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 Post subject: Arsenal of Democracy: Best WWII Era Strategy Game Ever?
PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2017 11:01 am 
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Have been on an exploration foray here lately, checking out WWII era games that tend towards realism if not "simulation" grade: Silent Hunter 3, Pacific Storm: Allies, WitPAE of course (though I find it too painful to play more than an hour or so at a time, which means it is impossible to play it effectively). I suspect the market is RIPE for a modern updated strategy game with reasonable if not "good" graphics, a UI that is not offensive, but with all the details and complexities of say WitPAE.

I think I've discovered what to me is the best candidate for "best" game that covers this period: Arsenal of Democracy, with the IMPERATIVE CAVEAT of: WITH the C.O.R.E. Mod (Community Open Resource Exchange Mod)

Highlights of what makes the game exceptional:

1. Nice balance in the UI. Sufficient detail to facilitate play without too much drilling down or repeated clicking (some exceptions to the later where games like WiTPAE actually do it better), visual elements that convey information and promote viewer engagement (e.g., very low-res, low-frame unit anims for moving, fighting, retreating which can also be replaced with NATO counters if one chooses; hundreds of facial portraits of leaders and these are presented in multiple different panes in association with the formations to which they are attached, i.e., every time a player interacts with one of these formations, he/she is also "interacting" with the character in the portrait . . . a small touch, but one which is bound to have a remarkable impact on "accessibility" to the fringe portions of the market, i.e., the "not Grognards" but could become a Grognard camp).

2. Low budget graphics, that nonetheless do their job very effectively (see 1 above). When I first bought this game many years ago, I found it to be ugly as sin, but endured enough to play it a bit and before long realized that . . . at least for Japan in 1936 start, the game balance was completely out of whack. I shelved the game and some years later discovered C.O.R.E. (which was still WIP at the time) and installed it and tried it but realized it wasn't finished and re-shelved the game until recently. Having played it intensively now for a couple of days, I've come to realize that, while the graphics are highly abstracted, they were designed with considerable insight into the characteristics which good "strategy game" graphics should have. Too much details, insufficiently contrasting hues, off-balance gamma, small interactive elements that have to be hunted for constantly, erring on the side of "artistic" if not "naturalistic" are serious errors in far too many games that attempt to move computer representations of board game models into the more "mainstream" standards of graphics and UI. AoD does not commit any of these errors. The game is easy to look at, easy to use, and intuitive once one gets oriented on the game mechanics. I'd say it is at least half as exhausting and tedious to play as WitPAE for example, and while the geographic units are much larger in AoD, and the detail underlying units and geographic entities superficially seems to be "less," in fact, I would speculate that much of the detail in WitPAE is just needless complication that does not actually contribute to enhanced game play or interesting decision alternatives. WiTPAE has pilots whereas AoD has "unit experience." Now granted AoD does not allow me to transfer pilots from one air group to another, a true deficiency. However, the fact that one can do this in WitPAE doesn't clearly contribute to the game to me. I actually tend to PREFER games that offer users the opportunity to micro-manage at the cellular, or even molecular level, but when micro-managing at that level is REQUIRED just to play, that is not a good thing.

3. Good balance between grand strategic level, and operational level. How to distribute economic force, how to distribute/arrange military force, how to use military force in theatre, and how to respond to national and international opportunities and constraints are the primary cycles of analysis and decision in the game, and this has always been my preferred level. While I'm not opposed to games that assume grand strategic or political level factors to be held constant, they just do not grab me quite as much as the ones which allow me to make national level decisions and thus, try out truly alternate historical paths. The pitfall of many games which attempt this however is that, by attempting to model decisions at the most inclusive levels of history while also being highly "historical" they fail to accomplish either. The freedom to make alternative choices tends to lead to ahistorical--if not ridiculous--outcomes, and constraints which promote historical outcomes tend to remove choices. This is a balancing act of the most nuanced nature and somehow AoD manages to pull it off. If you look on the forum link I posted above, you'll see I recently made a couple posts in the "how to play as japan" thread and this goes into some details on this. But suffice to say: while the opportunities and constraints facing Japan in 1936 strike me as being very nicely inline with historical reality, it is also POSSIBLE, by adopting alternative paths to those followed by Japan in real history (or at least, as those alternative paths are represented in the game . . .) to achieve outcomes which are dramatically different from those in actual history, but which nonetheless seem quite "possible" and intriguing at every stage along the journey. Specificially: by focusing Japans tech development and industry on the development of more and better land units, and allocating a large force to China by early 1937 (and consequently NEGLECTING technical and industrial developments in air and naval war) I was able (barely) to achieve a surrender of China by Jan/Feb 1942. This culminated in Japan annexing the entire Chinese coastline, as well as roughly half the interior provinces and puppeting Shanxi, Xibei, Yunnan, Community China and Nationalist China. By pursuing small volume trade relations with MANY other nations and not being reliant on U.S. imports of oil and metal, and also by adopting national policies which kept Japan right on the edge of being a "democracy" the U.S. embargo in early 1940 was effectively irrelevant. Now granted, at the point where I abandoned this play because "test completed" I was in no position to take on a "grand Pacific campaign" ala real history (7 Dec 41 attack on Pearl, etc.). But the game (or at least the C.O.R.E. version of it) extends into 1953 and the goals are more open ended that your typical WWII game. Ones goal is not to complete the specific hoop-jumps that the designers deemed to be "intrinsic" based on real history, but rather to operate within the constraints of reality and historical detail to achieve whatever one wishes and which might lead to "victory" i.e., most victory points. The Southern Resource Area were after all, just a means to an ends: resources --> power, and if one can get enough of those resources through a combination of Chinese conquest and trade with unaligned nations then why even run afoul of the U.S. / U.K. in the first place?

