Allow me to be frank for one moment and say that grand strategy games, like Making History II, are not my forte. Plop me down in front of a classic RTS like StarCraft or Command and Conquer and I can hold my own. Hell, I can even enjoy a game like Sins of a Solar Empire, which features aspects of grand strategy titles.
Maybe my dislike for this genre comes from the presumption that the games tend to be more about managing your economy, politics, and research, rather than crushing your opponents. It may also have something to do with the fact that most grand strategy titles are turn based, which wreaks havoc on my obsessive compulsive nature.
Regardless of my dislike for the genre, I still see the merit of these games. I am in no way saying that grand strategy titles are not fun. In fact, I very much enjoyed some aspects of Making History II, which I will discuss later on. But, enough of my disclaimers and on with the review.
For those of you who don’t know, Making History II is a grand strategy game made for grand strategy gamers. If you get down with micromanaging nations you’ll love this title. Those who are looking for a intense strategy experience are better off waiting until StarCraft 2.
Basically, Making History II is a World War II strategy game much in the vein of the Hearts of Iron series. First, players must select a scenario to set the stage of what’s going on in the world. For example, the scenario “The German Question” starts you off in the middle of in 1933, just a few years before WWII started.
These scenarios play a big role in determining your play style. In “The German Question”, if you are playing as the U.S.A. you’re going to be starting the game in the heart of the Great Depression. Needless to say, that makes a major difference in strategy compared to if you were to start in the booming 20′s.
In total, Making History II comes with three scenarios. However, there is support for user made content and Muzzy Lane has stated that it will roll out more as time goes on.
Once you have a scenario selected, you then have to pick which country to play as. I can honestly say that I think Muzzy Games has included every country that existed during this time period. It is really amazing to consider that, if I wanted to, I could experience what Tibet was dealing with during WWII.
Gameplay breaks down into a complex juggling act where you must manage your nation’s economy, politics, and war effort. The funny thing is, the complexity of managing these aspects isn’t due to the interface. In fact, the game provides you with easy-to-navigate lists that allow you to control your country. The complexity comes from the options available to you.
Should Boston be producing goods to increase my income via trade, or should I be building a factory there to increase IPUs for a stronger war effort? Should I be researching new infantry weapons or would my money and time be better spent on developing better airplanes? While playing Making History II you will be making hundreds of decisions like this every turn.
In terms of combat, Making History II is somewhat complex. Each unit has three statistics: Land Attack, Land Defense, and Air Attack. These values represent the unit’s combat effectiveness versus other unit groups. While this may seem simple at first, consider that you will be moving armies which consist of many units stacked on top of each other, all with varying stats and movement speeds.
All of the action in Making History II takes place on the world map, which is relatively detailed and shows the effects of different types of climates, terrain, and resources. The real shame is that the map is the only thing that looks decent.
I understand that Muzzy Lane is an independent developer and lacks the resources of a major studio like Relic, but that is still no excuse for releasing a game with poor animations and lackluster visuals. I mean, independent developers release games when they feel they are ready; that’s what makes indie devs so great. While it’s not game breaking, the shoddy visuals are sure to drive some gamers away.
Another complaint I have about Making History II is that it offers no help to the player. Maybe I’m losing my gamer’s edge in my old age, but any game that is this complex and doesn’t have a built-in tutorial is asking for trouble. My first few times trying to play the game resulted in catastrophe.
I couldn’t figure out how to move units, let alone decide on which technologies to research and what goods each city should produce. It wasn’t until Muzzy Lane released a guide walking you though the first 10 turns that I really began to understand the game. Even then, I still had to spend hours trying to figure out what was going on.
Some other things that bothered me include: the game is missing an end of turn summary informing you what your opponents did, the online multiplayer component is not yet added in the game (I emailed Muzzy Lane about this and they said it will be added in a month), and there is minimal control over the options (no sound control, etc.).
This is representative of my overall experience with Making History II. There are numerous small problems that could be fixed by a patch. However, until then you’ll be left with the impression that the game was rushed.
What I found myself enjoying most about Making History II is its potential. If you check out Muzzy Lane’s Making-History.com site, you’ll see plenty of user made scenarios for the first title, as well as hundreds of forum posts discussing the game. Seeing such a dedicated community makes me optimistic for Making History II‘s future, to say the least.
Going along the same lines, another thing I like about Making History II is that that Muzzy Lane is deeply invested in the game and the community. If you have a suggestion, a problem, or just want to share your thoughts, Muzzy Lane will listen to you and maybe implement your idea in a patch. You can see evidence of this in the forums.
The funny thing is, while playing this game I realized something: Making History II isn’t really a game, but rather a learning tool. I can imagine college courses on political science or history utilizing this game to demonstrate how various decisions had such drastic effects on the way the modern world works. While I may not have enjoyed myself as much playing Making History II as if I were playing Left 4 Dead, I can honestly say I learned more, which is an achievement as far as I’m concerned.
To me, this game is a lot like watching a documentary on quantum physics; I may not understand it, I may not be able to apply it, but when it’s all said and done I’m better for watching it because I learned something.
All in all, Making History II is a solid strategy game. Sure, it may need a coat of paint or two to gloss things up, but at its core the mechanics are all there. If you enjoy turn-based grand strategy games, Making History II is right up your alley. If you are new to the genre (or just suck at it like me), you may want to start with something a bit more simple like Sins of a Solar Empire until you gain your strategy bearings.
The visuals get the job done, but aren't likely to impress. Also, a missing tutorial spells disaster for newcomers.
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The game mechanics are all there to make a great grand strategy title. There just needs to be a bit more streamlining and optimization of the interface.
The music is appropriate and the sound effects are passable. Overall, I'd say it doesn't detract from the game.
With almost every country that existed during WWII in the game, there are endless possibilities in terms of replayability.
Making History II is a game for grand strategy gamers. If you've never tried the genre, I'd look elsewhere before cutting your teeth here.