Civil War Generals 2 Retro Review

By Jean Marciniak 07 Jan 2014 1

So finally I decided to review what I believe is the best Civil War strategy game ever made. Now this is a lot to live up to, but when it comes time for me to play a real Civil War strategy game I can?t think of anything better. Now yes, there are many other great games out there that come close to being the best, but they?re just not there yet.

Now let me tell you what I look for in a Civil War game before we dive into why it?s the best. I look for 3 key aspects in a civil war game.


1.    Intuitiveness

Every game should be intuitive. The learning curve to any game should be a matter of minutes not hours. In Civil War Generals 2 movement and combat is insanely easy to master. Right click to select a unit, left click to tell them where to go or who to attack.


2.    Simple, realistic gameplay

Now this is important. A Civil War game needs to appeal to 2 audiences - hardcore fans and casual gamers. Appealing to just 1 won?t make your game as successful. So for example let?s say you?re a developer and you make a game designed for the hardcore gamer. You add in all these numerical figures to represent every facet of a unit?s condition. What you?ll end up doing is repelling casual gamers, who just wanted to play a cool Civil War game. These are people who don't want to spend an hour making 1 turn. They want the game done in an hour. But if you make your game too simple many hardcore gamers will avoid it like the plague. They?ll consider it too childlike for it to be a real strategy game.

So you need to strike a balance between the two. Civil War Generals 2 did just that. The game is dead center. Simple enough for a casual gamer to jump right in and get a quick idea of how units work and go right into battle. And it was complex enough for a hardcore gamer to dive in and play with all the particulars like movement points, rifle quality, terrain effectiveness, etc. Civil War Generals 2 brought two categories of gamers together, which only few games have achieved.


3.    Immersion

This is important because it?s a balancing act. You need to put players in the boots of Lee or Grant, but not penalize them with gameplay limitations which many developers call a ?feature?. What I mean by this is some games give you control of all your army units, but randomize which ones you can control at any one time. They do this to simulate the effect of war. So if you?re out defending Cemetery Ridge with a brigade, and your lines are about to break, you decide to send some nearby units in to help - but unfortunately due to the games ?feature? the computer doesn't let you use them. You have to wait and hope the computer allows you to use them. But by the time your able to your lines have just broke and everything has fallen apart. Many Civil War games do this and it always drives me nuts. It?s a game. It doesn't have to be 100% realistic. People don't play games because they?re 100% realistic, they play them because their fun.

So that explained let?s dive in and see what I think Civil War Generals 2 did right and what it did wrong.




This game was very simple to jump right in and play. The learning curve of playing this game was down to minutes. You can be a newbie, start the game, and within 15 minutes be attacking Confederate positions with your troops.


Immersive & simple

Now this game isn't a Total War game where you will see a line of soldiers get mowed down by grapeshot, but it does put you in the boots of a Civil War General. You get access to all your units anytime, and you can move them anywhere you want them. This results in unlimited strategies you can devise.

What I also love about this game is the simple unit values it employs. Health, Organization & Morale. They?re all metered, green or red, so you don?t have to deal with all those numerical figures to find out if you should attack the enemy. Impression Games ? Kept It Simple.


It was made to be a game

Civil War Generals 2 did something differently to the way that most strategy games do. They don?t penalize you for playing the game. I mentioned this before. Historical Strategy games need to focus on being fun rather than being 100% historically accurate. I never had to deal with gameplay ?features? that forbid me from using a unit because it?s trying to simulate historical accuracy.


Combat is simple & awesome

Many games try to perfect tactical combat, so they try a variety of ways to go about it. Most of which turn out real crappy. Civil War Generals 2 decided to keep it simple. Left Click on your unit and right click on a unit you want it to attack. Simple. And after the attack it breaks down how many troops you and the enemy lost. Again, simple.


Great Map

I can?t begin to tell you how much I love this map. Yes its old and pixelated. Yes there are games out there with maps that are eye candy. But one thing the Civil War Generals 2 map has the others don?t - simplicity. I can tell exactly what terrain my unit is on in the blink of an eye. I don't have to zoom in or out, I don't have to move the camera around to get a better angle, I don't have to do none of that. It?s easy to figure out where I should position my units and where to attack.


Not overwhelming!

I played many Civil War strategy games and many of them OVERWHELM me with the amount of units. I can?t begin to tell you the amount of times I literally had to pause the game because I can?t keep up with the dozens of units I have to issue orders to. One good example is Forge of Freedom. When you go into tactical mode and have 120,000 troops on the screen it becomes a nightmare. First I try to sort them, but you don't have too much time to do this as the enemy is advancing. So eventually you decide just to throw whatever units you have at them and forget about organization. In Civil War Generals 2 it?s a bit easier to organize units for 3 reasons:

1.    The zoom in Civil War Generals 2 is basically perfect to get an eagle eye view of all your units? so it?s easy to sort them out.

2.    It?s easier to read the map, units and you?re not constrained by where you can move a unit.

3.    The mini map is easy to read and understand. (A good mini map goes a long way)



No unit identification on unit icon

I would have liked to see a feature where I could easily and visually identify units rather than clicking on them to see what division they belong to. Forge of Freedom did this, which helped in Identifying and organizing brigades.


Overall I tried to find more Cons for this game, because there has to be more than 1, but alas I wasn't able to. I really couldn't find anything that made me annoyed or unhappy with this game (I didn't list the graphics because this is a 90?s game, can?t fault them for that). To me it fulfills all the requirements I want out of a Civil War game. From intuitive controls, a quick learning curve, full command of all my units, and a gameplay map that?s easy to understand.



Sandbox mode

I really wished Civil War Generals 2 came out with a sandbox mode where it combined strategic and tactical gameplay. Wish I was able to have a huge map, say from NYC down to Georgia, and given command of all eastern forces and just go at it. Employ my own strategies and tactics on a grand scale.


Supply Cut Off

Currently in the game you can cut off an enemy unit?s supply, but that unit has to be surrounded by your forces. I would have liked to see a option whereby if you seize the road behind the enemy you would cut off his supply route.



Check out the game play in my video review.



What shocks me is this game came out in 1997, and since then I haven?t seen another game that beats it. And honestly it?s insanely easy to do so. All you need to do is replicate all this game did right, improve the graphics, add a sandbox mode and boom ? you have the best Civil War Strategy game. Until then we?re stuck with games that have nice eye candy but don?t measure up. Yes there are some good ones out there, even ones that I love to play, but they?re not Civil War Generals 2. One day I hope to see a game that becomes my new favorite.

If you want to play Civil War Generals 2 just bear in mind you might have to fiddle with some settings to get it working on some modern computers.



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