Pacific Storm: Allies Review (PC)

Pacific Storm: Allies is an update to the original Pacific Storm release from last year. This was a war game that took a different approach to the theatre of war. Not only did it focus on the much neglected Pacific side of the conflict, enacting the naval battles between the United States and Japan, it also presented the action at multiple levels. As is depicted on Pacific Stormís branding, it provides three different windows into the world of warfare. It managed to pull off the difficult trick of providing both real time battles with player controlled action alongside the brain stretching operational strategy that plays such a big part in how things play out. They manage to create a sense of the scale of these battles fought over hundreds of miles.

From detailed close ups to pulled back maps, the graphics are impressive
Cockpit perspective adds grist to the grinder

Allies returns to this same formula, looking to introduce elements that were missing in the first outing and flesh out those that were only there as bare bones. One of the biggest changes is the inclusion of a third player controlled fighting force. This time around we see the inclusion of a proper British force that can be played alongside the other allies. Whilst this provides new things to do and see at all the different levels of the game, the other big change is in the first person sections. You can now directly control ships, in addition to planes and gun encampments from the first game. Finally, the damage system has also received some attention and now provides a greater degree of detail though a thorough sub-system damage report.

As we have mentioned the game is most highly regarded because of its ability to recreate a sense of scale to each of its encounters. It is a testament to Lesta Studioís craftsmanship that playing the game and controlling the field of battle in a variety of modes and guises doesnít become confusing or fragmented. On the contrary it all meshes together well to create a coherent whole. Taking on possibly one of the largest engagements in the war and coming away smelling of roses must go down as a bit of a coup for the developer.

The map gives a great overview of the action
Full damage break-down adds greater realism

So how does each of these modes of battle work in practice? At the operational level you are responsible for managing your ships, men and resources. And will need to keep an eye on progress towards your particular countryís research efforts and goals. This is the real strategic part of the game and incorporates all the traditional elements of stock control and equipment generation. As with other games of this ilk you can also develop your technology over time by investing in research and development.

The next level of play crops up when your forces engage the enemy proper in a particular battle. This is where the game moves into more traditional real time strategy (RTS) territory. Unlike the turn based approach of the operational decisions these battles are conducted in real time. You take control of your forces by making on the ground battle field decisions. This is achieved by a number of orders that you can give to your units, who obligingly co-operate as you watch the action unfold in front of you.

The most detailed level of the game puts you in direct control of your units. You take over the control of a particular ship, aircraft or gun encampment and can have the fun of getting tangled up in nitty gritty of war. The rest of the battle is unfolding around you, but you need to get your head down and perform your particular job. This felt a bit like playing in position in a football management game. The rest of the team still carry out your directions whilst you do your best to perform in a particular role. Although this doesnít add hugely to the tactics of the game it does help give a sense of involvement and realism.

Something the original game was criticised for was its graphical performance. This time around things have been spruced up a bit, but you will still need a pretty meaty set up to get the best out it. That said, even on the lower setting the graphics are able to communicate what is going on in a clear and concise manner. The sound too plays its part whilst not excelling, it is every thing you would expect from a war game of this nature.

The previous game was slightly plagued by the odd bug. Its initial release had been known to crash here and there, under the strain of what it was trying to achieve. This time around things seem a lot more stable. That said we did have problems installing on one of our lower end review machines. Once we moved over to something with a bit more grunt there were no problems.

Overall there is probably not enough in here to make it worth upgrading if you already own the previous version. The new additions and tweaks are all very welcome and should encourage more people to enjoy what is a solid and fascinating game. That said, if you are a war fanatic, as some of us war gamers tend to be, then you will obviously lap up the new features and get a lot more value out of the game.

The guns of battle sound and look the part

If you have the time and a PC to match, this should keep you entertained for many a long evening, and on into the wee hours if you donít check your watch.

Top Game Moment:
That moment when youíre operational, strategic and first-person plans collide to create a moment of sheer enjoyment. The hours of planning and mid-battle tweaking finally pay off, and you get to see it happen from behind a gun; masterly!