Airborne Assault: Conquest of the Aegean PC
Published by Matrix Games
Developed by Panther Games
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £26.99 (Download) £32.99 (Retail Boxed)
Airborne Assault: Conquest of the Aegean, an introduction.
Around three and a half years ago we reviewed Airborne Assault: Red Devils Over Arnhem and we were definitely impressed with what the game had to offer. The real time operational level wargame proved to be very popular with grognards and it was no surprise when the game's developers, Panther Games, went on to release Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich, a game which by all accounts (although unfortunately we never played the game) was even better than Red Devils Over Arnhem. Here we have the third Airborne Assault game, Airborne Assault : Conquest of the Aegean and once again it's an operational wargame of the highest calibre.
What's the game about?
Like the previous games from Panther Games, Airborne Assault: Conquest of the Aegean is played out in real time. This puts the game, and the Airborne Assault series in general, at odds with virtually every other operational level wargame out there because operational level wargames are virtually all turn-based. Of course whilst I really enjoy turn-based wargames (of all varieties) they don't make for a completely realistic experience because in real life time is always progressing and events are frequently occurring that can change the nature of the battle. The Airborne Assault series has made a point of reflecting this and Conquest of the Aegean is no exception. As the name of the game suggests, Conquest of the Aegean primarily concentrates on the WWII battles for Greece and Crete. There are over 30 scenarios in all some of which are hypothetical, 'what if', scenarios but most are fact based.
What's good about the game?
The best aspect of Conquest of the Aegean has to be the AI which essentially is quite capable of ripping your wonderfully prepared tactics to shreds. The game's AI has a level of cunning seldom seen in games and provides a level of challenge we armchair generals rarely encounter. Of course this challenging AI is initially frustrating as you attempt to get to grips with the game only for the AI to outwit you time and time again (particularly if you aren't used to the other games in the Airborne Assault series). However in the long run you'll be glad of the AI's level of competency as years down the line the game is still giving you one hell of a challenge. The excellent AI isn't simply confined to your enemies though. Conquest of the Aegean, like other titles in the Airborne Assault series doesn't task you with having to move every single unit around the map. You can simply give your commanders orders and them let them deal with their subordinates, if you wish to do so. This frees you from a lot of mundane tasks and allows you to concentrate on the overall strategy of your forces. Of course your commanders all have their own abilities but for the most part you'll notice their behaviour to be quite realistic. The game even models the delay in formulating ideas and communicating orders. Thankfully you can choose the degree of the delay from painfully realistic to never, so novices need not suffer because of this whilst they are learning the game. It's also worth mentioning that the game models morale and fatigue quite impressively and that the full implications of terrain, time of day and weather type are all accurately modelled.
If you've played the previous titles in the Airborne Assault series you'll be wandering what's new in Conquest of the Aegean. A more sophisticated supply system has been implemented which essentially rids you of having to micromanage your units resupplying. Basically all you have to do is make sure your units have access to your Base unit in order to resupply. The nature of the terrain is now fully taken into account during movement. The effects of streams and slopes on the mobility of your units are now very realistic. The AI officers will always find a passable, alternate route should any problems arise with your directions. Other game play additions include an Exit objective, improved interface, new units, German parachute arrivals and a reworked AI to give more lifelike reactions. Scenario creators will also be pleased with the inclusion of a map and scenario creator. In short fans of the series are going to find Conquest of the Aegean the best in the Airborne Assault series to date.
What's not so good about the game?
If I had to pick one problem with Conquest of the Aegean it would have to be the lack of an interactive tutorial. The tutorials come in the form of PDF documents that you can either print out (and they are quite large so this is problematic and to some degree costly) or you can constantly alt-tab back and forth between the electronic document and the game. Of course if you have a dual monitor setup then you can have the document displayed on one screen whilst the game runs on the other but I suspect most gamers won't have this luxury. Essentially you'll need to read this document and follows the instructions to the letter in the two tutorial scenarios which is just plain disappointing when most games have interactive tutorials that do away with the need to look at an external document. If the game actually offered the choice of playing in a windowed mode this problem wouldn't be so annoying. Conquest of the Aegean isn’t the most complicated wargame to learn but the tutorials really need to be played so you can get a feel for the game's intricacies. Other complaints include the game's insistence on you having to pick a screen resolution to use every time you load the game and visuals that are simply too basic.
How does it look?
If you've played any of the previous Airborne Assault games you'll know exactly what to expect in terms of visuals. Essentially there's not a lot to be said except for the fact that the graphics simply get the job done. Seasoned wargamers will know this is par for the course with a game of this nature (and clear and uncluttered visuals are in fact a bonus in a game such as this) but those who are used to more mainstream strategy games will find the presentation rather bland and uninviting. In fact the game is no more detailed than your average street map.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Deaf gamers aren't going to have any problems with Conquest of the Aegean and the game can be considered deaf gamer friendly. The game only uses a minimal set of sounds and all the important information is relayed either through text (text messages are colour coded to show the level of urgency for a particular message) or icons. The messages you have received can be recalled at any time. I would have liked some visual notification that an air strike had been completed though. We've already mentioned that the game's tutorials are to be found in PDF documents so you'll have no problems in learning to play the game. There are some other included PDF documents too, that offer tips and instructions on using the map and scenario creator amongst other things. The reference manual is invaluable (and if you only print out one PDF document this has to be it) as it explains what all the icons mean and how the slopes and terrain affect your units mobility (as well as many other crucial details).
Those wanting an impressive operational level wargame will be delighted with what Conquest of the Aegean has to offer. Like the other titles in the Airborne Assault series, Conquest of the Aegean offers a refreshing change from the turn-based nature of other operational level wargames without sacrificing any of the depth that's usually associated with these games. In fact Conquest of the Aegean is probably one of the most 'realistic' operational level wargames you can currently purchase. Despite the high level of realism on offer here though, the game isn't intimidating to newcomers and the developers deserve praise for this although some interactive tutorials would certainly have been a better solution to either printing out hundreds of pages or alt-tabbing like crazy between Acrobat Reader and the game.
Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10
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Airborne Assault: Conquest of the Aegean is one of the most realistic wargames we've seen. In short the game's a must for any grognard or serious strategy gamer.