I played Ultimate General: Gettysburg on a friends system back in 2014. I thought it was OK but that it lacked something that made me want to play it again so I never bought it. It was very popular though and so I watched the news of a new game with baited breath.
Now whilst I am not an RTS expert, I have played a lot of Total War, StarCraft 2, Civilisation 3,4,5 and Beyond Earth so I really like the genre, I am just not good at this type of game so often only put a few hours in at a time before I am back to shooting things.
Ultimate General Civil War was different. Back at my friend’s house I spent the entire evening gripped by the game. I had no idea they had returned from their evening out. I said the children hadn’t woken or been a bother but I am not sure if I would have noticed. He and his wife went to bed and I stayed up, playing. This one session lasted from 7:30 pm until 3 am, this game is great.
So rather than saying this is just a sequel to Gettysburg I will say that what game labs have done is take the success and everything they learned from that title and used it as the foundation to build a bigger, better and far more interesting version of essentially the same game as before. Whilst Gettysburg was an interesting battle linked by some events Civil War is a recreation of the entire American Civil War.
During the conflict, seven Southern states individually declared their secession from the U.S and formed the Confederate States of America. Then in April 1861, the Confederates attacked the US fortress of Fort Sumter in South Carolina. This lead to the Confederate States of America eventually becoming 11 states in the South with the Union in the North. The War ended after 4 bloody years in the Spring of 1865 with estimates of between 620,000 and 750,000 people dying. This is more loss of American life than in WW1 and WW2 combined!
So history out of the way and you can play as either the Confederate Army or the Union Army, meaning you can win battles that were lost and lose battles that were won, however, the campaign is held together very well and if I was forced to draw a comparison I would say that Total War comes closest to troop movement, however, Ultimate Generals movement actually feels a lot better.
Troop selection is simple and it feels like it’s easy to keep a front line held together. Bringing troops forwards and backward, using the terrain to an advantage and resupplying your troops with the caravan feels very intuitive. I particularly like the fact that you can trace a route with your mouse and the unit or units will follow it precisely making flanking as simple as clicking and dragging.
Playing a battle is very simple. You do not create fighting units or manage anything in Civil War, instead, you start each battle with the historically accurate amount of troops in a roughly similar situation to that faced by the real armies so you don’t have to worry about production queues or research.
That makes sense, however, during the campaign you also do not have to worry about production queues or research. You control a single army, but as I previously stated, you can win a battle that was lost so I think it would have been good to be able to manage your finances and areas controlled in more detail. If you win a battle you do earn money and prestige which you can spend on replenishing your troops or choosing the different types of rifles and artillery, you can also choose the army composition, however, it’s a very basic management aspect that I think the game needs.
The campaign then is not as complex as it could be which has its good and bad points, you select a battle from the map and away you go. The larger battles are immensely time consuming, I was in one battle for over an hour without even realizing. You will have a lot of “damn my coffees cold” moments as you lose track of yourself so I am not saying the game isn’t deep, it’s just that it could be.
I became to lament the loss of some troops. If I bought them nice new guns because they had done well in a previous battle and they got decimated I would be genuinely annoyed that I didn’t send some other cannon fodder into the breach.
The maps are beautiful, they are hand drawn and everything is a lot more refined than the previous title. Cover and elevation work properly and issuing commands are simple and satisfying. You feel like you are in control of the army and when the shit hits the fan you don’t feel an urgent rush to stop everything going wrong, you can counter an attack with a few simple troop movements and start your own flank. Leaving troops defending a town while you maneuver around a hill to flank is very satisfying.
It’s not perfect, the camera is a bit iffy sometimes, you cannot zoom in enough and you can miss things, the fog of war is annoying too, you should be able to see someone on a hill from a few feet away and I wish the units turn rate was higher but minor issues aside the fact is, your battle line will rarely break, you can attack, be attacked and counter attack whilst your line stays solid. This means there is a massive amount of free flow in each battle and I was very impressed by the way this had me thinking constantly about how best to get to the side or rear of the enemy line.
I wasn’t expecting so much from such a small development team. I knew I would compare this game to Total War, I felt that Creative Assembly made the best war games, I didn’t think Game-Labs had the stones to pull this off, however, they have and what a game it is.
I really thought this was going to be about half of a Total War game, instead, it’s a full Ultimate General game and Creative Assembly could learn a thing or two. OK, there is no grand strategic map to manage, however, you won’t care, and you will soon forget your last love as you stare deeply into the blood soaked eyes of your new love.
Ultimate General Civil War is still in early access so once the game is released I will write another review however, I cannot wait until release to tell you about it. Go now, buy a copy, kill some enemies, and laugh at how you once like to manage a map.