plan that this game
really needs more player control over the battlefield - there isn't,
resulting in player frustration. You feel like the guy sitting in his
Berlin bunker in 1945 moving around armies and nothing happens the way he
The reason it survived so long as a "game in progress" - and a financial
sink-hole - is that if you look at a screenshot and read the manual /
concept docs the shear ambition takes your breath away. On paper it's the
game I want to play. It's a game practically all grognards would want to
play so it got financed way too long because it's so beautiful in concept
people wanted it to work despite the technical and conceptual hurdles.
Could it have worked ?
Well, if they had limited the game to let's say a "Kanev Bridge", added
more own-unit controll and had put a lot more effort in the AI they could
have ended up with an "Airborne Assault". And this is really the point I
wanted to make : the RtM game concept is - apart from the over-ambitious
scope - virtually identical to the Airborne Assault series games. RtM is
dead and buried, but if you really want to see that inf div make a
probing attack to fix the Russians in place, the mountain div sneaking up
on them while the Panzer div swings into their rear you'll have to wait
till the guys at Panther Games turn east.
- - - -
Arjuna doesn't know it, but each of my posts contains a sublimal "barbarossa" message - my way of trying to influence his decisions :)