Historyline 1914-18

Title           Historyline 1914-18
Game Type       Strategy
Company         Blue Byte
Players         1 or 2
HD Installable  Yes
Compatibillity  All (Disable AGA)
Submission 	Joachim Froholt Profiled Reviewer

As the title suggests, this is a game about the first world war. Bluebyte,
the creators of this game, claim in the manual that: "Never before has
entertainment software been so conciously designed to present knowledge
and facts to the player in a graphic manner.". That sounds very nice, but
what about the game itself?

Bluebyte sets the scene with a brilliant intro showing the murder of
Franz Ferdinand, the presumed successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
This was the event that started the whole war (If you want to know more,
buy the game). Then the intro continues, showing a map of Europe and
going through the events which led to the war step by step. Finally the
map catches fire and the war is on.

Historyline can be played in several ways. First of all, you can play the
game in campaign mode where you move through the entire war. You can
choose whether you want to represent the central European powers or the
Allies. The game will be different depending on which you choose because
you will have different units available. Also, there are 24 maps where
you can either play against another human player or the computer.

Historyline is a turn based strategy game. While one player give orders
concerning troop movement, the other player concentrates on attacking.
After they are both done, the computer carries out the orders. The attacks
are calculated first, so although player one may have ordered his tank to
retreat, it might not reach the destination if player two ordered an
attack on this tank the same turn.

The attacks themselves can be shown in two ways, either as animations
where the players see the opposing units shooting at each others or in
a more statistical manner, where the player see how many units he lost
and how many he killed. This way is actually better, as it also show
the units experience (and how it improves). Experience is very important
in Historyline. A fully experienced unit will do much more harm than
a novice. This makes it important for the players to keep their units alive
for as long as possible.

The battle is over when one of the players either lose all his/her units
or when one of the players lose his/her headquarters. In campaign mode,
the battle is followed by historical information about what happened
in the war at that time (There is a two-month interval between each of the
24 battles).

The battlefield itself is split into hexagons. These are the properties
the units can move on. Anyone who has played strategy games like Battle Isle
knows how these work, but if you don't, just think of them as the squares
on a chessboard (only that they are hexagonal).

There are an impressive range of units available in Historyline. As the game
tries to be historically correct, different units become available as the
war moves on. Both sides have periods where they are technically superior
to the other. In addition to land units ranging from infantry to artillery,
you can also command air and sea units. Some maps are almost completely
naval battles, while others are compact trench battles. Others again
are so big that your have to depend on railroads to get your units to
the main battlefield. There is a lot of variation in this game.

In one player mode, the game work nicely. Unfortunately, the AI isn't too
strong, so in the later battles he will still act as he did in the early
ones. To make things more difficult, the level designers have given him
other advantages, like asphalt roads instead of your muddy trails. I think
this is rather annoying, but it isn't really their fault. Also, in the
later levels, the computer get a huge amount of troops. For me, this makes
actually starting to play a new map a bit difficult, as I don't know where
to begin defending myself and where to just give up.

As a two player game, Historyline is excellent. Trying to outwit your human
opponent is not only more fun than trying to outwit the computer, but
beating a human opponent also provides more satisfaction than beating
a computer. The downside is that sometimes the battles become locked:
Both players have good lines of defence and equal strength, so the first
player who moves will probably suffer for it.

In both one and two player games, the screen is split up. You can always see
what the other player is up to, whether it's a computer or a human.
It doesn't really matter much in this game, but some might want to put a
book or something in the middle of the screen so that you can't see
what the other is doing.

This game has plenty of depth, and it provides the players with good
opportunities to prove themselves as the strategic masterminds they imagine
themselves to be. Especially in two player mode, the importance of a
well thought out tactic and strategy is great. You won't win if you rush
straight ahead, it is important to try to divert your enemy and lure him/her
into your traps. Sadly, the computer opponent often uses the "rush straight
into my opponent's claws" tactic.

The gfx are very nice. It's well drawn, and it is easy to recognize the
individual units. If you are color blind, you can also change the palette
so that it is easier to distinguish which side a certain unit belong to.
There are also some in-game animation sequences for when important things
happen, like when a player captures an enemy depot or factory.
The sound is ok too, although not as good as in certain other Bluebyte games.

I think this game is worth buying even if you plan to play it alone,
as the "flaws" in the AI don't really become evident until you've played a
lot of maps. As every map takes a while to complete, you'll be guaranteed
several months of enjoyment if you purchase it. If you have a friend who
likes wargames, this game is a must. Historyline will provide you with tons
of fun. It was also re-released by Empire in a compilation called
Combat Classics 3, where you get Gunship 2000 and Campaign as well.

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