History: Some of the Avalon Hill games produced have had a great impact upon the computer game industry, but few have sold in large numbers. Avalon Hill has been around for many years, it is owned by the Dott family of Baltimore Maryland and known best for its war games, such as Squad Leader, and 3M Bookshelf games which Avalon Hill bought out, when the 3M bookshelf line was discontinued.
Big Time software has a very smooth Flight Commander 2 game engine that has recieved critical acclaim for a basically solid and good playing game. Flight Commander is a top-down real time strategy game that is played with planes, Over the Reich is a similar game set in the time of World War II. Both are solid products that should not be confused with flight simulators.
Company line: MAC/IBM CD-ROM - You command an Allied or German squadron of 16 fighters over World War 2 Germany, 1943-1945, in this strategy and role-playing game. Choose the aircraft, select the pilots and armaments, plot the missions and fight your way to final victory. How long can your squadron survive in the skies Over the Reich!
Plot: The time is World War II between 1943 and 1945 and you have the choice of joining up with the British Royal Air Corps, The U.S. Army Air Corps, or the German Luftwaffe. The place is Western Europe after the Battle of Britain, which will be the subject of the sequel to Over the Reich (OTR) called Spitfire! planned for a 1997 release date. Rather than taking the stick of an individual plane, the gameplayer takes the role of the squadron leader and commands units of planes in a tactical war.
The interface: The planes are shown in an overhead oblique perspective, while the terrain forms the background to their maneuvers. The top down map perspective will take up the top two thirds of the screen while the control panel the bottom one third. Like most strategy games the bottom panel shows the unit selected and provides for movement and firing at the enemy as well as a display for vital statistics on the plane. Each pilot has unique characteristics which affect combat performance.
Gameplay: You actually order planes to dive, roll, climb, fire, and other acrobatics. The planes perform the same as any unit in a war simulation. Attention to damaged planes and pilot statistics will keep you from attempting maneuvers that will not benefit the unit. Do not put high G-stresses on damaged airframes and do not have rookie pilots fire on the enemy unless they have a very high chance of hitting them with the guns. Speed direction and action of air planes is all controlled by a combination of keyboard and mouse controls.
Difficulty: Five difficulty levels from student to ace should make the game accessible to most players. The game is played from the tactical viewpoint so that it is not an arcade game or flight simulator.
Missions and scenarios: There will be 55 single missions in the game that require planning or multiple battles. While others may opt to go on full tours of duty which string the missions together. Missions involve bomber escort, fighter sweeps, interception, interdiction, naval strikes, airfield raids, close air support, V-2 rocket sight raids, and others. Missions can vary from simple base defense to escorting a squadron of bombers deep into enemy territory. Missions can be historical or they can design their own missions to fly.
A full tour of duty requires the squadron commander to command 16 fighters starting in 1943. Pilots will have different personalities which make them suitable for some missions but not for others. It is a good commander who knows what his men will do when he gives the orders. Pilots gain experience and skill levels. If a pilot it lost he is replaced by a green recruit that you have to train. You can play as allied or German against humans or strong computer artificial intelligence.
You choose targets, pilots, planes, mission and other factors and the group goes off and returns for a debrief of all the events of the mission. A combat log summarizes what happened and decides whether the mission was victory, defeat or tie. If you do not want to fly an entire tour of duty, you can fly single missions, either in quick start or with full mission plannning.
Aircraft: Twenty-four (Nineteen?) aircraft types include B-17s, Me 190s, Spitfire, and other classic planes, including prop fighters, jets, rocket interceptors and bombers
Editor: Mission editor
Graphics: The graphis show very pretty overhead view terrain features, but the only view available is overhead where graphics do not really shine. The underlying map is portrayed in classic hex shaped movement squares.
Animation: Video clips of actual war footage highlight takeoffs, kills, ground attacks, etc. make up part of the animation in the game. The other animation is the movement of large numbers of top down airplanes with hexsided facing.
Utilities: Five difficulty levels provide more options to determine play style. The difficulty levels make the game easier for novices and challenging for experts. A more complex difficulty matrix would be preferred to the five levels which would allow adjustments for style of play. The product does allow you to choose from a list of realism features, including stalls, spins, G-induced loss of consciousness, airframe stress and others. A help mode will suggest moves while learning the game.
Multiplayer: Two player hotseat, network and email play is supported. There is no serial modem (direct connect) play supported.
Summary: It is no secret that Avalon Hill has been in the gaming business for years and successful at it. They love their board games and now they are moving into computer games, but these games retain the board game flavor that has added Avalon Hill to the gamer's vocabulary. Many nights and weekends have been spent playing Avalon Hill games. The games are a result of a love of the genre, a fanatic devotion to realism and details, and other factors that make this an excellent game. This is not a flight sim.
Journalists: Everyone likes this game so if you are into strategy it is a good bet.
Scott Udell, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg. 64.
PetraSchlunk, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 11, April, 1997, pg. 84, 80%.
Robin Kim, Computer Gaming World, issue 153, April, 1997, 90%.
Steve Klett, PC Games, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 92, 85%.
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