What I love about playing games is not just the entertainment, nor the storytelling or the world-building. It’s the fact that some games give an insight into history.
Recently I’ve learned about the 1980’s Soviet Union and the 1979 revolution in Iran. I’ll admit that the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War wasn’t a subject I knew too much about. But this famous battle between the Union and Confederate forces in 1863 became the big turning point in the war; the beginning of defeat for the Confederates.
It’s that in which you get to lend a hand, playing through battles in Ultimate General: Gettysburg – the latest addition to the sim genre on Xbox.
In the early stages of Ultimate General: Gettysburg you are given a scant amount of options. The place to start is the tutorial, in hope of gathering up the basics of the game. Then you get to relive the timeline of The Battle of Gettysburg over several days, running from the prologue to the finished result. You get to choose which side you are playing too. Being the Union soldiers is a more advanced player experience, but the Confederacy is more suited to a beginner. When you choose one of these sides it takes you through the famous battles across easy, normal, and hard modes.
Recreating these famous moments in history and getting an insight into what actually happened in these battles of the Civil War is a highlight of the game. I was totally engrossed in the narrative before each section and found myself looking up more information about the war after I finished a section. In that regard, the focus on one era and one battle in time is an engrossing concept that works very well.
But gameplay-wise and issues pop. Ultimate General: Gettysburg has the age-old problem of coming from PC to console, losing a mouse in the process. That is no more true than with Ultimate General: Gettysburg’s one big specialty – selecting a group of troops together by drawing a circle around those you need. Drawing a circle with a controller is surprisingly tricky and personally it never got easier the more I played.
And then another aspect which is a bit different is the selection of troops; hold and drag where you want them to go. It can work but I found it not intuitive and at times it grated. If I had a mouse, it would have been a doodle.
Things aren’t helped by the fact that Ultimate General: Gettysburg doesn’t have a huge amount of content. Admittedly, it feels very focused and what it does it does very well, and perhaps that is reflected in the cheap price for an RTS game. Tactically, the game is very clever, working a dynamic AI. But it is where and how you attack and defend which is key to the game mechanics. This is a game that certainly has replayability in hope of increasing your skills. If you’re an RTS fan or lover of war strategy games, you should find a lot to love here in the detail and the way the game plays.
Visually, Ultimate General: Gettysburg has that feel of a map being placed on a table, Generals working out the mechanics of war on it with painted pieces. It looks decent enough with homesteads, elevations and woods to work out your attack. There is a zoom-in and zoom-out of the map but it hasn’t got the huge level of detail needed; far from the capabilities of other competitors in the genre. That said, there is an epic Civil War soundtrack that fits perfectly with the gameplay. The effects all work effectively too.
There’s a high chance that you’ll find the controls of Ultimate General: Gettysburg to be a big issue; one that will affect your enjoyment of the game over its campaign running time. If you can see through that though, then this is a tightly focused game with some brilliant AI and battle tactics to be enjoyed. You’ll also get a good look at a moment in history – it’s with this in which your interest levels may rise.
The price is a good one for a game of this size and Ultimate General: Gettysburg should well appeal to the RTS fans out there. It’s taken long enough to make the move from PC to console, so you may as well give it a shot.