Ultimate General: Civil War - title

Colbert: Total War Civil War, give it to me!

I've asked on numerous occasion for Creative Assembly to build a Total War game based on the American Civil War. I thought for sure that Total War: Shogun 2's second expansion Fall of the Samurai -- with its focus on industrialization, trains, telegraphs, gatling guns, and ironclads -- was setting the series up for a Civil War game. Sadly, that wasn't the case. Creative Assembly decided to move onto Rome II, then to Attila, before diving into all-out fantasy with -- not one, but two -- Total War: Warhammer games!

I've heard that the Total War: Warhammer games are actually pretty awesome, but I have zero interest in Warhammer, so I skipped them entirely. I'll admit that part of that was also because I was a bit bitter that I still hadn't gotten the Total War: Civil War game that I had wanted. Maybe Creative Assembly, being a studio based in the U.K. simply isn't that interested in the American Civil War? Or maybe they felt that Empire's American Revolution campaign already focused enough on the United States?

Addressing Gettysburg

But even though Creative Assembly isn't giving my that game [yet], there's no shortage of Civil War games from other developers. A few years ago, a little indie dev studio called Game Labs released one such game on Steam: Ultimate General: Gettysburg. It was a $15 budget title exclusively about the battle of Gettysburg. Not the entire Civil War, not battles surrounding or related to Gettysburg. Just Gettysburg. The game was praised for its simple UI, its historic details, and realistic, competitive, and highly-customizable A.I..

I played the game very briefly last year, but never actually finished the single battle provided, nor felt that the game was substantive enough (or that I had played enough of it) to warrant a full review. I was fairly impressed with the difficulty and challenge that the game provided, as well as the way in which it presented the actual history of the battle, while still leaving many individual tactical decisions up to the player.

If I had any complaints with that game, it probably only would have been that its narrow scope made it feel a bit overpriced at $15. I had bought it during a sale, so I didn't feel cheated, but I could easily see other people being upset by paying $15 for (basically) a tech demo of a single battle. $10 or less probably would have been the sweet spot.

Well, it turns out that Ultimate General: Gettysburg was basically a tech demo (and a financing plan) for Game Labs' larger, more ambitious project: Ultimate General: Civil War. The new game's scope encompasses the entire Civil War and includes a full campaign. It also sports a cleaner interface that clearly displays your objectives, better controls, and other improvements.

Ultimate General: Gettysburg - Seminary Ridge
UG: Gettysburg labeled historical points of interest on the map.
When it says, "Fall back to Seminary Ridge", you know exactly where that place is.

Oddly enough, UG: Civil War isn't a strict upgrade from UG: Gettysburg. There's a few features from UG: Gettysburg that have strangely been removed. The original Gettysburg game had some very pretty battlefield artwork that displayed the names of the various locations on the map. Hills, ridges, forests, and even some individual buildings and roads were all labeled with their real-life names! McPherson's Ranch, Culp Hill, Cemetery Ridge, and more are all here. It was an excellent way of providing a sense of place to the player, as well as some historic context. Sadly that feature has been removed from the full Civil War game. I wonder if the developer just didn't have the time or resources to research that level of detail for every battle included. Or maybe it's just because the smaller skirmish sites of battles like Bull Run, Shiloh, and Antietam aren't as infamous as the sites in Gettysburg? Or maybe there were licensing issues with some of the sites, and they decided that if they couldn't include some names, then they'd rather just not include any?

Ultimate General: Gettysburg

The maps of UG: Gettysburg also had a stylized, polished look to them, the movement arrows were bigger and stood out more (and they stayed on screen to remind you of where the units were headed, and to give the game a textbook-like appearance), elevation and line-of-sight were a bit easier to determine, and so on. This isn't to say that UG: Civil War is a particularly ugly game to look at. If you can get past the simplistic unit sprites, then the game still looks fine. It's just that UG: Gettyburg looked noticeably better!

A House Divided Against Itself...

