Massive Assault Network 2 Review (PC)

Within the RTS/Strategy genre, the indie development scene has had a lot of movement recently. Introversion’s harrowing Defcon showing a stylized, depressing nuke-a-thon whilst Zee-3’s truly wonderful Naked War shows a more light hearted, cartoon-y approach to man’s inhumanity to man. Massive Assault Network 2 is developed by, who in their own blurb “specialize exclusively in military strategy games.” Will they give us the “Strategic Satisfaction” we need, or will MAN2 go off like a damp squib?

A tragic firework accident on the SS. Imperialus If you see this, it means you are losing

Set a few hundred years into the future, which gives the creators carte blanche to throw some exotic futuristic firepower into the mix, MAN2’s simple storyline revolves around two universal superpowers – the Free Nations Union and the sinister sounding Phantom League – in a battle for supremacy across several new found planets. Turns out, through some nice covert operations, both sides have managed to scout one another’s technologies, which by sheer coincidence, of course, makes for a nicely balanced skirmish between you and your opponent; whichever side you take.

As you win battles, your position increases in the worldwide standings, giving you a military rank corresponding to your overall score.

A decent tutorial, albeit with a slightly questionable voice over tells you all you need to get started, briefing you on the basics such as resource management and controlling your units. Then, after a couple of skirmishes with the two AI ladies representing both armies, it is time to jump into the online game for some hot one-on-one action of the strategy variety.

Like most turn-based strategy titles, you sign into the MAN2 server, send and receive your latest turns, make your moves and repeat the process until either you or your opponent is victorious. It is a tried and tested method; but has brought a few new tricks to the table. You can now stay “in the game” with your opponent between turns and actually view the moves in real time, making the game flow a lot better – a much more enjoyable experience than the stop start nature of other games in this genre. If you don’t have the time to sit and play an epic war for a long duration, you can download your latest turns and play them offline at your own convenience before logging on and sending them to your opponent. It isn’t as convenient or as utterly intuitive as the ‘play by email’ system utilized in Naked War, but by no means a poor system – the casual pace combined with the high strategy element is complimented perfectly by the ability to play when YOU want to. It even has a matchmaking service so you won’t suddenly find yourself playing against the god of war on your first turn – but will find yourself challenging much more experienced players as you start racking up the wins.

Explosive action If you aren't impressed by this, then clearly this isn't for you

Independent games usually fall under one of two categories when it comes to their appearances; nice and stylized or simply not as good as a larger companies efforts. MAN2 avoids both by featuring a wonderful, if simple, 3D engine which allows your moves and the overall war to unfold in front of you, showing every rocket fired and every tank exploding. A slow motion replay camera is also available for some of the more spectacular moments of the game, leading to some very satisfying gameplay when you destroy your opponent’s incoming tank fleet.

Battles are ended when one side manages to gain a significant control over the land or one team is completely wiped from the map. As per the genre, you have the usual selection of air, land and sea based vehicles at your disposal, as well as a few defensive structures such as turrets, to get the job done. Sounds easy? Hell, it even sounds simple – but this is far from the case. MAN2 has a secret weapon – literally. Scattered around the map are a series of neutral control points that can be taken over and used by your army as you gain ground. Brilliantly, a few of these contain “secret allies” – a few units that can be unleashed upon your enemy completely by surprise whenever you want – completely changing the face of the battle if used at the right time. Remember though, all is fair in love and war and your opponent can, and will, get you with his secret allies if you aren’t ready for them.

With a selection of 25 different maps to wage war across, each with varying terrain that can affect the movement of your units and the Secret Allies bringing a random element into each battle, it is hard to criticize a game with this many bases covered. For fans of the strategy genre, you can do far, far worse than this whereas gamers looking for something a little more cerebral, but feel chess has too little in the way of explosive action, MAN2 could be just what you are looking for.

MAN2 proves that war can be beautiful The average day of a MAN2 Commander

Overall, Massive Assault Network 2 is a welcome addition to the strategy genre, offering a few new ideas sprinkled over a solid base of classic turn-based gameplay. Between this and Naked War, the independent gaming scene has got the monopoly on quality strategy titles, with the mainstream having to play catch up.

Top Game Moment:
The first time you face off against another human player, and perhaps more importantly, the first time you win against one.

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