Pathway to Glory: Ikusa Islands First Look

We take a look at the second front of WWII and the second installment in Nokia's Pathway to Glory series.

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A turn-based strategy game set in WWII-era Europe, Pathway to Glory made excellent use of the N-Gage hardware, along with Nokia's vaunted N-Gage Arena service. The game's inevitable sequel, Ikusa Islands, takes place on the war's second front--the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Our brief hands-on time with the game suggested that its core gameplay remains the same, although new weapons and soldier types have been added. For instance, there's a new light infantry mortar that lobs projectiles towards enemies in an arc. It's not terribly accurate, but it's quite powerful--plus, you can set it up to fire automatically on defense, sort of like a turret in Starcraft.

The title Ikusa Islands does not refer to some Japanese archipelago rendered obscure by postbellum rezoning. The word "Ikusa," in fact, means a general state of war. This is certainly truth in advertising, as PtGII will feature a single-player campaign of a considerable length, as well as multiplayer confrontation over Bluetooth or N-Gage Arena. You'll again be able to record vocal taunts, which you can send to your enemies. However, a gruff, warlike voice modulator will be available this time around as well. If you don't feel like recording voice messages, you can also resort to a system of quick-access icons to signal your intentions.

Although we didn't notice while crawling through grass and shooting unsuspecting Japanese soldiers, a Nokia representative assured us that players will now have to take their soldiers' psychological health into consideration. A disturbed soldier may refuse to fight, thus requiring several promptings to react to hostile fire. This is an intriguing prospect, and we're curious to see just how it's implemented. Apparently, morale will play a large role in battle, so if things are going poorly, your soldiers will be less apt to attack vigorously. By the same token, Japanese soldiers will be able to sense their lassitude and redouble their efforts to kill you. As they grow in rank and experience, your men will naturally grow more aggressive and skilled, inuring them to battlefield stress.

The game obviously uses its predecessor's graphical engine, but it still looks a good deal better than most N-Gage games, thanks to a consistent style that's reminiscent of Jagged Alliance. Those clamoring for more mournful cello music will be glad to hear that Nokia has delivered just that. There's more than a half-hour of orchestrated music in the new game, as well as a thousand unique voice-acted replies. This huge variety is intended to make each of your soldiers sound that much more unique.

Pathway to Glory has effectively been Nokia's flagship franchise since the game was announced at E3 2003. As a result, a lot of effort has gone toward ensuring this game is both faithful to the events of World War II and a blast to play.

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