18 April 2014

PC Game Review: Team Assault: Baptism of Fire

Curtis Szmania assumes command in this tactical wargame set during World War II in Italy.

Published on 1 MAY 2012 10:33pm by Curtis Szmania
  1. world war ii, tactical, turn-based igougo

INTRODUCTION

The battle for Italy during World War 2 is probably one of the most overlooked theatres of the whole war. A reason for this was the lack of success the Allies saw on the peninsula, so the campaign was gradually overshadowed by other ideas and concerns on other fronts. But this doesn’t mean the men who fought in Italy did so for a lesser cause. Few wargames have ventured into the peninsula, so the ones that do stand out because they represent a unique struggle. The latest 3D turn-based tactical game released by Slitherine and Matrix Games, developed by Zeal, just so happens to focus on this controversial struggle; it’s called Team Assault: Baptism of Fire. Is Team Assault worth your money and does it portray the conflict accurately?

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THE REVIEW

Team Assualt: Baptism of Fire offers both a “Skirmish” mode and a multiplayer mode. It’s a tactical-level game and players command their units at the squad level. To give you an idea of what we’re looking at here, think of Company of Heroes. The game offers a fantastic tutorial—extensive really. It’s in written form and the tutorial “Help” database can be accessed anywhere in-game. Pictures accompany the tutorial to help explain things more clearly. In fact, the tutorial is so detailed; it really leaves nothing to be desired. Here, controls and hotkeys are also explained, in picture form—very helpful. The arsenal of the game is also explained in detail: weapons, outfits, disciplines (traits), gear, and ranks. Every aspect is dissected thoroughly, and statistics are presented for each. The tutorial also touches on the “Force Builder”, which is essentially a squad creator; more on that later. To conclude with the tutorial, there are also four tutorial videos available for viewing.

One can play singleplayer in the “Skirmish” mode. There are only American and German units in the game (although there is a Brazilian Expeditionary unit which is represented as American), and you’ll see famous outfits like Darby’s Rangers or the Devil’s Brigade. You can also pick the map you want to play on, or randomize it. The 10 maps represent the terrain of the Italian country with names such as “Monastery Hill” or “Naples Countryside”. There is also a nifty small map preview in the quick battle setup to give players an idea of what the map looks like. One can also determine the size of their army here, including reinforcements, or if reinforcements should even be allowed. There is an array of game types as well: from controlling certain areas, “Blitzkrieg”, “Death Match”, or “Annihilation”. The time limit for how long the activation time is can also be adjusted, but that’s recommended for multiplayer as it speeds up the pace of the game.

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After one has selected their preferred settings they head on over to the “Reinforcement” screen. Here you can pick the specific squads you want, whether it’s a stealth recon squad, light recon squad, heavy recon squad, a bazooka team, or a sniper team. Each team has its own role, unique weapons, and is a different size. There is a HUD on this screen that helps you decide which squads you want to pick, giving player’s information like the weapons they have, the commander of the squadron, and other interesting facts. One has a certain amount of credits to use, which were decided upon on the setup screen and can be spent to buy the squads.

 After the squads have been picked, it is time to move on to the battle. Now Team Assault is a unique tactical game because it’s turn-based, not real-time. Therefore, not everything is happening at once; it’s a bit slower paced. First, you’ll have to get used to the GUI—like most tactical games. To understand it is vital, and to know what the buttons do will help you in attaining victory. The HUD isn’t perfect however. There are some minor bugs but nothing to get belligerent over—grammar issues like “minelayin” instead of “minelaying”. Most of the action buttons are on the bottom right of the HUD. Here you can assign squads to walk or sprint, fire, use grenades, apply first aid, or take cover. You can also save an action, if you wish to use it at a later time when you think you’ll need it. If one is confused over what these buttons, or anything on the HUD, means then just run the mouse cursor over it. A textbox will pop-up with all the information one needs. The HUD also contains much more information: specifics about weapon accuracy and penetration, weapon recoil and killing ratio, unit morale, and the pinning modifier. Also displayed here is the soldier(s) info you have selected, like their weapon, rank, and name. Every soldier also has their own initiative and movement numbers. So many things are to be considered here as one engages the enemy.

