The real time strategy market isn’t short of excellent examples when it comes to Second World War based games and one of its latest additions is Timelines: Assault on America. Developed by Strategy First and released on September 24, 2013, Timelines changes the course of WW2 by simulating an event that saw Adolf Hitler assassinated by American officials operating on tips provided by an underground resistance movement in Nazi Germany. The event was so devastating that it caused the Axis to abandon plans of a Russian invasion in order to seek retribution on the United States. However, does the game live up to this rather interesting story? Let’s find out.
The game begins on July 20, 1942. The United States’ Office of Strategic Services received a tip from an underground German resistance movement against the Third Reich, which drove them to launch a fictional operation called Wolf’s Head. Leading snipers in the US Army hide amongst the gatherers at an Adolf Hitler support rally, then assassinate Hitler as he passes during the proceedings.
The following day, thousands of Germans are arrested by Nazi officials and they eventually learn of Operation Wolf’s Head. Because of this, Nazis decide to abandon ongoing plans of invading Russia and convince the Japanese to join them in a two front invasion of the United States: the Nazis will attack from the East, whereas the Japanese will invade on the Western Front. It is the player’s mission to defend the United States from being overthrown by the invading armies.
Key Features of Timelines: Assault on America
The single player component of the game is spread across twelve missions that end with a grand battle in Washington, DC. However, the game truly shines in its multiplayer options. Up to four players can join in battle with nine playable countries from the Axis and Allies. Players can choose to play against each other, or battle a computer opponent.
While there’s quite a bit of range when it comes to strategic opportunities and thoughts, the game’s units leave a bit to be desired. Players will only have access to 20 units per nation, then will be required to upgrade them rather excessively with over 200 upgrades being available within the game. Nonetheless, players will be required to consider all fronts: airstrikes are possible, naval strikes are possible, and the game includes varied terrain including elevations that allow units to be positioned in their most advantageous spots.
As someone who doesn’t have the most strategic of minds, I found the adaptive A.I. to be an excellent addition. The computer opponent is able to sense and learn the player’s skill level and adjusts itself accordingly. Of course, the game increases in difficulty as the missions go on, but I never found myself overburdened by Godmode-like opponents. I always felt like the game matched what I was bringing to it in terms of intensity and skill, which is a definite plus.
The visual department is quite a grab bag of highs and lows. Overall, I didn’t get the impression that the game was befitting of a 2013 release and it sported graphics that are quite dated by comparison to the eye-candy releases of today, but that isn’t to say the game itself suffers from bad presentation values in any way. They’re certainly passable and playable, albeit obviously dated.
The game is played from an overhead perspective with three dimensional sprites below. Because of the limited amounts of units on either side of the battle, the game doesn’t suffer from any obvious frame rate stutter, but this was tested on a dedicated gaming rig. It’s certainly possible that older units may suffer slightly, but the degree is unlikely to affect overall playability. The moderate system requirements, including a 512 MB graphics card and 4 GB RAM, are likely to be satisfied by the majority of gaming-capable systems.
Perhaps the most obviously “dated” visual aspect of the game are its explosion scenes. While they certainly accent the combative nature of the game, there’s a sense of low-resolution pixelation associated with them. It seems as if the developers took a stock animation and plastered it on top of a hit point. It’s easy to look past this for lighter battles, but in heated combat the aged nature of the effect becomes very obvious to even casual onlookers.
Despite this, the game is nicely presented in a fluid, well-animated package that only lacks in some areas. I left the game feeling pretty pleased with it in this department. While it didn’t go very far in taxing my gaming rig as I like my games to do, it certainly had a couple of fans spinning along the way.
It’s hard to find a lot of faults with the game. The storyline is certainly interesting and I appreciate opportunities to deviate from the general WW2 norm that follows the events of the Second World War to their exact specification. However, in terms of the actual firepower involved in the game, I would’ve liked to have commanded a lot more units and to have engaged in fuller scale warfare. What I received was acceptable, but the focus of the game is clearly on micromanaging upgrades rather than the action aspects of a standard real time strategy game.
Is this worthy of purchase? I’d argue it is. It’s by no means the most innovative real time strategy game, but the engaging storyline makes this one a very enjoyable gameplay experience. For those who are purists in terms of the genre, they might find this game is a bit dry for their tastes. Many of these players demand large scale battles in addition to all of the micromanagement aspects of the genre. Unfortunately, the game only ticks one of these boxes, but does so incredibly well and with a thoroughness that’s unmatched by many modern strategy games.
Is it going to set the gaming world on fire? Probably not, but it’d be unwise to let this one slip through the cracks.