Hands-On - we take a beta version of the novel World War II role-playing game for a spin
World War II games. Two things that the world isn't exactly short of at the moment. But World War II role-playing games? Now there's something you don't see every day. We give you, Another War.
Inspired by everything from Allo Allo to Indiana Jones, and sporting references to the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Casablanca along the way, Another War is a game which doesn't always take itself entirely seriously. Humorous dialogue, sarcastic asides from your own hero, and some characters who only seem to be there to act as comic relief all give a welcome break from what could have been a decidely depressing affair.
As the game begins you roll into a small village in occupied France to meet with your friend, an antiques dealer who has become suspicious of the origins of some of the objects he's being asked to appraise for a Nazi client. Before long there's talk of a mysterious map showing the way to some undefined object which nobody should find, a conversation which is rudely interrupted by the arrival of the German secret police. The next thing you know you're sitting in a jail cell with a skeleton, a rat and a crate full of potatoes.
And so begins your quest to discover the secret that your friend was willing to die to protect, an adventure which will take you from France and Germany to Yugoslavia and Russia. Although the setting is a welcome change from your run of the mill hack and slash fantasy epic, and magic spells are replaced by Lugers and shotguns, the underlying gameplay should be familiar to fans of Baldur's Gate and Diablo. Your hero is soon joined by a party of other characters, and as you make your way through the game they gain experience and improve their abilities, building up an array of weapons, special skills and equipment.
The Not-So-Great Escape
At the start of the game there's a choice of three basic characters. You can be the strongman, a burly brainless type who uses his head, but only for ramming things. Hand to hand combat and brute force are his specialities. Then there's a thief who's a dab hand with knives, and an intellectual, the brains of the operation.
Your options throughout the game depend on which of these you chose to play as. For example, the game's first real task is to escape from the cell the Gestapo have thrown you into after your meeting with the antiques dealer. As the strongman you can simply barge the door down by repeatedly charging at it, but if you prefer something a little more subtle a thief character can use a bent nail as a lockpick, while the intellectual can fool the guard into opening the door.
Unfortunately, once the door is open you don't really have any choice except to kill the German guards and get out. Which brings us to the game's one major failing at this stage - combat. Not only is it clumsy and difficult to control, but it's also horribly unbalanced. While you start out as a weakling with nothing but your bare fists or (if you're lucky) a knife, the guards are all stronger than you and have rifles and pistols that can rob you of half your hitpoints if they manage to get off an accurate shot before you can close on them. Needless to say this makes the opening section of the game next to impossible, and the only way to complete it is to save after every fight and frequently stock up on cheese to replenish your health. It doesn't help that actually hitting anything is almost impossible unless you use the "lazy mode", which allows you to simply press enter and leave the computer to automatically attack the nearest enemy. The bad news is that the AI is a bit of a mess at the moment, frequently lapsing into Benny Hill territory as you and your assailants run round and round in circles chasing each other until somebody stops and everyone else piles into the back of him, resulting in an undignified gaggle of people waving knives and rifle butts at each other.
Another War does have potential, but at the moment it takes a lot of patience to find it behind the lethal combat. If Mirage and Cenega can fix this problem before the game is released over here, they could be on to a winner though. The plot is intriguing, the dialogue well written and quite funny in places, the graphics attractive if low tech, and the jazzy soundtrack and decent voice acting easy on the ears. It just needs a bit more polish. [You're fired - Ed]