• First Impressions: Ultimate General: Gettysburg (Originally published July 19th, 2014)

    As many people are aware, a son of Total War Center has recently expanded into the world of gaming by creating his very own game; Ultimate General: Gettysburg, by DARTH VADER. This game is set during the three days (with a possible fourth day) of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War, a battle that claimed fifty thousand casualties, nearly eight thousand of those being killed. It was a bloody few days in American history, and one in which you may now re-enact. Shall you help the Union maintain history by defeating the army of Robert E. Lee, or will you instead lead Lee’s army to victory over the Union? The choice is yours to make.

    Based on my first impressions of the game, there are several things worth noting that contribute to making Ultimate General a rather fun game. For one, the AI of the enemy is absolutely ruthless, and with nine different options for how the AI behaves, every battle and every scenario can turn out differently from the last. The AI, combined with the rather fast-paced gameplay, makes for a challenge, as you will shift your units about the map as new weaknesses open up, whether they be your own or the enemies. Another positive is how the battle evolves depending on your choices and your successes or failures, with every individual scenario ending with two or more choices for you to make on how the next stage should begin. It really is a fantastic way to go about the game, and really sets it apart from the games inevitable comparison, Sid Meier’s Gettysburg. Depending on how many casualties are incurred and whether you manage to hold on to enough key points on the battlefield, the whole battle can end with your victory or defeat, with the option for the battle to go on to a fourth day. Darth and his team also managed to create a rather beautiful map that accurately portrays the geography of the area at the time of the battle. Every unit in the game is detailed to the exact number of soldiers they had at the time of the battle. While not every man is visually represented on the battlefield, the representative number of men still makes for an impressive sight. This is especially true as those bodies begin to pile-up along the harshest points of the battlefield.

    There are a few frustrating things that do arise in the course of gameplay. Though the units all have their own AI that allows them to focus on the enemy on their own without your micromanagement, the mostly brigade structure can often lead to frustrating situations. For example, I had an entire brigade turn towards a skirmisher unit of about two hundred men, exposing its whole flank to withering fire from a brigade of about 1,500 men. Needless to say, it did not take long for my brigade’s morale to drop to a point of retreat, leaving a gaping hole in my line. In my opinion, this flaw could be rectified by allowing brigades to separate into regiments, to allow a more appropriate response in this situation. Factoring into this is the inability to set formations for the brigades, which can be rather useful if you need to stretch a line more. Another, more minor problem, arises when it comes to the terrain. While the map is quite beautiful to look at, it is often difficult to tell exactly how high a particular hill is, which can make it confusing as to how vital that hill might be and how much it can affect the course of fighting in that particular part of the map. Now for someone like me that is well aware of the importance of some of this terrain is due to study of the battle, it is not a huge problem, but for others it could be a problem, and can also make it difficult to determine if there are obstacles blocking fire from infantry or artillery. Another slightly frustrating problem is the morale system, leading to some units routing rather quickly and leaving holes in your line that would be more at home in a Swiss cheese. Holes the often clinical and brutal enemy AI will not hesitate to exploit.

    If my criticisms do seem harsh, it might be because the memory of hundreds of hours on the Sid Meier’s games have left a lasting impression on me. Despite these small flaws, I do feel that Darth and his team have created an impressive game. It is certainly a challenge at times, and will often leave you scratching your head as to what you should do next. But the ever changing nature of the battle of Gettysburg, based on your choices, will lead to many hours of exciting gameplay. And some of these small issues may be resolved when the full game is finished. Overall, I am satisfied with this game, and I am hoping to see Darth and his team continue this into an epic franchise, perhaps not just with the Civil War but beyond.

    I cannot rate this game based on a number right now considering it is not completely done, but I heavily recommend this game to anyone who loves these sorts of games, and especially anyone that is interested in the American Civil War.

    Ultimate General: Gettysburg is available on Steam Early Access. Check out the Game-Labs hosted forum right here on Total War Center to learn more about this neat game.