Storm Over the Pacific: Not Your Father’s Board Game

Wasteland Interactive’s new World War II strategy title Storm over the Pacific does not fit in with most of today’s fast-paced, hard-core videogames. It’s more like a robust board game that, due to the many statistical calculations involved in each turn, is simply better played on a computer than on a tabletop.

Stylistically reminiscent of such classic board and PC strategy titles as Risk and Panzer General, Storm is played in sweeping rounds for dominance over large portions of the Pacific Theater. These matches vary in scale from a three-part campaign detailing the Battle of Guadalcanal, to a giant single match encompassing the entire Pacific Ocean, with its many unique battlegrounds on both land and sea.

Storm’s first level is the sole counterfactual mission in the game’s roster of otherwise historically accurate campaigns, in which the player must defend the Australian mainland from a hypothetical Japanese invasion. People ranging from scholars to conspiracy theorists still like to debate over the plans Japan may or may not have had for Australia; it’s a fun detail that Storm postulates just what those events may have looked like had the city of Darwin actually fallen to the Japanese after their February 1942 bombing campaign.

This campaign has the added benefit of introducing players to Storm’s overarching mechanics in a relatively forgiving environment. It quickly becomes apparent in this first mission that you, as Australia, possess the overwhelming force. But you must determine a reasonably efficient way to mobilize, supply, and reinforce your troops, which at the start of the match are in disarray and on the wrong side of the continent. Once you finally have these logistics well in hand, though, successfully driving out your opponent largely becomes a question of thinking several moves ahead while micromanaging your frontline units to encircle and destroy the enemy. However, like a board game, each of these units must be moved individually every turn, and at times this can slow the battle to a pace that is ponderous at best—even during a shorter campaign like Guadalcanal, which takes about 30 turns to complete.

There are no 3-D graphics in Storm, favoring instead a map-like perspective, which is populated by two-dimensional animated icons that represent your various units. This may disappoint some gamers used to eye-popping graphics. But Storm’s two dimensions are rendered crisply and colorfully, and the software can be run on systems not necessarily configured with gaming in mind.

All in all, Storm over the Pacific is a solid revisitation of the strategy board game concept, with noteworthy historical detail in the placement of units, terrain, and resources. Those who are accustomed to something faster, prettier, and more intuitive may find the adjustment too difficult. But those who want to take their time learning a game that will provide a carefully paced and heady example of historical strategy should thoroughly enjoy this title.

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