Take Command: 2nd Manassas
(Developer: MadMinute games; Publisher: Paradox Interactive)
Review by John Barratt
The first title in MadMinute's American Civil War RTS tactical-level series; Civil
War Bull Run: Take Command 1861 was very well received by ACW gaming
enthusiasts when it appeared last year. Not having played that game, I came to
its successor completely fresh.
Installation went smoothly and easily.
My review copy had problems in loading its full manual , but it is a tribute to
Manassas's excellent set of tutorials that within a couple of hours I
was into the game, albeit making the same mistakes - getting lost in the woods
etc – which a green brigade commander of 1862 might have done.
The game covers the whole 2nd Manassas campaign, from Cedar Mountain to
Chantilly, as well as 2nd Manassas itself. Each action is represented by
multiple scenarios, both historical and hypothetical, in which the player takes
on the role of Confederate or Federal commanders from brigade to army level.
The first thing to strike one on loading a scenario is the excellence of the
graphics. Even in low resolution these are excellent, whilst at higher
resolution both the terrain and combat units seem at times almost like a Don
Troiani painting come to life. Juggling the camera angle allows the player to
move from a bird's eye view through to a ground level stance behind the firing
line which displays the impact of combat in all its detail.
Almost as impressive are the sound effects. The background music is
unobtrusive, and allows full scope for the wide array of other noises. Not only
is the din of battle, from musket crackle to the terrifying whoosh of shells,
captured effectively, but equally well done are the natural sounds of a hot
June day in Virginia. The tension of awaiting attack or cautiously probing for
an ambush in the hot summer woods, in an ominous silence broken by occasional
bird song or the sound of distant firing catches much of the atmosphere of
Even the effect of combat on the soldiers themselves is captured in a number of
ways. The men of a green unit or one near to breaking will visibly begin to
waver and become disordered, a clear sign for a wise commander to pull them out
of line to recover if time will allow it.
The player interface is both intuitive and well designed. Mousing over the
buttons brings up a concise explanation of their use. The AI provides a
challenging game as an opponent, and also allows the player to decide to what
extent he wishes to micromanage the actions of his troops. Subordinate
commanders left under the control of the AI will tend to react in a similar way
to their actual historical counterparts, whilst "routine" actions, such as
loading and firing by individual units, are handled automatically, leaving the
player free to concentrate on manoeuvres and tactics.
Particularly impressive is the handling of artillery. A player (or the AI) has
a large number of movement and other options for each gun, down to the
selection of the appropriate ammunition type for a particular situation.
As this player soon discovered, it is quite easy to lose one's way on the
battlefield. An excellent feature is the detailed map which can be called up in
each scenario, showing current dispositions of "friendly" forces, and of such
enemy as have been spotted, together with roads, streams and other
topographical features. The player will be issued orders and objectives at
intervals by higher command, and use of the map is essential to ascertain one's
bearings. Also invaluable is an Order of Battle of units under the player's
command, with reports on the current state of each.
Gameplay speed is often a major factor in the success of an RTS product. In Manassas
this is excellent, with troops reacting and moving at a realistic speed, and
rarely too quickly for a player to lose control except in some hectic combat
situations when this would likely happen in reality.
Serious gripes for the reviewer are very few. My only slightly raised eyebrow
came when I noticed limbered up artillery, and infantry formations, moving
through intact rail fences with no apparent delay or obstruction. But this is a
very minor grouse, which has no significant impact on the game as a whole.
This was my first experience of the Take Command ACW series, and I was
most impressed. Any gamer with a serious interest in the American Civil War
will enjoy this game, and equally importantly, gain significant insights into
the realities of Civil War tactical command and combat. As for myself, I'm
putting in an order for the first game in the series, and eagerly looking
forward for the next promised title – Shiloh . I will really get lost
in the woods in that one!
64Mb Direct X9 video card
1.3 HD space
256Mb Direct X9 video card
256 MB Direct X9 video card
Review by John Barratt (firstname.lastname@example.org)