Preview: Making History: The Second World War12 Dec 2017 0
Being a grand strategy title set in WW2, Factus Games’ Making History: The Second World War is often compared to Paradox’s popular Hearts of Iron series despite the fact that the former is turn-based whilst the later is not and the extreme difference in budgets between both companies. A closer counterpart I would say is Battlegoat Studios’ Supreme Ruler 1936 as both are developed by indie studios who’ve dedicated their entire existence so far to a singular series of rather niche strategy titles.
I would say that resource management is what most players will spend the bulk of their time on. Armies need food, fuel and weapons to operate whilst their respective nations require money and raw materials to adequately facilitate them. These resources can be acquired through conquest, trade and developing your nation’s provinces. These are all simple concepts to grasp once you’ve learned how things work but that’s where this title’s first and most glaring issue lies, the UI. For starters provincial upgrades are spread across a litany of tabs and interfaces. Let’s say I want to upgrade a province’s food production. The province’s screen displays the amount of food produced and I can use the same screen to do the upgrades. But if I want to upgrade its coal production I have to turn on a separate map mode right-click on the province select the coal output option and then select the upgrade. This process is the same for every resource.
The bulk of my time in Making History was spent with Mussolini's Kingdom of Italy. Due to this I got to jump right against Ethiopia/Abyssinia. Sadly combat was somewhat of a disappointment for me. I genuinely can’t tell whether or not it’s extremely simple or if I’ve somehow overlooked a crucial mechanic or screen. Each division have stats determining their offensive and defensive capabilities along with things like air defense and so on. When divisions from two or more nations a war find themselves occupying the same province a battle will commence. There stats are paired up against each other whoever’s stats are the highest will be declared winner. Things like air support and artillery contribute but at the end of the day it seems to just come down to who’s number is bigger. In this respect Making History: The Second World War feels more like a digital risk than a full fledged game.
For better or for worse game’s like this, Supreme Ruler and Hearts of Iron often feel like algebra equations where you basically have to arrange numbers in a certain order ensure your victory. But the way you dress those number can seriously benefit or detract from player experience. Adding effects like pincer attacks, commander abilities and so on make it feel more like you’re fighting an actual war than just shuffling stacks around. But once again we run into my problem with the UI. Perhaps effects like those do matter, I can’t tell because the game doesn’t display that information freely to me. I’m also utterly baffled by the supply model. Does a provinces infrastructure limit the amount of forces I can place there? Or simply effect the speed at which forces can travel through it? In my experience it seemed like there no limit and I could steamroll through enemy forces using doom stacks.
If it sounds like I despise Making History: The Second World War’s combat, I can assure you I don’t. The way it is presented is where my main qualms lie. The game’s AI does an admirable job presenting itself as a competent opponent and it never did anything stupid enough to pull me out of the experience. I was was glad to see that Factus have since added convoys in-game, which were not present in some of their older titles. This means that raiding enemy convoys is now a viable strategy in denying them resources.
Steam Early Access has gained a reputation in some circles as a place full of poorly optimized games that run more on promises than decent programming and game design. I’m happy to report that I never experienced a crash during my time with Making History, nor any lag or freeze ups which is remarkable considering the game’s scale. In the visual department Making History: The Second World War, whilst not being the prettiest of games, more than gets the job done. I’ve already harped on about the UI so I’ll refrain from repeating myself but I was very pleased with the fact that many nations, including minor ones, have their own unique unit models. The sound design could do with some work however, small things like sounds effects for movement orders or combat go a long way the helping with player immersion. Lastly I had a persistent issue with text blurring and artefacting however I’ve not seen many other people make complaints of this sort it could be something to do with my setup.
Overall Making History: The Second World War is not a title I can recommend at this stage of Early Access. It’s UI and the way it presents information can be beyond frustrating at times. Were it on par in terms of depth with the likes or Paradox or AGEOD titles I might be able to give it a pass. But the amount of work required to learn it’s simple mechanics is in my opinion currently not worth the reward.
I fear Factus Games are falling into the same hole as Battlegoat Studios who I mentioned above. Almost all of their titles have received complaints regarding opaque systems and UI yet there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of improvement in last ten years. For Battlegoat this has resulted in the Supreme Ruler series relying almost solely on a ever dwindling fanbase who’ve come to accept the series’ many issues as a constant that will forever remain. Whilst newcomers usually rebound of the games hard and don’t stick around to get comfortable.I sincerely hope my issue with Making History: The Second World War are fixed or I fear Factus will end up suffering the same fate.
Making History: The Second World War entered Steam Early Access on October 13th, 2017. Since then, it has had five updates, although the original estimate was that it would be released after "about a month". A concrete 1.0 release date is not available at time of writing.