Three phrases guaranteed to chill the marrow of the journeyman games reviewer: 'It's a lot like Falcon 4.0 apparently', 'It's Derek Smart's latest space simulation' and 'Gary Grigsby had a hand in this'. GG's past output - hardcore wargames like War In Russia and Uncommon Valour - are some of the most complicated, labour-intensive PC strategy games ever inflicted on the gaming public. With that in mind, World at War is rather a pleasant surprise.
Rather than overwhelming aspiring Churchills and Stalins with mountains of unit counters, screens of stats and reams of obscure rules, this grand-strategic recreation of WW2 takes a relatively friendly approach. For game purposes the globe is portioned into a patchwork of 364 regions and time is bundled into manageable three-month turns. Units representing armies, fleets or air-groups are constructed and supplied by factories that rely on a single generic resource (found in specific regions) to function. Simple sensible concepts elegantly implemented; so far so good.
The risk with abstraction like this is that you take the simplification a step too far and wind-up with a play experience that's colourless, unsubtle and short of historical resonance. In at least a couple of areas GG and 2 by 3 Games tumble into this trap. By failing to model diplomacy in even its most rudimentary form, the developers rule-out many fascinating WW2 'what-ifs'. By representing research and development in a chronically unimaginative way (produce research points then spend them boosting the attributes of generic infantry units, tanks etcetera) they strip much of the pleasure and colour from technological progress.