America is a Wild West-themed real-time strategy game from German developer Data Becker. Although the setting of the game is distinctive, and some of the specific mechanics of play are fairly interesting, there is actually very little in America that isn't taken straight from other older, better real-time strategy games. More specifically, America is a plainly obvious attempt at borrowing the successful elements of the popular historical-themed game Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. Unfortunately for America, its attempts to replicate the graphics, sound, gameplay, and balance of Ensemble Studios' excellent strategy game simply don't add up.
America isn't much of a history lesson. It lets you play as four different factions: settlers, outlaws, Mexicans, and Native Americans. As in any typical 2D real-time strategy game, each of these factions has some superficial and strategic differences and otherwise a lot in common. The game follows the exact same pattern that's typical of the genre: You must use your workers to build a resource-gathering infrastructure, gather a sufficient amount of these resources while expanding your territory, and then build up a force of armed troops with whom you eliminate the opposition. The pacing of the game is slow in the extensive resource-gathering phase and often much too fast once combat ensues. Generally, the battles are won by whoever manages to bring along the most troops.
It's easy to compare America with Age of Empires II because America initially looks so much like Ensemble's game. The isometric perspective, the earthy color scheme, and the tiny units are all very similar. However, America's graphics lack a lot of the detail and polish of those in Age of Empires II--the various units and structures can be very difficult to distinguish from one another. Yet while America doesn't look very interesting, it doesn't really look bad--but it certainly sounds bad. Each unit in the game has its own grating, repetitive catchphrase. These are often predictable and silly--the cowboys all say, "Hold your horses, man!" Also, in the single-player campaign, each mission opens with a long-winded spoken monologue that's delivered in what's meant to be that particular faction's dialect. The accents are so badly affected that it becomes impossible to take the game seriously. As in Age of Empires II, the game's soundtrack relies heavily on percussion and woodwind instruments, and as such it isn't nearly as bad as the speech.
The game offers a four-mission tutorial, plus four fairly short but generally very difficult single-player campaigns for each of the four respective sides. There's a skirmish mode, a multiplayer mode, and a fair number of maps to choose from for these. You can toggle the difficulty level of the computer opponent, which explicitly seems to determine how aggressively the computer will build up its forces. America even has a few extra frills, including prerendered cinematic sequences in the campaigns. During the game, you have some convenient gameplay options that are lifted straight out of Age of Empires II, such as the ability to queue production of units and research, to highlight idle worker units, and to set formations. Of course, these options are only noteworthy because they're typically omitted in most second-rate real-time strategy games.
Some of the gameplay elements in America are promising. You can produce livestock for food and money as well as horses for your troops and for your wagon transports. Your units have morale (which simply affects their combat skills) and can become stronger as they gain experience in battle. Some of your units can mount horses at will, which typically makes them more effective in battle. If your units are killed anyway, enemy forces may steal their mounts for their own. The game's main resources include food, wood, gold, and guns. The first three are gathered like in Age of Empires II--basically you get them out in the wilderness--while guns must be manufactured, bought, or stolen. The settlers and the Mexicans later gain access to cannons. Native American warriors can swim. The outlaws excel at thievery and also produce food in a most unorthodox fashion: at distilleries. As the manual points out, "these tough guys live primarily on liquor." This may be funny, but it doesn't say much in favor of the game's attempts at real-world authenticity.
Otherwise, there's really not much else to say in favor of any particular aspect of the game. It has some technical problems and doesn't run smoothly on midrange systems. The campaign missions do have changing objectives, but they're typically very straightforward and will be overwhelming for inexperienced players. The multiplayer mode isn't much fun; there isn't a lot of variety and you always have to start from the ground up. The game's graphics are uninspired and the sound is awful, and those elements in the gameplay that are subtly different from those in other real-time strategy games won't be noticeable to any but the most experienced real-time strategy players. But regardless of how much experience you have with games of this type, you'll probably be disappointed with America. It's too hard to play if you're relatively new to the genre, either because the missions themselves are too tough or because all the graphics are too similar. On the other hand, if you've already played and enjoyed similar games, then you'll find that America offers very little to draw your attention away from any of these.