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‘Napoleon`s Campaigns’ Review

21 Apr 2008  by   Paul Younger

‘Napoleon’s Campaigns’ is a lovingly recreated snapshot of the battles of one of France’s best“It’s all wood panelling, olde-world script, pen and ink, cutlasses and globes”loved historical figures, where determine the outcome. If that doesn’t make you want to play it, then I can’t think of anything else that will, because if you aren’t a history nut or already addicted to turn based strategy games then you may need to look elsewhere.

The look and feel of this game is really well put together. It’s all wood panelling, olde-world script, pen and ink, cutlasses and globes in the décor. There’s even an analogue clock face in the game itself to let you know that you should have gone to bed two hours ago without disrupting the stylings of the game.

This attention to detail is phenomenal, and extends into drilling down to inspect officers, uniforms and troop formations. It is this level of detail however, that ruined the game for me. I haven’t played any other games of this ilk recently and I was left feeling like an outsider trying to join a clique. Unwanted, mocked and generally feeling a bit stupid.

I did work through the 3 far-too-quick tutorials, and their painful translations, and thus learnt to move some troops around, bunch them together and split them apart, and engage in a fight.
However, I was referred to a manual, sadly lacking in my review copy of the game, for more information so often that perhaps I’d feel entirely different if I’d had a copy of this. I doubt it though.

Having completed the tutorials I was left to my own devices to work out what the remaining 95% of the on-screen information was referring to. Slowly I spotted various little details and started to put two and two together, though I probably made fifty-six in the process several times.

In case I’m starting to sound self-pitying, let me explain a little about the interface. Mostly“Forests, marshes, rivers etc. It’s pretty, it’s just not helpful”made up of the map, the crucial bits of info are the different areas and the troops in them. Rather than having this information clearly available to me however, I’m given beautifully rendered maps complete with detailing regarding forests, marshes, rivers etc. It’s pretty, it’s just not helpful.

There’s no differentiation between key information and random figures about numbers of troops, amount of money, hide values and other scores, ratings or totals. The expert gamer may well take all of these values into play and spend their time calculating the best strategy given all this information, but as a novice I wanted some key info jumping off the screen at me that let me make a quick decision or two and see what happened. This is not a strategy that will work with this game.

I’m convinced that a veteran player of these games must struggle with parts as well, however, since there are some obvious flaws in the layout of the game even when you know what you’re looking for. A large area above the map is dedicated to displaying an iconic image depending on the terrain, which could easily be replaced by a small tool-tip hint and just looking at the map.

Conversely, the various stats and so on I mentioned above are all written in tiny writing in sub-windows that you have to enable and disable or large tool-tip hints that cover the map right where you’re trying to look, and it would seem obvious to have this information show in a persistent area, out of the way, that just automatically updated when you selected something different. But then, I’m not a game designer, so what do I know?!

Despite all of the above, I do get the feeling that if I was inclined to spend hours and hours“It is incredibly immersive, and offers the chance to play as either side in the battle”learning the game, the way it works, the difference all the stats make and understanding what has happened each round then I could actually get to like the game. It is incredibly immersive, and offers the chance to play as either side in the battle, meaning you could prove yourself the victor whichever side you chose and feel very clever. I just don’t have the inclination to dedicate that much time before I start enjoying myself. Learning delayed gratification is supposed to be a virtue, but I’m sorry that’s just not one that I have and I don’t play computer games to be virtuous.

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