French game developer Monte Cristo Multimedia started back in 1997 with a Stock Market simulator, and continued developing simulators over the next 7 years. But over time, those new simulators moved the player from the boardroom to the battleground, with 2003’s Platoon, followed by 2004’s Desert Rats vs. Afrika Corps, and now D-Day, a World War II strategy game that allows the player to lead the allied forces march to victory.
When I received the assignment of reviewing this game, I did so with a little trepidation, as I had never played a strategy game so firmly based in history and reality. I was also a bit concerned as to how much I would enjoy a game where I already knew a great deal about the expected outcome.
When it comes to game play, D-Day is much like other games of its genre, in that it provides a good measure of reality to the idea of a real-time war simulator. Ordering a platoon of soldiers to rush a fortified machine gun placement might result in your troops taking the position, but not before the enemy has littered the path with the bodies of your troops. Players with a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mentality will not enjoy this game. Stealth and guile are at least as important as firepower, especially in the missions run prior to the invasion of Normandy.
The controls are very easy to understand, but can become a bit clunky when attempting to control a large operation. Fortunately, the developers added a pause feature to allow the player to issue orders to troops without the pressure of having to click on moving targets or during missions with time limits. The zoom control allows the player to view individual units at a very up close level, or all the way up to a full 360 degree field of view.
The commands available to give the units under your command are quite flexible, and the game goes so far as to add life-like special abilities for units such as scouts, snipers, mechanics and medics. These units, while somewhat weak in direct combat are vital to the success of your missions. The realism of the game is also enhanced by the damage the units under your command can do to your own units if used improperly. More than once I made the mistake of letting my infantry charge a position, only to see them accidentally wiped out by the explosion from a shell fired by one of my armored units.
This brings us to the artificial intelligence of the game, which was one of the few areas I found lacking in the product. For as much thought and detail was applied to the game, the fact that most soldiers had difficulty finding a secure path to go from point A to point B was very frustrating. The units themselves seemed to be programmed to find the path of most as opposed to least resistance, unless guided by the player, which was not always possible during a large operation.
One of the games strongest points is its graphics. In my opinion, these more than make up for the AI issues. While many RTS war games put significantly more emphasis on the game play than the graphics, D-Day really provides a solid visual of the action going on in front of you. The explosions seem very realistic, as do the details of the individual units, especially when viewed up close. The only negative I found in regard to the graphics is that from a wide area view, the individual soldiers extremely similar, which makes it difficult to distinguish them from each other for assigning orders. While this adds to the realism of viewing a battlefield from above, some allowances should be made for the ease of game play. The developers perhaps realized this when they added a numbering system that allows units or groups of units to be numbered for quick selection.
While it does not measure up to the graphics, the sound effects are quite good. Unfortunately, I found the theme music and voiceovers to be little better than average. The effort on the voiceovers seemed to be more strongly placed in the capture of sound, rather than voice acting.
I played most of the campaign missions and found the difficulty to be average. The game is frustrating at first as the player learns exactly how difficult it is to pull of a complex assault with groups of units coming from multiple sides of the target. Again, using the pause key is a strong suggestion until the player becomes familiar with the controls, commands, and the strengths of each unit. I had difficulty finding a multiplayer game on the network that I could connect to at a decent rate, but I believe that had more to do with my slow internet connection than the game itself.
As the game progressed, more distinct types of units and vehicles became available. This made sense at first, as there weren’t any American tankes in France prior to the invasion of Normandy, but once the allied forces had established a solid foothold, most hardware and unit options should have been available to the player.
Finally, I found that playing a history based RTS not as daunting of a task as I expected it to be. I had hoped that I would be overwhelmed by the game, starting a new interest in a genre outside of my normal realm of gaming. I think this game will appear to WWII or history buffs, real-time strategy fans, and anyone with a strong patriotic streak.
Despite some quirky AI issues this isn't that bad of a strategy game. It might be worth a pickup if you're looking for strategy game to kill some time with.