Theatre of War 3: Korea is an upcoming RTS by 1C games. After developing the critically claimed flight-sim, IL-2 Sturmovik and it’s expansions, they turned their attention to the historical RTS. With the original WWII game and it’s sequel garnering mixed reviews, will a move to a new Theatre of War mark a breakthrough to victory?
On installing the game, you are offered a simple tutorial mission. The first impressions are positive, with very realistic, detailed models of historically accurate vehicles. The detail extends to the infantry, with individually named soldiers, even down to how many mines the engineers are carrying!
However, as someone brought up on Command and Conquer, this detail comes at a price. There is so much you can do with your units that the interface is very cluttered. Almost everything can be done with the mouse and cursor keys, which is nice, and the context sensitive pointers help, but it does not feel intuitive. The tutorial does not go out of it’s way to be helpful either, and winning involves a lot of trial and error with the controls, especially with extras such as air strikes.
Once into the game proper, you get to choose either the Koreans or Americans. Once you have picked sides, it is off to the map, for the strategic movement phase. This added realism doesn’t really add anything, especially as it is not explained at all, and I had to just click things randomly till I got something to happen. After this, a battle is generated.
The maps do a nice job of evoking scenes from M*A*S*H, although they can be a bit bland. A wide range of troops are at your disposal, tanks, infantry, artillery etc, but again you are thrown in at the deep end. General RTS knowledge will get you through, and eventually there is fun to be had. The game lacks the visual spectacle of a Starcraft or Red Alert, but this is to be expected of a “realistic” game.
There are 3 difficulty levels, and on novice the game suffers from the turtle tactic. It is easy to overwhelm your enemy by massing all your troops together and steamrollering him, and losses are easily made up from reinforcements you earn. Airstrikes and Artillery barrages liven up the proceedings, but the pacing is very slow, and there is a lot of micromanagement of individual units, as i have yet to discover how to make effective, easily selected groups. My first battle took an hour and a half to complete. A nice idea is the ability to fix the camera to any unit in a first person perspective, which changes the way you look at the game, and this goes some way to compensating for the complete lack of resource gathering and tech trees. Again this is appropriate for a sim, but adds to the slow feel of the game.
Outside of the game itself, there is a comprehensive encyclopaedia, full of both in game data and interesting historical facts for the military history nerds like me. A whole range of 1950s vehicles are included, with an insight into their development, armament and use. There is a campaign generator too for non historical battles, and a multiplayer suite, although this was not available at the time of writing.
To summarise, this is a competent, ultrarealistic RTS. If your wargaming background is Avalon Hill, you will probably love the detail available and historical accuracy of the battles. If like me, you were more Games Workshop, then the lack of pace and spectacular set pieces may leave you looking elsewhere for your strategy fix. Halo Wars this ain’t.
MLG Rating: 6/10
Platform: PC Release Date: 24/03/11
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Theatre of War 3: Korea for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a gaming-spec laptop. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.