By Eric T. Baker
Although it covers the same time period, region of the world, and subject as the first Crown of Glory, Matrix Games’ new Crown of Glory: Emperor’s Edition for the PC is in fact such a complete overhaul of the original that it is basically a new game. It is still a turn-based strategy game set in Europe during the Age of Napoleon, but it’s also a much deeper and (in some places) a more streamlined game. The conflicts from 1792 to 1820, both on the ground, on the sea, and at the diplomacy table are here to be played out.
The biggest and most obvious improvement in this edition of CoG is the map. There are 70 new movement areas, but at the same time, the map zooms all the way from a view of all of Europe down to a province level. An option has been added to play with a simplified economy so players can focus more on the combat if they wish, but at the same time rules have been added for such things as attrition on the march (staying on roads lowers its effects), war time inflation, and spirit of the nation (a rating of a country’s will to fight).
For combat, the biggest change is on the sea. The abstract combat of the first game has been replaced by a turn-based tactical level game where ships have ratings for everything from experience to sail quality and the player controls things down to the level of if the guns on a ship are aimed low or high. Similar detail has been added to land combat, along with the option to fight at the division or brigade level. More historical units have been added, and more detail has been given to all units.
It is the nature of wargames to speak of them as simulations. The closer they try to adhere to the realities of humanity, physics, and history, the more the simulation label fits. Every now and then, though, a game is released that is such an exact simulation that it seems to invalidate the use of that description on other, less accurate games. In this case, the “game” is Digital Combat Simulator: Black Shark for the PC from Russian studio Eagle Dynamics. The Black Shark of the title is a Russian attack helicopter.
How exact a simulation is DCS: BS? Every button, knob, switch, and control in the cockpit of the real helicopter is in the game, and every one of them actually does something. Turning on the engines and taking off requires activating 51 different buttons and switches, just as it does in the real Black Sharks. Mastering this game might not enable a player to actually fly the real helicopter, but it would put them well down the road to doing so.
As wonderfully faithful to its subject as DCS: BS is, the game’s weaknesses are in its graphics, which are accurate, but not state of the art, and in the enemy and wing man AI which is just barely good enough to be entertaining. Luckily there is an online co-op mode so players can have a human backing them up. But in the end DCS: BS isn’t a game about carnage and kill count, it is game about the satisfaction that comes from taking the controls of one of the world’s complex weapons of war and mastering it.
And speaking of simulations and games where carnage is not the reward, Firaxis has released Sid Meier’s Civilization IV Complete for the PC. This box contains the base Civ IV game, but also includes the two expansions: Warlord and Beyond the Sword. This is not simulation of the 51-button stripe, but it is the trademark fun of starting with a small base and slowly growing it, turn by turn, into the largest and most powerful “civilization” on the map. Obviously, this package is for anyone who has managed to completely resist getting into Civ IV in the years since its initial release.
Civ IV is an award-winning game. Warlord adds powers and gameplay features to the basic mix. Beyond the Sword adds more powers and further tweaks the gameplay. Warlord adds great generals to the mix, but also includes six new scenarios that change the way the game is played. BtS beefs up espionage, but it also adds some player-created “mods” that use the Civ IV engine but provide a different game experience. With a release date for Civ V still not announced, this is a well-timed and well-priced collection.