There is much more I could say to laud the game, but perhaps one or more of you will check it out for yourself. There is also a multiplayer mode (though how that works given the game is real-time pauseable I cannot fathom).

I generally am not a huge fan of Paradox games that use the Clausewitz Engine . . . waita minute that isn't exactly true. I love many of those games, but I find that generally the implementation of the Clausewithz engine when it comes to things like combat and unit operations are ham-fisted and unrealistic. AoD somehow does NOT suffer from this at all. The combats (small units are divisions) come across as remarkable realistic and the computer opponent does a passable job.

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 Post subject: Re: Arsenal of Democracy: Best WWII Era Strategy Game Ever?
PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 3:57 am 
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Anthropoid wrote:
...
I generally am not a huge fan of Paradox games that use the Clausewitz Engine . . . waita minute that isn't exactly true. I love many of those games, but I find that generally the implementation of the Clausewithz engine when it comes to things like combat and unit operations are ham-fisted and unrealistic. AoD somehow does NOT suffer from this at all. The combats (small units are divisions) come across as remarkable realistic and the computer opponent does a passable job.


I, too, was a big fan of AoD/CORE back in the day - but!

IMO you are quite mistaken with your dislike for the Clausewitz engine.
Paradox has spent years defining and refining its scope, if you look at what´s been done with games like Stellaris, EU4 or CK2 over recent patches and DLCs it is a beauty to behold.

The War in Heaven my xenophobe Spiritualists got dragged into by my new Bavi Crusader overlords, just as I was thinking up a strategy to take them out before they awaken, the way my neighbours joined the Bavi side, their Provalguvor Director opponents (cursed materialist heretics!!) or the Unaligned alliance, the chaos resulting from the sudden three-way war -its just awesome.


And they finally got the must-do micromanagement down to a tolerable level, if you look at the HOI4 multiplayer thread we ran both games to a meaningful conclusion, with a bunch of players with a mix of prior experience (MP noobs like myself among them), in a single evening, while paying attention to all the important things like logistics, mass production as well as fleet and division composition.

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 Post subject: Re: Arsenal of Democracy: Best WWII Era Strategy Game Ever?
PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 10:35 am 
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Still never seen one that can do a worldwide WW2 grand strategy sandbox very well.

There are two primary trouble spots these games have (among many smaller ones):


1) The AI just isn't so heavily programmed as to take into account all of a nation's deciding factors regarding world diplomacy.

This is why you see immersion ripping nonsense happening regularly, such as Bulgaria unilaterally declaring war on Brazil. :roll: Such nuttery happens in all geo-political strategy games to some extent.


2) The AI can't manage amphibious, or pan-oceanic, invasion very well.

The combination of naval vessels, and land units, moving across a body of water to invade enemy territory from the sea is usually fucked to some extent. Even if they miraculously manage to initially land an appropriate force for the task at hand, they certainly do a piss poor job of following up and supporting it.

There is also a similar problem of the AI not reinforcing threatened areas that are overseas, and other similar concepts.




#2 is a severe problem with WW2 grand strategy games. It has ruined the gameplay in all attempts I've seen. Since some are better than others, it's just a matter of how much you'll put up with.

Aside from the problems of cross-sea movement into Europe and North Africa, capability in this area is absolutely essential in the Pacific war because that's all it is. While the usual Nazi-mil fanboys casually write it off, since they only care about playing Germany in every game & therefore just provides them an easier time, it's not good enough for the rest of us.

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 Post subject: Re: Arsenal of Democracy: Best WWII Era Strategy Game Ever?
PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 3:06 am 
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I suspect that one reason why HoI4 uses battleplans and national foci is because it makes things easier for the AI...

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 Post subject: Re: Arsenal of Democracy: Best WWII Era Strategy Game Ever?
PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 2:11 am 
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NefariousKoel wrote:
2) The AI can't manage amphibious, or pan-oceanic, invasion very well.

The combination of naval vessels, and land units, moving across a body of water to invade enemy territory from the sea is usually fucked to some extent. Even if they miraculously manage to initially land an appropriate force for the task at hand, they certainly do a piss poor job of following up and supporting it.


In HOI-Darkest Hour the JAP AI hits the KMT with multiple strong seaborne invasions at the exact same moment. Hardcoded in the background I suppose. Sometimes it doesn't happen, maybe because the timeline is screwed up by the game developing into an alternate history direction.

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 Post subject: Re: Arsenal of Democracy: Best WWII Era Strategy Game Ever?
PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 2:13 am 
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BTW, what's the difference between DH and AoD? Which is better?

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 Post subject: Re: Arsenal of Democracy: Best WWII Era Strategy Game Ever?
PostPosted: Sat May 27, 2017 7:54 am 
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IIRC DH was a 3rd party DLC mod I paid 9,99 for on Steam when it was semi-current. Based on AoD, the final iteration of HoI2.

AFAICT Hoi2 (and even more so the flawed Hoi3 with its useless planning engine and awful AI that got bogged down constantly) is limited, crippled by the software engine behind it.

The Clausewitz engine seems to deliver superior results in this regard, and much better (or maybe the result of?) bug-tracking.

Just read their patch note details 8-)

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 Post subject: Re: Arsenal of Democracy: Best WWII Era Strategy Game Ever?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:26 pm 
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Damn I gotta figure out how to get posts in the Game Room to show up in my "View New Posts" preferences I didn't even realize you guys had responded in here!

I finished off my "six months" of gaming survey with some Rome Total War with Roma Surrectum mod. Was an epic struggle to get that one to run with the Steam version of the game.

But now I've binged out and feel content to turn more of my time to coding and building up to my own game designing :) . . . and the occasional foray into this or that fantasy land . . .

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