For Liberty! PC
Published by Matrix Games
Developed by Hussar Games
Release Date: Out Now
Available from: Matrix Games
Hot on the heels of our review of Birth of America we have another turn-based wargame that's set in North America. For Liberty, from Hussar Games, is not solely focused on eighteenth century American history though. It not only contains battles set during the American Revolution but also includes battles set during The Rákóczi War of Independence between Hungary and Austria. Also included in the package is version 1.3 of Hussar's 1848 wargame so in effect you're getting a lot of wargaming for your money. Let's have a closer look at For Liberty.
On loading For Liberty you'll find that you can select either America or Hungary from the main menu. Both theatres offer Single Player, Hot-Seat, Network Game and Play-by-Email modes. You'll want to begin by selecting America and then Single Player as it's here you'll find the game's tutorial. In addition to the tutorial you'll also find three scenarios and a full campaign. The American scenarios are A Nation in Arms (Jun. 1775 - Dec. 1776), Turn of Events (May 1777 - Dec. 1779) and Road to Yorktown (Feb. 1780 - Dec. 1781). The full campaign is played between June 1775 and June 1783. Should you choose Hungary from the main menu you'll also find the option to play three scenarios and a full campaign. The scenarios you'll find here are Nation of Rákóczi (Sep. 1703 - Dec. 1704), Changing Luck (Jan. 1705 - Dec. 1707) and All or Nothing (Jan. 1708 - Dec. 1711). The full campaign spans from September 1703 to December 1711. Of course the game also ships with an editor to allow you to create your own scenarios for either theatre and even if you don't want to create your own scenarios the chances are you'll always be able to find some to download thus giving the game a lot of replay value.
On the whole For Liberty is actually quite accessible to those who don't normally try their hand at hex-based wargames. The game offers three difficulty levels, offers the option to turn off the fog of war and also offers a simple and advanced ruleset. You can even modify the experience of both yours and your opponent's forces before beginning a game. Choosing the simple ruleset means you don't have to bother choosing stances on the strategic map and formations in tactical battles. Essentially it makes for a slightly simplified and quicker experience allowing new wargamers to not get bogged down. Of course the advanced ruleset allows grognards to have the full experience. The game's tutorial is OK. In truth it could be a little less dry and more involving and you're going to need to turn to that electronic manual (in Adobe Acrobat form as usual) if you're going to get the most from the game. The tutorial doesn't really prepare you fully for the full experience but at least the 46 page manual goes into a lot more detail and covers the complexities of the game very nicely indeed. In fact it's good to see a manual that is well written and easy to understand for even those who don't normally play wargames.
It goes without saying that there would be no point in For Liberty being accessible if the game wasn't up to much. Fortunately it's actually a very good wargame that most will enjoy. The American and Hungarian theatres are actually very different in nature and it kind of feels like you have two separate games that simply share the same interface. Each turn represents a week and at the beginning of each week a random event will occur that will have either a positive or negative effect on your troops. There are quite a few random events and it's surprising how some can affect you men. The game takes full account of how the weather and the nature of the terrain affects your troops during movement and battles. Swamps are hard to cross, unless frozen whilst hilly terrains give you a slight defensive bonus. The weather can even hinder the line of supply to your troops and cause them to suffer fatigue. Of course most will be concerned with the quality of the battles. In truth they are actually quite good but they do get repetitive and it's a fair bet most will simply let the AI handle them, particularly as the AI does a decent job of things. The enemy AI is actually quite sharp and does a good job of exploiting your weaknesses. Thanks to the difficulty settings and the various adjustments you can make it can be a less formidable opponent for beginners, which is also important.
For Liberty isn't just a straightforward hex-based wargame. The random events at the start of each turn are certainly a nice addition but there are a couple of other worthwhile additions. The game models army morale in the form of zeal points. The zeal rating affects all those troops who are either 15% either side of the rating as their morale will gravitate toward the zeal rating. Winning battles and taking towns will raise your army's zeal but random events and loses can cause it to fall. Taking towns will also earn you influence points and with these you can make political decisions that can have positive effects on your troops. You could choose to decorate your men to increase their zeal or choose to buy cannons with foreign aid to increase your cannons rating. You can even choose to spread a little propaganda about the enemy if you feel inclined. The influence points are a nice touch, their effects aren't dramatic but they are nice way of slightly improving your situation.
Whilst Birth of America was pretty eye-catching for a turn-based wargame, the same cannot be said of For Liberty. The game is far more traditional in its appearance and utilizes the pseudo top-down view that has been used in turn-based wargames for years now. In terms of its graphical quality (for both the main map and the tactical battles) the game can simply be described as basic and that it gets the job done. Not that I'm being critical mind you. There are no performance issues here, as was the case with Birth of America and you could happily play the game on a laptop PC that's a few years old without any real problems. When you think about it this makes a lot of sense as wargamers are not typically the kind of people who upgrade their hardware on a regular basis (like FPS and RTS enthusiasts) so the system requirements have to be kept sensible.
The graphics are not the only aspect of the game that could at best be described as functional. The sound in the game is also pretty nondescript but of course that means that there are fewer problems for deaf gamers so in our eyes it's not a problem. There is no speech in the game and all of the information in the game is given either in text, via icons or numbers, so deaf gamers will have no problems learning or following events.
For Liberty may not have the stylish appearance of Birth of America but this certainly does not prevent it from being a quality wargame that will not only appeal to grognards but also with those who want a wargame that isn't overly complex and that allows them to enjoy the experience with a minimum of fuss. I should point out, even though it's certainly not a criticism, that at present the game is a little temperamental when running on Windows Vista (installation takes an age, on exiting it complains about the absence of a D3DRM.dll file and at times it's unresponsive when clicking on menu options) but when running on Windows XP it's absolutely fine. If you like your turn-based wargames and are in anyway interested by eighteenth century combat either in America or Hungary then For Liberty is definitely worth it and for just £18.99 it's excellent value for money.
For Liberty! may not be as visually impressive as Birth of America but the quality of the game play more than makes up for any visual deficiencies the game might have. For less than £19 it's easy to recommend to wargamers and those who are interested in giving the genre a go.