There is nothing terribly spectacular about Civil War Generals 2, the latest wargame from Impressions and Sierra. It doesn't offer eye-popping graphics or any true innovations in gameplay. This is simply a solid, enjoyable, and challenging turn-based wargame set in the Civil War.
Unlike its predecessor, Robert E. Lee: Civil War General, CWG2 lets you play either side of the conflict. You also have the option of fighting in the Eastern or Western theaters, through 46 historical scenarios covering such engagements as Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chickamauga. The game includes a whopping 17 campaigns - including one very impressive option to play out the entire war in both theaters. A vast throng of alternative scenarios is also included, and these come into play during campaigns whenever you change the course of history. All totaled, CWG2 packs in over 200 predesigned scenarios - surely enough to keep most Civil War buffs happy (or at least busy) for a long, long time. But if that isn't enough, you can whip up a few of your own with the game's editor. This fairly intuitive tool lets you customize existing scenarios and even sculpt an entire battlefield from scratch, placing all troops, terrain, and resupply points. When it gets to the actual gameplay, CWG2 is practically identical to Robert E. Lee: Civil War General. Game maps are set up on a hex grid, with decent terrain art and less-than-spectacular unit art. Actually, the unit art could stand some serious improvement. For one thing, I can't figure why the developers didn't take the time to include mirror images of each unit, so that they could at least change their facing from left to right (and vice versa). Many times, Union and Confederate forces meet on the field of battle with their backs turned.
The AI ranges from decent to devious and can be quite challenging on the hardest level. The game's victory conditions, however, are problematic. One scenario I played (Murfreesboro) was designed to run 81 turns. Even though I managed to drive the entire Confederate force into a general retreat by turn 20, and had occupied all of the objectives and all three enemy resupply points, the scenario kept going until I obliterated every single Confederate unit (turn 44). Not only was this frustrating, but it was sort of disturbing, too (being forced to slaughter routed troops can be rather distasteful). A "declare victory" feature, a la Sid Meier's Gettysburg!, would be a huge improvement here. Also, the game ran slowly in spots. This is particularly noticeable whenever the AI move is being calculated, but also pops up between scenarios, as the computer tries to figure out which way the campaign should branch.
Still, CWG2 can be a lot of fun. Some features, including the detailed battle summaries and hospital reports, are very well done. I also loved the between-battles weapon upgrades. Similar to Panzer General and its many siblings, CWG2 lets you upgrade each of your troops after each battle of a campaign. You can't purchase more troops, but you can load up on Napoleons and Parrott guns.
Even though the initial release of CWG2 was plagued by bugs and crashes, the 1.0.1 patch seems to fix these problems. After I applied the patch, the game behaved itself and was stable in both single- and multiplayer modes. Multiplayer CWG2 is available for two players over modem, serial, and IPX links. Internet support for the game is available on Sierra's free online gaming server (SIGS). Also, you can do it the old-fashioned way via hot-seat and play-by-e-mail games.
The final word on Civil War Generals 2? If you're a wargame or Civil War enthusiast looking for an extensive list of scenarios to keep you occupied for a while, this is definitely the game for you. The full war campaign alone makes this game worth trying. Just don't expect to be floored: It's a good game, but not a great one.