Birth of America PC
Published by Matrix Games
Developed by AGEOD
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £18.99 (Digital Download)
Available from: Matrix Games
When you think of turn-based wargames there are several adjectives that spring to mind. Complex, tactical and I daresay for some people (although certainly not for this reviewer), tedious. One adjective that certainly does not spring to mind is the word stylish. Turn-based wargames are many things but when it comes to their appearance they are usually way behind the standards of other genres. Of course this doesn’t matter because we play the games for their depth and involving nature. Wouldn't it be nice though if for once we had a turn-based strategy game that was not only complex and deep but also looked great? Well maybe we can have it all as Birth of America not only plays a great game but also has a visual style that few in the genre can even come close to.
As the title suggests Birth of America is concerned with historical American battles in the latter half of the 18th Century covering both the French & Indian War (1754-1763) and the American War of Independence. The game has a mix of campaigns and scenarios ranging from an introductory tutorial scenario to the 1813 Great Lakes scenario. The game can be played against the challenging AI or against a human opponent. It's worth pointing out that some scenarios are a little unbalanced. That is to say that the balance is usually lopsided and one side is considerably easier to play than the other. This may not be an issue when playing against the AI but when playing against a human rival it can definitely be more problematic. Essentially the goals in a scenario are to control the strategic cities and the objective cities in order to gain Victory Points, although there are some exceptions.
Usually historical based wargames are rather on the heavy side and in truth they are rather inaccessible for most gamers other than most grizzled grognard. Birth of America is more accessible than most wargames. However, that's not to say the game lacks depth just that some of the tedium has been removed from the experience. Micromanagement has been kept to a minimum. There are no lines of supply to keep an eye on as forts, friendly regions and depots etc. generate supply. Armies can draw supply from either the region they are in, the inherent supply reserves, supply wagons they have with them or an adjacent region. Moving your armies around is a straightforward procedure as the game makes use of the drag and drop mechanic. What you'll have to keep an eye on is the nature of the terrain and the weather and both can have adverse effects on your men with attrition occurring and movement being hampered.
So does Birth of America finally give us a wargame that's completely accessible to everyone? The answer has to be no, although it's more accessible than most. There's still a lot going on here that may be a little overwhelming to those not familiar with such games. The tutorial doesn't really do much to ease in new players and it could have been much more comprehensive. Going on to the first scenario after playing through the tutorial can be a little overwhelming and you're going to need to read through the manual in order to feel comfortable with the game. The play-by-e-mail method does seem rather awkward and again it's a feature that only the most dedicated gamers are going to take advantage of. Of course for the grognards out there none of these complaints are going to really matter but it's a shame the game wasn't more accessible.
Birth of America is a good strategy game no matter which way you look at it. However, one of the most refreshing aspects of the game is the quality of the graphics. The map looks fantastic with its beautiful hand drawn style. The unit pieces look rather impressive too. In fact the game on the whole has a strong board game look to it that certainly suits the game very nicely. The game’s original and stylish look definitely adds visual appeal to the game however it does appear to be rather heavy on the system resources. I played the game on a PC that contained a Pentium D 805 CPU, 1GB RAM and an ATi X800XT which is far from being a cutting edge PC but it usually has no problems with games such as Birth of America. However, I frequently experienced the game slowing to a crawl when scrolling around which was disconcerting. Naturally the more units involved on the map you play on the more problematic the slowdown is.
In regards to its suitability for deaf gamers Birth of America is absolutely fine. All of the information in the game is given in text. Most games in this genre usually require you to print out a PDF manual in order to follow the tutorial but thankfully that's not the case here as all of the tutorial is in text (all of the messages in the game are delivered exclusively in text). In fact deaf gamers will be unaware of the one area that the game falls short, the sound, which certainly isn't a problem. Some of the text in the game is rather small which is a little unfortunate and it's certainly hoped that this could be addressed in an update at some point.
Birth of America is recommended for those gamers looking for an enjoyable turn-based wargame based on the French & Indian War and the American War of Independence. The game has a unique look and it certainly makes a refreshing change from the basic look that most wargames have. However, it's a shame the game is so demanding. It's quite common for the game to take seemingly forever just to scroll around at times and it can become a real test of patience. The tutorial could also have been more comprehensive and provided a better introduction to the game. Still if you're an experienced wargamer that's not going to be a problem (although the demanding system resources might be) and you'll find a game that's both challenging and interesting, especially if you're interested in the battles that took place in North America in the latter half of the 18th Century.
Birth of America is not only an enjoyable turn-based wargame but it looks impressive too. It's a bit of a system resource hog though and the tutorial could have been much better.