MAKING HISTORY: The Calm & the Storm Review

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Graphics: 7.0
Sound : 6.0
Gameplay : 7.0
Multiplayer : 5.0
Overall : 7.0
Review by Lenny Eusebi
Making History is a complex strategy game, challenging both for its detailed economy and its various spheres of military operations. The game takes place before and during the Second World War, and allows the player to take the helm of some of the powerful nations that eventually became involved in that conflict.

The single player game provides a number of different scenarios, each of which starts at a different point in the war or its build-up (the earliest start is in 1936). Which countries you can select varies with the scenario, an each country has a brief intro section that explains its situation at that point in history and what its goals were. You can choose to follow those goals or ignore them, and see where your own goals would have taken your chosen country during that period. An option setting allows you to choose whether victory is gained by the alliance with the most victory points, or the individual country.

The game is turn-based, with each turn taking one week. In multiplayer, a timer can be set to keep each player from taking too long. Each turn, you can adjust the current production assignment of each of your cities, order new research, upgrade your territories, conduct diplomacy, initiate trade agreements, and, of course, change the orders given to your military units. When you end your turn, all units move at once and resolve their attacks (though some battles may take place over several turns, especially if reinforcements keep arriving).

Queuing up the orders to execute at the end of the turn means that you have plenty of time to take into account what all of your units can do and still go back and change orders you gave early on. This is particularly useful in a game with as many different options for military orders as Making History has. Each of the standard units like tanks and infantry, fighters and strategic bombers, and subs and battleships comes in several varieties, some of which are purely better and simply require the investment to research them, while others fill different roles. For example: light bombers, in addition to being cheaper than other bombers, are also the best at attacking enemy ground and sea forces, making them a formidable addition to your offense, where the medium and heavy bombers are better used to damage an enemy’s economy. Your planes can be used to patrol a territory (even one they
aren’t based in), provide air support to an ongoing conflict, bomb cities or military units, or simply to scout regions within range. There are many things to take into account with land and sea forces as well, making for some long turns as military conflict heats up.

The basic combat mechanic of the game is that two armies occupying the same territory fight each other round after round until one retreats or is destroyed. The last country to have an army occupying a territory controls that territory, and although there are fortifications that can give a defensive bonus, there is no automatic garrisoning of a territory – if you want it defended, you need to leave troops there. Given the speed with which units can move through nice areas like Europe, this gives significant advantage to naval powers that can protect convoys, since they can strike anywhere and then fan out from there and choke off the production of whoever is defending. Once you’ve realized just how many units need to be dedicated to defense to prevent attacks like this, you begin to understand why you can produce so much of each resource and so many units. A country at war will need a very large military, especially one with many land borders, like Germany.

Funding a military seems easy when you’ve got a few units just hanging around your borders waiting for the fun to begin. At times of peace, your country can and should devote significant effort to building factories. The more strong manufacturing you have, the easier it will be to keep your military strong, and the more different cities you have with good production, the harder to disrupt your economy will be. You can’t focus solely on production, though, because you still have to keep your resource balances from reaching zero, and you are probably better off stockpiling resources for when the war starts. In addition to all that, research requires both money and direct contribution from one or more cities, and there are many things worth researching, from blitzkrieg warfare (if you start in 1936 or as someone besides Germany) to guided missiles to jets to heavy tanks, or even the atomic bomb.

Once you’ve started fighting a war, not only do you have to balance the production of resources in your cities with the production of units (the resources arms and goods require a city to produce them instead of units or anything else), but you also have the increased resource expenses that military orders incur. As your air force and ground armies get bigger, each order sending them to do something will become a large drain on your resources, and depending on which country you are, it may require that you find someone willing to export oil or steel.

Trading is fairly robust, allowing you to offer any amount of a resource to whoever wants it, browse the available resources posted to the market by others, offer aid to or request aid from specific countries, and even offer to buy a certain amount of a resource from a country that hadn’t put it on the market (this is often unsuccessful, but not always).

All in all, the single player game of Making History has much to recommend it to fans of table top strategy games. The game systems are complex but digestible; there are plenty of strategies to be found and exploited, and there is a wide variety of starting conditions between the different scenarios and the countries available in each.

The multiplayer is certainly a different story, and one that is held back significantly by a lack of available games, even on Steam. The option for putting a timer on moves is nice, and it is always the case that human players provide a more opportunities for bluffs, diplomacy, intrigue and trash-talk than AI opponents. That said, much of the appeal of a game like this comes from the slow piecing together of a strategy, flipping through charts of stats, tweaking each city’s production, and planning every detail of an attack. Most of that fun is lost when there’s a time limit on your actions.

I would not recommend Making History to more casual strategy fans, or to RTS fans, as the complexity of the systems both increases the amount of
time it takes to get comfortable with the game and reduces the pace of action to a rather slow one. Likewise, history buffs going into this game to watch the stories they know unfold should bear in mind that, as the title implies, you are the one making the history, not just watching it. Though many historical events are represented in the game, and some things (like the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) have some scripted actions you can take to incorporate them, the game is not intended to, and does not, play out directly along historical lines. It’s not blatantly a-historical (so you won’t see England attacking France on its own), but in most of the borderline situations it is highly variable.