Midwinter: Flames of Freedom (Second Review)

Title		Midwinter II: Flames of Freedom (Second Review)
Game Type	3D Combat Sim
Publisher	Microprose (1991) [Rereleased by Kixx]
Players		1
HD Install	Rudimentary - must be in root directory of DH0: -> DH3:
                More info below
Compatibility	All
Submission	Dennis Smith Profiled Reviewer

In the sequel to Midwinter, the action moves from the icy island peaks to a
tropical island chain known as the Slave Isles. 41 of these islands are
controlled by the evil Saharan Empire, only one, Agora, remains free. But
the signs are that this freedom will not last long.

Your goal is to set out from Agora on a number of missions, to overthrow
Saharan control and free as many islands as possible before the Saharan
Empire launches an offensive on Agora itself. When that day comes, the more
islands you have freed, the better chance you have of wiping out the
Saharan forces. In this game, every action you take has a long term effect.

On the one hand, there is strategy; success in this game relies on careful
choice of which islands to emancipate. The route the enemy takes to reach
Agora will depend on which islands have been taken, and consequently it is
actually better in the long run to leave some islands alone than to free
them all. This may seem a little far-fetched (from the point of Sahara's
strategists) but the result is a fascinating strategic puzzle.

Then there are the missions themselves, each a blend of action and
strategy. Like Midwinter, you have numerous modes of transport, and much
more variety than the previous game, from speedboats and balloons to tanks
and the amazing 'flying sub'. Completing the missions requires certain
tasks to be completed, such as blowing up buildings, destroying enemy
squadrons and recruiting key individuals. How you succeed at these tasks,
particularly the latter, depend on the strengths and weaknesses of your
agent, both in terms of character and physical abilities. You can customise
your own agent or use a default.

The 3D display is, well, let's just say it's from 1991. It was designed to
work on an A500 or an Atari ST. The detail level isn't huge, the depth of
perception trails off all too quickly, especially from the air, and it's
none too quick. But it works. It puts you in the thick of the action and
serves its purpose well, providing both day and night environments.  The
sounds are OK, the music becomes irritating (ported straight from the PC
and the unimpressive sound-cards of the era) but it's not a major part of
the play.  The gameplay is where the game stands out, and it's there in
spades.  You've got real freedom to go where you like, you can leap, James
Bond-like from vehicle to vehicle and how you go about freeing the Slave
Isles is entirely up to you.  You can play the game just for the biplane
dog-fights or you can spend a couple of hours reviewing all the strategy.
Best is to play the campaign as a whole, and even when you finish there
will still be plenty of island missions which you haven't done that you
can go back and have a go at.

There's a real classic of a game somewhere inside Mike Singleton's head.
Midwinter had real atmosphere, like few games before it or since, with
loads of fine detail about the individual characters. Its major failing
is its poor longevity, there being only one mission to complete.  The
sequel solves that problem and provides a massive landscape with many more
options, but in so doing has been forced to sacrifice the level of detail,
and so it doesn't have the same gritty atmosphere of revolutionary
activity. If Singleton and his Maelstrom team can ever put the atmosphere
of the first into the scope of the second - well, that's as near to
perfection as anyone could hope for.  But don't let Flames Of Freedom's
dated display or apparent shallowness put you off; there's a really
fine game under the surface.


  Flames of Freedom has a very simplistic hard-drive compatibility -
  it searches for files in one of four locations (after it's checked the
  floppy drives) - these being the root directories of 'DH0:', 'DH1:',
  'DH2:' and 'DH3:'. Fortunately, this means that if you don't have a
  hard-drive partition for each of these, then you can make an assign from
  one of these to the directory in which you have put Flames of Freedom.
  The easiest way to do this, then, is to use one of the already provided
  installers, the 'Install to SYS:' installer will do nicely.

  First of all, you'll have to reassign SYS: somewhere else (it normally
  points to the partition which contains Workbench). Make a directory for
  your FoF files (for example 'Games:Midwinter2/') then assign SYS: to that
  directory from cli:

   assign SYS: [FoF directory] (for example: "assign SYS: Games:Midwinter2")

  Now when you run FoF's 'Install_to_SYS:' program, the game will be
  installed to your chosen directory. Next you need to make an assign to
  this directory. If you don't have a partition called DH3: then it really
  couldn't be simpler. Add a line to your user-startup which assigns DH3:
  to the relevant directory:

   assign DH3: [FoF directory] (for example: "assign DH3: Games:Midwinter2")

  Then reboot your computer and you should be able to run Flames of
  Freedom directly from your hard drive. If you use a dynamic ASSIGNing
  program like AssignZ or MCP, you must manually add the DH3: assign in
  your assigns-list in the format appropriate to the relevant program.

  If you already have four hard-drive partitions named DH0: through to
  DH3: then things get tricky. You will need to disable one of the drives
  - NOT your Workbench drive or the drive containing Flames of Freedom -
  before you then reassign that drive to the Flames of Freedom directory.
  This should be done in a script file which is run immediately prior to
  running Flames of Freedom. For example, if Workbench is on DH0: and
  Flames of Freedom is on DH2:, you could disable and reassign DH3: to
  your Flames of Freedom directory with the following two lines:

   assign DH3: DISMOUNT
   assign DH3: [FoF directory] (for example: "assign DH3: Games:Midwinter2")

  After running these lines, Flames of Freedom should now work from your
  hard-drive. The alternative of course would be to install FoF to the
  root directory of one of the DHx: partitions, though most people would
  prefer to keep games in separate directories.

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