Those with a passion for ‘living history’ need not settle for the confines of books and quarterly articles. An ever-increasing and expanding way to appreciate history is through gaming. Not only can historical games be both entertaining and instructive, but they often can open your eyes to other perspectives as well as help you explore that vexing question that arises so often in debates about history; “what if?”
Civil War Generals 2
A Review by Mr. Keith Randal
Have you ever wondered how Gettysburg would have turned out differently if Ewell had been able to muster a decisive attack on Cemetery Hill? Or whether the Army of Northern Virginia could have been cornered and destroyed at Antietam? There is a wonderful game for the PC that allows you to answer these key questions, and countless others as you step into the boots of the most notorious generals of the American Civil War.
Today I have the privilege of talking about an all-time classic, Civil War Generals 2: Lee and Grant. Released back in 1997, CWG2 is regarded by most to be the greatest Civil War video game of all time. Indeed, there has never been another major ‘turn-based’ strategy game of the genre released because, quite frankly, CWG2 perfected it.
In the post-Starcraft era ‘real-time’ strategy games reward mouse-speed, lightning reflexes, and the patience required to endure getting smashed by 12 year olds talking smack in multiplayer. That is why it is so refreshing to take a quiet step back toward old school turn-based games. Prudent strategy and historical expertise take precedence over actions-per-minute. The structure of CWG2 is a descendent of ancient hexagonal strategy board games, offering easy to understand gameplay and interface. You can take command of either Union or Confederate forces in over a hundred battles. Fight entire campaigns, from Jackson in the Valley to Sherman’s march on Atlanta, with your army changing and evolving as your troops become battle-hardened and acquire new equipment. The armies are faithfully reproduced all the way down to the regimental level and feature all the colonels and brigadiers from history. This game will allow you to “get to know” the armies in a way far richer than merely reading about them will provide. In addition to the typical infantry, cavalry, and artillery you’ll employ field engineers, scouts, and special units of sharpshooters.
As every good armchair general knows, victory on the battlefield rests on understanding its terrain. CWG2 reproduces battlefields to an insane amount of detail, as every fencepost, stream, knoll, and railroad cut is there for the fighting. CWG2 provides you with an interactive topographical exploration of the battlefields, and due to the game you will have a far deeper understanding of how the terrain dictated and determined the outcomes of the battles. The Fog of War is in full effect, and you never really know what lies in the depths of the woods on that far ridge….
The graphics, though primitive by today’s standards, are great for the game’s key concept. The sound is a delight as the chaos of battle is paired historical tunes from the era. Gameplay is a cinch, and after a brief tutorial you’ll be charging Marye’s Heights in no time (or not). Perhaps the best aspect of the game is the level of complexity goes as deep as you want. Indulge yourself with innumerable statistics and data concerning troops, commanders, and weapons. If you want to keep it simple, merely track the ‘firepower’ factor of units to know how much punishment they can dish or take.
If you’re after something flashy and fast in gaming, then this is not what you’re looking for. But if you want a true strategy game, that can teach even old civil war buffs a couple new things, then this the game for you.
Historical Accuracy: 5
Replay Value: 4
What Birmingham, AL and The Altamont School looked like during the Civil War.