The campaign of Ultimate General: Civil War will take the player through most of the major battles of the American Civil War. Not just Gettysburg. It also includes some optional smaller skirmishes and situations. In between battles, you'll be tasked with spending money and character prestige to replenish your troops, recruit new and larger regiments, equip your troops with better weapons, and assigning officers to command your corps and divisions. As you win battles, you'll be awarded experience levels that you can spend to upgrade your custom general in several different categories. Upgrading your economy skill will lower the cost of troops and provisions. Increasing your organization skill will increase the size of your army. Increasing your training skill will improve the fighting ability of your regiments. And so on...

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Civilization V - Pocatello of Shoshone

Only a few more civs to go in my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's new civilizations. Next up is the land-snatching Shoshone lead by Chief Pocatello.

The Shoshone are a group of native Americans that originated in the rocky regions of western North America (now Nevada and Utah). Around the same time as European colonists began settling on the east coast, the Shoshone began expanding eastward, which brought them into conflict with other plains indians such as the Blackfoot, Crow, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Some Shoshone who migrated into Texas and Oklahoma would break off into their own tribe: Comanche, who would become expert horsemen. The Shoshone began to come into conflict with the United States in the late nineteenth century due to the U.S.'s westward expansion, leading to a massacre of as many as 500 Shoshone at a winter encampment at Bear River in 1863. Shoshone culture has survived on reservations to this day, and in 2008, began working with Utah and Idaho state leaders to create a memorial to the Bear River Massacre. At its height, the Shoshone nation was composed of many tribes that occupied vast territory, extending from modern-day Montana all the way through Nevada; and their offshoot tribe, the Comanche, exhibited strong control of Texas and Oklahoma.

Civilization V: Brave New World - Pocatello

As westward immigration lead to conflict between the Shoshone and United States, Chief Pocatello (or, Tondzaosha) lead his tribe in raids and attacks against settlers in Idaho along the Oregon trail. He was feared and respected by his enemies, and Brigham Young (leader of the Mormons) attempted to offer terms of appeasement to the Shoshone in order to stop the attacks. Instead, the United States army arrived and destroyed any chances of a peaceful solution. Despite the overwhelming might of the U.S. army, Pocatello avoided the total massacre of his people and eventually negotiated the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868, which granted the Shoshone a permanent reservation at Fort Hall near the Snake River in exchange for annual compensation from the United States (which the United States rarely honored in full). Due to this agreement, the Shoshone cultural identity survives to this day, and the city of Pocatello in Idaho is named in his honor.

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Civilization V Brave New World - Ahmad al-Mansur of Morocco

Continuing my series of Civilization V strategies, the fourth installation will cover the African trading empire of Morocco lead by Ahmad al-Mansur.

When the area of Morocco (north west Africa) was first inhabited about 100,000 years ago, the land was a fertile savannah, rather than the arid desert and mountains that it is today, and archeological remains of several Paleolithic proto human cultures exist in the region. During the classical era, Phoenicians established colonies on west Africa, and eventually it was conquered by Carthage and then Rome, and then by Muslim Arabs around 670 CE. The earliest independent Moroccan states were the Berber kingdoms which dates to at least 110 BC, and after the repulsion of Arab rule, the Berbers resumed control. Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States as an independent nation, and their fleet protected U.S. merchant ships from assaults from barbary pirates. The friendship treaty with Morocco is the United States' oldest non-broken friendship treaty.

Ahmad al-Mansur - portrait

After the assassination of the Saadi Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh, his oldest son, Abdallah al-Ghalib sought sole rule, and Ahmad al-Mansur and his brother, Abd al-Malik, had to flee to the Ottoman empire. When Ahmad al-Mansur eventually gained control of Morocco, he resisted Ottoman annexation and maintained Morocco as an independent state, he established friendly relations with many Christian European nations, and began playing the Ottomans and Europeans against each other in order to secure his position of power. Later in his reign, he launched a military campaign against the Songhai empire, which had been weakened by civil strife. The campaign was successful, but Ahmad's heirs couldn't manage the vast territory that had been conquered, so it was divided into smaller kingdoms, and the Moroccan empire went into decline. Ahmad died of the plague in 1603

Morocco was the first civilization that I played in Civilization V: Brave New World. I chose them because their trait is very general-purpose and emphasizes the new trade route mechanic.

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