Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great PC CD-ROM
Published by Matrix Games
Developed by Koios Works
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £21.99 (£15.99 for a Digital Download)
Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great, an introduction.
For years now tabletop wargaming has been hugely popular. Nowadays we tend to think of Warhammer and other fictional themes when we think about that pastime, but traditionally tabletop wargaming involved historical miniatures of famous civilisations such as the Romans and the Greeks. Koios Works have bought the tabletop wargaming experience to the twenty-first century with Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great.
What's the game about?
As we said in the introduction, Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great is about bringing the tabletop wargaming experience to the PC. The single player game has a campaign mode, a battle mode that allows you to play the battles you've unlocked in campaign mode and a network multiplayer mode so you can take on some human opposition. Looking at the game, from the eyes of someone who isn't used to this phenomenon, the game can also be interpreted as a turn based strategy game. If you're a fan of Alexander the Great and fancy playing through some historically important battles or you just like a solid turn-based strategy game experience Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great is definitely a game worth playing.
What's good about the game?
For a wargame the battle system is everything and fortunately Koios have created a very enjoyable system for the Tin Soldiers series. Essentially there are three parts to each turn. To begin with you'll have the Command Phase where both you and your opponent will issue orders. The orders you give here are for the whole turn. You have a choice of melee attack, missile attack, charge, move, change facing, retreat, defend, counter-charge and reserve as orders to issue. As the orders are carried out certain situations will allow units to react. There are various variables taken into account here but to cut a long story short this is what's known as the Reaction Phase and it gives you the opportunity to issue further orders to the units that are affected. Finally there's the Reserve Phase. If you issue a reserve order in either the Command or Reaction Phase you'll be able to issue another order, to the unit in question, during this phase. In case you're wondering each unit you see on a battle field represents 500 troops. Damage is taken in units of 100 and when a unit takes 500 damage points (shown as 5 beads under the commander's bust) the figure will be removed from the battle.
What we've described here is a very basic summary of the events of each turn. There's much more to it though. For instance the leaders of your units have different abilities. Some will be a tactical genius whilst others will be heroic or cowardly. Units have morale, a training status and an armour status that all affect how the action plays out. Then of course you have the concept of strategy cards. Between battles you'll be able to purchase strategy cards (you begin the first battle with a few). These strategy cards can be played on any appropriate unit and the cards range from Health (which restores 2-3 beads of health to a unit) to Berserk which gives a melee unit a +2 a chance to hit and an enemy +1 chance to hit. You can even use a Scout card anywhere on the terrain to temporarily remove the fog of war in that area. The strategy cards play a great part in the game because they allow you to turn losing situations into victories if they are used wisely. The battles can actually last for quite a while but thankfully you can save at any point you wish.
What's not so good about the game?
Looking at this game from a strategy enthusiast's point of view it's difficult to pick out problems with Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great. However, there are a couple of things which could have been better. Graphically the game should have made greater use of the strong 3D graphics cards that gamers have these days. Granted this isn't a major point (although it would have made the units look much better when zoomed up close) but it would have certainly been preferable. Rather more important is the structure of the campaign and the difficulty level. Alexander the Great only has one difficulty level and believe me it's tough. Some missions will need playing over and over again before you are successful and at times it can be quite frustrating. The difficulty isn't exactly progressive throughout the campaign. Take the first mission (Thebes) for instance; it's more difficult than some of the later ones. Playing through for the first time and dropping into the campaign can be soul destroying. Whilst the game is fairly easy to pick up (and the manual is pretty informative too) the strength of the AI comes as one heck of a shock, especially if you're new to the genre (seasoned grognards probably won't find it too difficult though). You also have to add the fact that there are turn limits to the battles and this also adds to the difficulty of certain scenarios.
How does it look?
Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great looks good. The visual style remains true to the tabletop wargaming theme. The units themselves are nicely detailed and of course they are on their own stands. Objects such as trees are disproportionate to the unit figures (just like in tabletop wargaming) and any structures there are in the game again look just like models rather than being life-like. You'll even see a hand that comes down and takes the defeated enemies away. You won't get to see any table legs though as the camera remains firmly on the battle scene. A further nod to computer wargaming can be seen by the cloud wisps that represent the fog of war that prevent you from seeing enemy units your unit (theoretically of course) cannot see. There aren't any elaborate battle scenes here but it doesn’t matter and doesn't take anything away from the game. I was disappointed to see that the game didn't support the increasingly popular 1280x1024 resolution (important if like me you use a 17" TFT screen). Whilst the game generally looked OK at 1280x960 the text didn't look as sharp as it could have done.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
For the most part Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great is deaf gamer friendly. All information within the game is given in text. The objectives and victory point requirements are shown in text before a battle starts and they can also be recalled at any time. You'll see floating text when units are shaken or routed and all damage values also appear as floating text. As we've mentioned elsewhere in the review the manual is excellent and will answer any questions you have about the game. In fact the only disappointment is that the movie clips are not subtitled.
This is the first game in the Tin Soldiers series that we've seen and we have to say we are quite impressed. Fans of tabletop wargaming will love the attention to detail that has gone into the miniature units. Even if you're not into wargaming as such and just enjoy turn-based strategy games there's a lot to like with Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great. The game has a solid combat system and the enemy AI in the game is impressive and at times fiendishly difficult to beat. In some ways it's been a little unfair reviewing Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great in the manner we have, alongside Tin Soldiers: Julius Caesar, because we've already experienced the sequel and have seen what improvements Koios have made to the series. However, even taking Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great on its own merits, it's a game well worth owning. It's also one that all turn-based strategy fans should experience.
Overall Game Rating: 7.8/10
Deaf Gamers Classification
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Koios Works have managed to fully capture the tabletop wargaming experience with Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great. Even if you ignore the tabletop wargaming connection it's still a fine turn-based strategy game that's well worth picking up.