Summary: Futuristic decaying world and turn-based commando-style combat and economics based role playing game with over 50 weapon types and mercenaries and 16 scenarios.
Company line: Wages of War is an intense strategy wargame involving astute business negotiation and squad-level, commando-style warfare. The game takes place in a futuristic world where government and large corporations have turned to small bands of mercenaries to do their dirty work. The player assumes the role of a young entrepreneur trying to make it big in the cut-throat business of soldiers-for-hire. Success won't be easy because in Wages in War, you can kick ass on the battlefield, but if you don't turn a profit, you're out of business.
History: As you know New World Computing (NWC) was recently acquired by Trip Hawkin’s 3DO company. Many are curious how this acquisition will affect the company. Game companies that acquire other game companies can help or destroy them depending upon whether the acquisition provides cash to perform projects and allows the creative people the freedom to do what they do best, create games.
Plot: In 2001, the world is recovering from a nuclear holocaust, like the plot in the classic Electronic Arts game Wasteland. The United States (US) is broken in to small governments. The drug lords have united Central and South America under their rule. The Middle East and most of the world’s oil supply is a nuclear wasteland. Venezuelan and Mexican oil has turned to vanilla milk shake, and is therefore only useful in powering the ever present post nuclear holocaust clown cars, which no respectable drug lord would drive. So its you against the drug lords as the commander of a mercinary unit called MERCS, Inc. in an all out squad level slugfest for the remaining Texas oil. (Play the National Anthem and God Bless America! - Ed.)
Gameplay: Not only do you have to participate in squad-level combat, but you are required to conduct business to support the economic responsibilities of the game. You will negotiate mission contracts, acquire essential intelligence, and make deals with crooked arms dealers. How you perform in the economic missions will determine your strength in the combat missions.
This is a single-player turn-based squad-level strategy combat game. The mercinary characters can crawl, kneel, stand, run, and walk. One interesting ability is cutting fences which we have not seen in previous games where fences and other terrain features are inviolate. While the game does not have the capacity to completely destroy the environment, as in Syndicate Wars or the Origin Crusader series, having a more maleable environment is a desirable characteristic.
Dogs add a level of challenge with their ability to attack as in Command and Conquer Red Alert. Dogs can also bark and alert other soldiers to your presence. The dogs are a nice touch. Explosions have a realistic blast radius which can knock soldiers off their feet, cause unconsiousness and injury from the concussion. Another nice touch.
You receive mission orders by fax for sabotage, hostage rescue, industrial theft and assasination. You negotiate your best price for the mission then accept it and brief your soldiers on the mission. You try to expend as little money as necessary on the mission while still completing the mission goals with as little of your own men or equipment getting lost or damaged. If you make a profit you can spend more next time, if not you may be out of business.
Combat: NWC has developed a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine they call "Assault Ware" which provides the center of the turn-based squad-level combat system. The new AI keeps track of every character on the field, their weapons, weather, supplies, morale, wounds, and many other combat statistics before making a move. The computer is harder to beat this time.
Interface: The combat interface resembles that of X-COM with the top-down, third-person perspective isometric map view of the main battle window on the top two thirds of the screen. The bottom one third of the screen shows the statistics and movement points of the selected character, while the rest of this control panel is taken up by button based commands and status windows.
A really cute desk with a file cabinet, reminiscent of old Microprose between mission interfaces is back and curiously looks and works like a Managing Your Money Interface without any of the cute touches. Al the objects are active if you click on them: the door, filing cabinet, card file, teletype, telephone, coffee mug, magazine, adding machine, disks, light, world map, and wall calendar. There is even a window with a window shade, but there is no cute mouse hole exit. Al the items are intuitive, they do what you think they do. The phone and teletype are for communication. The world map can be used for selecting missions, the rolodex card file for selecting men and so on. Looks like fun.
The Wages of War overhead oblique view makes makes simple actions difficult. Kicking a door open is an exercize in positioning and perspective in Wages of War. There is much jockeying of characters to get the positioning right while the direct overhead view in Deadly Games is much easier to navigate and position characters.
Missions: Missions include rescues, capture, retrieval, infiltration, assassination and sabotage. Main maps will be used, but game play extended on those maps by random locations for the enemy troops. Scripted game play is supported but many of the game elements are randomized from game to game, such as selection of troops. Surprisingly this randomization does not improve game play.
Characterization: Select from over 55 mercenaries with 50 different meticulously designed and researched weapons and a set of characteristic statistics (marksmanship, demolitions, sealth, technical, etc.) that improve with experience. The game is a role playing game. Chracters start out with certain statistics and during the campaign mode, successive successful battles will increase the skill leves of the characters. The lack of character personalities, as was seen in Jagged Alliance is a significant deficiency.
Combat: Soldiers in battle are ranked in an "initiative pool" and move according to whether their statistics permit it Basically the same system is seen in other games such as the gold box games of Strategic Simulations (ie: Pool of Radiance - Ed.). In these battles a number of character statistics like combat skill, speed and other factors determines who goes first and in what order they go. Some fast players will move and fire two times for each more and fire of other characters.
Weapons seem almost ineffective in battle. Killing certain enemy players requires far too much ammunition, clips of it. The weapons and battles do not adhere to line of sight battle rules, since you can shoot anyone from anywhere on the map. Enemy teams also have unobstructed vision at night, another flaw.
Graphics: The super VGA graphics are crisp and highly detailed much prettier than the low resolution graphics from Jagged Alliance.
Animation: over 10,000 frames of animation per character surpassing the realism seen in this genre prior to this game. Characters will run, jump, clear a jam, and fire with extremely smooth and realistic postures and movement.
Voice actors: The voice actors all sound like the same American character. The voices have no personality like those in Deadly Games.
Music score: Average music score.
Sound effects: Average sound effects
Multiplayer: The game suffers seriously from no multiplayer options.
Hints: Be sure to equip your men carefully for the mission. Once you leave the equipment screen you cannot go back and theequipment you leave there is lost forever.
Cheats: Wages of War Cheats
Journalists: Kevin feels that Wages of War is half a game in search of a mission disk or a scenario creation editor.
Compare to: Wages of War is very similar to Sirtech's Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games. The graphics are noticably better than the Sirtech counterpart. Deadly games supercedes Wages of War in number of missions (50), a scenerio editor and multi-player mode.
Future: There are no planned multiplayer elements to the game.
Christine Grech Wendin, PC Games, volume 3, number 8, August, 1996, pg. 36.
Scott Udell, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg. 42-43.
Brett Jones, PC Gamer, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 106, 78%
Kevin J. McCann, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 10, March, 1997, pg. 78, 70%.
Daniel Morris, PC Games, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 91, 82%.
Loyd Case, Computer Gaming World, issue 153, April, 1997, pg. 154 - 156, 60%.