In recent times strategy games have begun to make themselves more appealing to non-hardcore gamers in an attempt to attract them and not put them off with their complexity. Airborne Assault throws this all of this pandering to the gaming masses out of the window and offers a strategic experience for hardcore strategists only.
Airborne Assault is an operational level wargame. This isn't Sudden Strike where you can select your units, represented by icons rather than actual soldiers/vehicles, and traverse the map looking for action. An appropriate description of how the game plays would probably be something like real-time, World War II based, blind folded chess. The action is top down, zoomed out with icons for units. Fans of traditional war games will be very pleased with how Airborne Assault plays. The game has depth in spades and if you can see past the basic graphics, you'll find a game that is very satisfying.
The game is concerned with Operation Market Garden, an event where the Allies attempted to gain control of the eight bridges which spanned the network canals and rivers on the German/Dutch bordering and attempt to prevent the Nazis from bringing their Panzer divisions and troops to meet the invading allies. Like most plans though, Operation Market Garden did not go as intended. Most of the 22 scenarios are factually based with a few hypothetical ones thrown in to spice the game up a bit. The size of the missions, in regards to time, range from fairly short ones to ones that will give you days of continual play. There are even some capture the flag missions thrown in for a change of pace too.
We have already mentioned that the game is real-time but those of you, like myself in fact, who prefer the time to think that turn-based games afford, you need not despair. The default speed of the game is slow and will not alienate turn-based fans. Of course the game speed can be increased when the need arises but for those cautious situations the default speed, a minute in game time is about 5 seconds in real-time, is fine or you could choose to pause to contemplate the situation and then give orders.
There's not really much to say about the game's graphics. The game is played out on a vector drawn topographic, zoomable, map and uses clean looking icons to represent the units. The icons can display a variety of information such as combat power, strength, morale, fatigue, the type of unit the icon represents and much much more. More in-depth detail is kept on the control panel on the left side of the screen and clicking on an icon will give you all their details here. At the game's default zoom (using the game's middle resolution of 1024x768) the unit icons look rather cluttered but zooming in gives a much clearer picture.
Airborne assault is completely deaf gamer friendly. The sounds, like the graphics are kept to a complete minimum. There is no speech and all information is given via icons or text. Even the explosions and weapon fire is shown visually. The manual goes to great lengths to explain what the multitude of icons mean, with 8 pages of the manual dedicated to this purpose. The manual also comes with a glossary of terms should this be your first game of this nature and two tutorials are included in the manual too. The tutorials are written very clearly and are easy to follow.
What with the 22 scenarios and a map (a .pdf file on how to use the editor is included in the game's directory) and scenario editor included the lifespan of this game is pleasingly long. I said at the top of this review that the game is for hardcore strategy fans but to be completely honest there is enough information in the tutorials to allow newbies to get involved. The screenshots may look basic and somewhat intimidating but the gameplay is very enjoyable once you become familiar with it. It lacks the gloss of other modern strategy games but Airborne Assault gets the gameplay spot on and that's what fans of the genre really want.
Game Rating: 8.8/10