The terrain of the playable maps are less impressive then the modifiers. The graphics and textures of the terrain are of low detail. Not to mention, some terrain features are a bit out of scale, like destroyed tanks and such. There are some shadow and graphic issues on the map, minor glitches if you will. I also saw some texture issues with some of the units, on both the reinforcement screen and the battle map.  The maps aren’t that large either, but they do work in terms of the game’s scale. Although, the smaller the map and area of movement, the more restricted is one’s strategy and tactical approach. At the start one must deploy their squads on the map—as expected. They can only deploy them inside a “deployment box”, which is a bit difficult to find—wish it was more pronounced.

The terrain does have many obstacles though. Burning buildings, field hospitals, tower outposts, half destroyed walls, and trees offer fantastic cover for one’s troops. Team Assault portrays this fantastically, adding to all the other modifiers that the game takes into consideration already. Just running the cursor over objects on the battlefield will display their cover potential.

I found the artificial intelligence of the game to be stubborn. It’s really timid, to say the least; but it’s not afraid to fight when it has to—especially on the defensive. Of course the AI can’t calculate all the things a human brain can in the same amount of time, but it shows signs of enlightenment here and there. Although, I wouldn’t advise someone to just sit around waiting for the enemy to show up, because it will either take a long time or they’ll just never show. So to put it in military terms: don’t expect the AI to act aggressive like Frederick the Great—more like Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim really. Additionally, when squads are in motion they don’t seem to attract the attention of the enemy.

Unfortunately, Team Assault does not offer a campaign. But it does offer multiplayer, which must be the main focus of this game. One can play the skirmish battles (which have the same options as one would play in singleplayer) with one other player, either over LAN or the internet, which can also be password protected.

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Back to that “Force Builder”; it’s an editor that can be launched from within game but it will minimize the game in order to run it. I think this is the best part of the whole game. Players can create squads from scratch here, creating their names, adding a description, and a custom amount of soldiers. The soldiers can be assigned a rank ranging from Private to Major, be given a firearm from a large array of options—ranging from sidearms to heavy machineguns—, and an equipment pack. Equipment packs include medic kits, demolition charges, mine laying gear, and extra munitions. Up to five squads can be produced and each squad can hold up to eight men. These customized squads can then be saved and loaded within the game so they can fight to the death.        

 

IN CONCLUSION

There is no doubt Team Assault: Baptism of Fire is a unique game because of the part of World War 2 it portrays. Does it portray it accurately? I’d say so, although a campaign would have driven this point home. Beyond that and the “Force Builder”, there is nothing really unique about the game. Its graphics are mediocre, playable maps are a little restricted, and it suffers from a few bugs. Why the enemy doesn’t notice it when you assign your men to do something is beyond me, it would be the most important thing to consider in a 3D turn-based tactical wargame. It also lacks a campaign, unfortunately. The creative “Force Builder” is what’s keeping this game afloat for players who wish to play alone. On the other hand, the game is also dynamic in its own way, especially concerning warfare. Many modifiers are kept track of and are displayed for the player to analyze. So as far as that is concerned, it has everything a tactical wargamer would like to see. The “Force Builder” definitely adds replay value, but it’s difficult to say if it will make up for the lack of a campaign.

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The Good: Portrays the forgotten fight for Italy during World War 2, extensive tutorial that is in-game and in “manual-like” form and accompanied by videos, has an adventurous “Force Builder” (squad creator), multiplayer, many modifiers are available that effect gameplay and are displayed in the HUD,

The So-So: Some grammar errors.

The Bad: Lacks a campaign, texture bugs, only ten maps, smaller maps with disproportionately scaled units and objects, graphics and textures are mediocre, AI isn’t hard to overcome.

Does the game have a permanent spot on Curtis’ hard drive?  I’ll say this; if these bugs get addressed and the modding community comes out with some graphic improvements then sure. I’d also be surprised if a campaign can’t be thrown together for this. Otherwise, I’ll give Team Assault just a couple more weeks, of most likely online play, and see if it hits a sweet spot. Don’t get me wrong, I like what it’s about, but it would have been more supreme had they made a story about the campaign for Italy. I do like the effort shown by the developers to aim for that forgotten struggle, as it was a hard fought fight. But the hard-fought fights are always the most enjoyable to play. So perhaps next time they could drive that point home.

 

Review written by: Curtis Szmania, Staff Writer

 

Reviewer’s Specs:

  • AMD Phenom II 955 BE Quad-Core Processor Overclocked @ 3.7Ghz
  • 8GB of DDR3 RAM Overclocked @ 1666 MHz
  • ATI HD 6850 1GB Overclocked @ 1030 MHz GPU and 1175 MHz Memory
  • Windows 7 Ultimate x64