When it was released in 2006, Pacific Storm was quickly recognized as one of the most challenging and original World War II– themed real-time strategy games of that year. It revolutionized strategy gaming by allowing the player to take a break from managing his forces and experience the action firsthand. This blending of genres—traditional strategy with combat action —added a fresh element to the occasionally tedious task of managing one’s units.
Now its sequel, Pacific Storm: Allies, ups the ante by adding loads of new content and bulked-up game play options. Allies retains the Pacific theater setting and the unique combat action feature, but just how does the sequel stack up to the original?
The strategy element of Allies is staggering, even compared to its predecessor. Each individual unit is controlled and maintained by the player. During the planning phase of an operation, you can choose which units will comprise your naval fleet and the type of munitions they will carry; during the execution phase, you can micromanage your forces at the formation and individual unit levels.
The player’s strategic options are extended further with the addition of the United Kingdom as a playable nation (other options are the United States and Japan). Each nation has its own unique units, bases, and abilities. There are over forty new aircraft and twenty new ships to choose from, and hundreds of tech upgrades to build your units’ strength. But the addition with the greatest impact is the new diplomacy system, which lets you trade supplies and technologies with your allies— hence the title of the game.
The game’s historical accuracy has also improved; there is even a location-specific damage feature modeled after the prototypes of the aircraft and ships used in the game. When a unit is attacked, the damage tallied reflects such considerations as the unit’s wall thickness, material, and the fuel and ammo stored. For example, small munitions will bounce off the thick hull of a battle cruiser, but hit it near the fuel tanks with a torpedo and kiss it goodbye.
Allies’ new features bring a great deal of complexity to the game, but they also negate the combat action feature that made the original game so great. Taking control of a single unit takes the commander away from the battlefield, leaving your forces leaderless. And because victory depends on maintaining command and adapting to changing battle conditions—not trying to take out an enemy fleet with a single fighter jet—what was once a fun and distinctive feature now feels like a gimmick.
While the de-emphasis of the combat action feature is a disappointment, the beefed-up strategy element makes Allies a stronger game than the original and establishes the game as one of the most challenging and enjoyable of its kind on the market.
Originally published in the September 2008 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.