This isn't your daddy's Risk™ game. Wargaming.net's turn-based strategy title Massive Assault is moving to a new online market. The Massive Assault Network is now offering folks all over the world the opportunity to square off head-to-head across a plethora of colorful, futuristic worlds. While the network adds a huge new component that fully leverages the multiplayer option, making it more accessible, this is a turn-based game. As such, players can engage in multiple games at the same time, but the potentially long wait between turns means games can be stretched out into weeks. Adrenaline junkies need not apply.
Taking place approximately 200 years in the future, Massive Assault features the struggle between two dominant, military factions, the Free Nations Union and the Phantom League, across several worlds. The story behind the conflict is long, convoluted and ultimately not important. The gem here is in the hex strategy play and the colorful, diverse environments. Now, with the addition of the network, fans of the game can build a profile, track stats and climb a classic ladder. All of which virtually renders the single player experience obsolete.
The two factions are exact mirrors of one another. For every unit on the green, Free Nations side such as a tank, there is a unit within the red, Phantom League faction, the Bio-T in this case, that possesses the same armor, attack and movement ability. There are about a dozen different units available to each side that covers the entire military range of air, land and navy. Each unit has a unique model and a specific movement and attack animation, but the differences between the factions are only surface deep. So your choice of one or the other is merely an aesthetic one.
The graphical richness of the game seems to have been bumped up a notch since I first reviewed the retail version of the game last year. Maps now look even more vivid and colorful. There are basically three types of terrain: lush, desert and arctic. Each 3D map contains subtle, graphical details: palm trees sway in the breeze, waves wash up on shore. These subtleties help to create an illusion of a living, continuous world within the turn-based environment. As you might expect, topography plays a key role in planning your strategy. It's possible to create bottlenecks, conduct flanking maneuvers, etc.
At its core, Massive Assault is a classic hex game. Fill up your front ranks with cheap cannon fodder, then bring in the heavy, long-range mechs and missile units in the back. Your strategic approach will require a tweak here and there depending upon the map, and the political system, that allows you to disclose your allied territories at a time of your choosing, adds a little spice that will keep you and your opponent guessing, but underlying it all is that solid, hex concept.
The network, at this point, contains a handful of maps on which to ply your skills against humans. Some of these will be familiar to existing fans of the game. They are World War maps. I was only provided with a trial version, containing a single map, to review, but I was able to get a feel for how the network will operate.
This is strictly a 1v1 multiplayer experience. Games can be obtained by going to the Opponent Wanted page, or by going to the Send a Challenge page and issuing said challenge to one of a list of current profiles. Turn limits can be set from 1 to 14 days. From there, it's a waiting game. Your current games can be tracked on one of two pages Waiting for Turn and Current Games. It's possible to engage in several matches at the same time. If you can keep that many games straight, you can then be hopeful of at least having the ability to take some sort of turn every day.
There appears to be a system of e-mail notification when a challenge is issued, accepted or a turn is taken, but I found that this system was inconsistent, so you'll want to pop out there and check on your matches. If you're looking for a quicker match, you can enter the chat room provided and find some like-minded strategy nut.
As you climb the skill ladder, hopefully, you’ll attain higher and higher ranks. Starting at Conscript, you can one day earn the rank of Marshall. Of course, you need to learn the skills to climb that ladder, so Wargaming.net, being ever thoughtful, has provided online mentors. These are folks who will play a game with you and give you hints and tips along the way.
There’s really nothing too terribly negative to say about Massive Assault Network. The sound and music isn’t really germane to the experience. It adds to the overall ambience but ceases to catch your attention in short order.
My guess is that if you’re looking to purchase and download this game, you already know your way around a turn-based hex game. As such, you won’t regret picking up this title, and I doubt you will ever bother with the single-player game once you log onto the network. On the flip side, Massive Assault is forgiving and the network provides mentoring for those who are new to the game. All in all, Massive Assault Network is a smart strategic addition to a solid, turn-based strategy game.