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SummaryA perfectly acceptable translation of the semi-classic boardgame.
The GoodIt’s Axis & Allies! The game design was time-worn and well-tested, long before the PC version came out, so it’s pretty solid.
The historical setting is undeniably compelling. You get to re-fight WWII on a grand strategic scale, with your choice of the five major Allied (USSR, Britain, USA) and Axis (Germany, Japan) powers. There is a nice selection of different unit types to fill out your army/navy/air force, and they seem to be well-balanced overall.
The graphics are appropriately colorful and true to the board game. The big red arrows that show unit movement paths are an especially nice touch, as they remind me of those wonderful old “World at War” documentaries. The country-specific music is ok, although it gets annoying after a while (except for the bagpipe music that plays for England, which is *instantly* annoying). Fortunately, you can turn it off. As for the sound effects, they’re actually good enough that you’ll probably leave them turned on.
You can customize the game to a fairly remarkable degree, considering that this is a conversion of a board game—and a fairly static one, at that. You can modify unit values, and you can also use all kinds of alternate game rules. You can adjust the difficulty level by changing the general in command of each nation. So for the USA, Eisenhower is 5-stars, Patton 4-stars, Bradley 3-stars, and so forth.
A really outstanding feature is the “time machine,” which lets you go back to previous turns, or phases within a turn, and start over again from that point. This helps keep you off of the save-reload-save-reload treadmill and encourages the player to go ahead and experiment, as there is no irreversible penalty for making a mistake. The instruction manual is slim but decent. More impressive is the built-in tutorial and strategy sessions provided for each nation. This is great stuff for beginners, and even an experienced A&A player might use these things, if only to brush up on the rules and setups a bit.
Last but not least, there is a very good video interview with the original A&A creator that plays with the ending credits. Long-time fans of the board game will appreciate hearing his discussion of the game’s origins and his insights into the game’s dynamics.
The BadWell…it’s Axis & Allies. The design has all of the inherent limitations of the original. Not least of these is that the game gets stale too quickly, mainly because the game always simulates the exact same historical situation. If the diplomatic status or starting position of a nation could be changed, it would add significantly to the replay value. As it stands, A&A straightjackets you into playing the same scenario every single time. Sometimes history is a burden…
Although the unit mix is good overall, there is still some room for improvement. There are no destroyers to counter submarines, which is historically inaccurate and leaves the naval game slightly unbalanced.
The interface may look slick, but it can be a bit clunky to use. It’s nothing unusually bad for a Windows-based program, but I think they could have made it a little more user-friendly.
I found the multiplayer component to be slow, buggy, and just plain not worth the trouble of setting up. Fortunately, I’m not a big fan of online gaming anyway, so I didn’t really mind sticking with the solo mode—especially since the patch makes the AI noticeably better (although still not great).