It’s always fun to install a new game, fire it up, and start playing in less than five minutes. It is rare to come across a strategy game,especially a turn-based strategy game, which allows that kind of activity to happen. Turn -based games generally have a pretty steep learning curve before you can really get into a game. I was very happy to discover that Massive Assault Network 2 (MAN2), brought to us by WarGaming.net, does not have such a learning curve.
WarGaming.net has a mantra that permeates throughout its games: “Think Based Strategy.” What does it mean? To me, it means pull out the opportunity for play-balancing issues by creating two identical factions, and then pitting players against each other where the only difference is the brains that they bring to the table. Play-balancing a game takes considerable time, money, and effort for a game company to create factions which try to be equally balanced. Regardless, I can’t think of a game outside of the Blizzard studio which is perfectly balanced. Some may see identical factions as a step backward, but once you remove the unbalanced nature of differing units, the brilliance of a pure strategy game is truly brilliant.
The simplicity of the factions is also, unfortunately, a drawback. One of the strengths of having different factions with different units is that it offers a chance to test each faction, and see which one fits your playing style. With Massive Assault, the units that one side has, the other has as well. There are no “ambush” units like invisible or burrowing troops. I also noticed that there are no super weapons. I can’t count the number of times I wish I had a Nuke or an Ion Cannon or something to spice up the relatively standard unit types.
Unit balancing inside the factions is very well done. The cheapest units are just that: cheap. They do little damage, and don’t move fast. More expensive units last longer, do more damage, and move faster. There are air, land, and sea units you can use to defeat your enemy, each with a full complement of cheap and expensive units. Fixed gun turrets, troop movers and air support help to round out the military forces available to you.
MAN2 is, given the numeral at the end of the title, the sequel to a series of games, aptly titled Massive Assault and Massive Assault Network. While I never played them, they did get excellent reviews, and I am happy to say that MAN2 will not disappoint fans of the series. Online play is easy to connect to and start playing.
I can think of quite a few turn-based games that think of graphical presentation should be secondary to overall gameplay. Fortunately for us, Wargaming.net has set the bar considerably higher than any turn-based game I can think of (Sid Meier’s Civilization included). Included is a fully 3D playing field, which helps you to see the whole picture, around hills and forests, and lets you see that one unit behind the rock that you are used to yelling at because you couldn’t see it before. Firing animations are well done, and allow you to time your attacks so it can appear as though it were a Real Time Strategy game. Also included is a “Fancy Camera”, basically a zoom feature when you make a nice kill. It’s a nifty little feature, and I applaud the effort, but after about 10 times or so, you're just through it and continue your turn.
The real brilliance behind Wargaming.net’s games is the “Secret Allies” concept. Rather than choosing a starting point and trekking out from there, you are randomly assigned a specific number of allies (territories), which you can reveal to your opponent at your discretion. Is the enemy invading one of your “Secret Allies”, but it hasn’t been revealed yet? Catch them by surprise by surrounding them with you Secret Allies’ deployment credits, and blow them away before they know what hit them! This gaming innovation should be seen in more games. This much more clearly shows a more real world example off action-fighting. You can never know who is backing who, can you? And since the Secret Allies are randomized in every game, each game is anew experience. This allows for considerable replayability using the existing maps (24 in total). You can also change the density of territories, and therefore, the number of territories on each map. I’m not sure whether having fewer but larger territories or more and smaller territories makes it easier or harder. Perhaps they are each difficult in their own way.
Massive Assault’s multi-player experience is based on a simple challenge and accept system. In order to start a multi-player game, you can select from players who are either online or have been online, and then wait to see if they accept. If they accept, you can play the game in a variety of ways: you can play by e-mail (a great system if the turn length is long [up to 120 minutes]), you can simply sit and wait for each other to play, or you can save and restart whenever you are both online.
If you can’t find anyone to play with, or you aren’t good enough to hold a candle to the online players (like me), there are 2 AI players you can duke it out with whenever you like. If you want to learn how to play strategy games, the enemy AI will definitely help you to improve very quickly. I find it strange that there is no LAN support, nor can you play with more than 2 players in one game. That being said, you can connect through the lobby over the internet to play your buddy across the room, and playing with multiple players can literally take hours per turn.
If you’re a strategy buff, you need to get this game. I wouldn’t consider myself a wannabe Napoleon, but even so, if I ever master this game, I think I could probably give him a run for his money. Wargaming.net has a real winner in Massive Assault Network 2.
"Massive Assault Network 2" is on sale November 30, -0001 and is rated . .