This is a complex, complicated turn-based wargame featuring literally hundreds of authentic modern military units, as well as a big campaign, dozens of stand-alone scenarios, and a budget price.
- Deep, complex turn-based gameplay
- Hundreds of different units, nearly 100 different missions
- Clean, relatively intuitive interface
- Budget price.
- Relatively steep learning curve
- Bare-bones presentation.
At last, the wait is finally over! But, seriously. You can tell just from the title that Dai Senryaku VII: Modern Military Tactics isn't exactly aiming to be the game to cause the nation's Xbox owners to shelve their copies of Halo 2. This is a complex, complicated turn-based wargame featuring literally hundreds of authentic modern military units, as well as a big campaign, dozens of stand-alone scenarios, and a full-fledged map editor. And, for good measure, the game features a budget price. So, for what it is, Dai Senryaku VII absolutely delivers. The fact that this is the seventh installment of a long-running series of such games is evident from the quality of the design, which actually makes such a deep strategic experience relatively easy to get into.
Note the operating word there is "relatively." Dai Senryaku VII is actually quite slick and streamlined for a wargame, but it'll likely be daunting on first impression, even if you consider yourself a fan of strategy games. That's because of the sheer breadth of content it has to offer. Fortunately, a 50-page manual, a meticulous step-by-step tutorial, and a campaign that starts off nice and simple should help you get over the learning curve fairly quickly. Dai Senryaku VII is comparable to various wargames for the PC, but comparisons will sooner be drawn to the outstanding Advance Wars games for the Game Boy Advance, which succeeded at distilling turn-based strategy to its purest, most entertaining form. This is definitely a similar experience, though it's a lot more complicated than Advance Wars and lacks the charm and character of that series. Nevertheless, if you're up for marshaling vast armies of infantry, tanks, artillery, aircraft, ships, and more, as well as using these units to sweep across vast tactical maps to outsmart and outmaneuver your enemy, this is your game.
Combat is the focus of Dai Senryaku VII, and it's actually pretty intuitive. You'll take on from one to three different opponents on a given map, and you'll easily be able to distinguish between them based on their colors. You'll win or lose on account of your military units. Most units actually represent a group. For example, that little tank icon might actually represent a column of 10 tanks. When it's your turn to move, you can order each of your units, one at a time, in any order. Units have different ratings for mobility, and some have an easier or harder time moving across different types of terrain. Most units can move and attack in a single turn, so you'll typically want to approach enemy units and then open fire. You'll see a quick, simple animation of the attack where the attacker strikes first, damage is dealt, and remaining enemy subunits will typically retaliate. It's certainly possible for an attack to backfire, such as if you send some recon vehicles head-on against a tank column. However, it's also possible to strategically overcome superior odds by hitting your foe from the flanks or by softening him up with long-range artillery fire.
There are plenty of other factors to consider, which combine to make the gameplay interesting and sophisticated, though complicated. There are nearly two dozen different types of terrain, many of which can provide units with various degrees of cover against attacks. For example, an infantry squad holed up in a dense forest can be very difficult for most foes to flush out. Most every type of unit packs multiple weapons, too. You wouldn't expect that infantry squad to be effective against some attack helicopters, but infantry can pack surface-to-air missiles, in addition to rifles. However, each weapon has limited ammunition, so the infantry had better make its SAM shot count. You'll need to keep an eye on your units' fuel reserves, too. A support truck can resupply fuel and ammunition out in the field, or units can retreat to a friendly occupied city to replenish their fuel and ammo, as well as their numbers. A unit's facing is also an important factor. Most tanks' armor tends to be much weaker on the sides and in the back, so a well-orchestrated flanking maneuver can be used to inflict heavy damage while sustaining minimal casualties. About the only thing you won't need to worry about is the weather, which is constant and has no impact on battle.
Action occurs at all altitudes. While jets dogfight high in the sky, submarines hunt one another under the sea. Helicopters can hover just above ground level, while aircraft carriers support ground forces from the coast. All this obviously makes for plenty to think about, but sure enough, there's still more. Some scenarios present you with tactical challenges that must be accomplished using the forces you start with, but other scenarios let you build units from special structures. You'll need to use infantry squads or infantry transports to occupy neutral or enemy-controlled buildings on the map, which will give you additional resources each turn and which will also let you build various units in some cases (for instance, to build ships, you'll need to occupy a port). You'll also always need to protect your headquarters, which, if occupied by the enemy, results in an automatic defeat. There's more to battling than just cranking out new units, since units gain experience as they fight, and higher-level units are noticeably tougher and deadlier than green ones. The icing on the cake to all this is a fog of war, requiring you to use scouting units (from recon jeeps to high-flying radar-equipped airplanes) to sniff out enemy positions so that you don't blindly run into them.