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Theatre of War series The most historically accurate RTS games

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  #1  
Old 02-02-2013, 12:56 PM
Jinzor Jinzor is offline
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Thumbs up What I Think Of ToW-Series

I got the ToW series during a Steam sale back in late-2010. When I first played it back then, my opinion of it was pretty low; the game lagged a lot (I had an O.K PC back then, not the best but I didn't have a bad one. Now I've got a great one), the presentation was a bit poor (no cutscenes, music or anything) and I had no idea how to make good use of the units I had at my command; they would usually just die instantly in view of an enemy. I uninstalled all the ToW games after around 3 hours and didn't look back.

Well, I decided to go back to it a few hours ago because I was bored; I wanted to play a new World War II strategy game. Theater of War 2: Africa and Kursk were the closest games I had to that type of gameplay, so I installed and played both yesterday.

I just have to say, how sorry I am for thinking that way back in 2010. This game, while not perfect (presentation is still a bit poor), is alright. There are a few bugs here and there, but I am a patient person.

Last edited by Jinzor; 06-23-2014 at 01:31 PM.
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  #2  
Old 02-04-2013, 09:57 AM
epokha epokha is offline
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A word of advice: Don't buy ToW 3 Korea. It is really the worst of the whole series.

Not enough maps, the maps arnt even randomly generated regarding starting positions so your playing basically the same thing everytime. Every time you click on a tank its "action stations" what is this, Red Alert?

The strategic map level is really half assed. As always your not given any relevant information regarding the terrain or objectives so your preparing your forces blind. That also means not knowing the direction the enemy is coming from.

To take over some massive land area the battle is "capture this airstrip" Really? if it was me i would have narrowed the whole thing down to say the Pusan perimeter.

Someone said the infantry is better then in ToW 2, I don't know where they get that from. I much prefer the inf in ToW 2. Helis are rubbish.

You also never have many units under command.

Give it a miss, kursk, caen and africa are 10 times better. ToW 1 is better.
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  #3  
Old 02-04-2013, 05:17 PM
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kane1 kane1 is offline
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If your really thinking about getting ToWKorea, you should DL the Demo.

http://www.battlefront.com/index.php...870&Itemid=318

From what you said in your post I think you'll find some things you'll like(the models and such), and if your lucky you'll find it on sale at a great price. The infantry in ToWKorea IMO can have more effect in the outcome of the battles more than in ToWAfrica.

http://youtu.be/ZrPVFV4jdE4

http://youtu.be/9xXxZz-pg3A

I still play ToW, ToWAfrica, ToWKursk, ToWCaen, and ToWKorea. What I would like to see in these games is "DirectControl", like in MoW. That would be so cool.

Last edited by kane1; 02-04-2013 at 05:31 PM.
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  #4  
Old 02-16-2013, 04:03 PM
Markojager Markojager is offline
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Default Same history

I got almost the same history as you, I give it a try again in the last month and after solving some issues I love it. But I have never seen anyone in the multiplayer, It would be good try with another person without pause, just raw tactical game.
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  #5  
Old 02-17-2013, 10:46 PM
Jinzor Jinzor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Markojager View Post
I got almost the same history as you, I give it a try again in the last month and after solving some issues I love it. But I have never seen anyone in the multiplayer, It would be good try with another person without pause, just raw tactical game.
Yeah, and that's one of the reasons why I always like a co-op mode in any strategy game. Having that feature gives more incentive for people, who really like the game, to want to gift it to other people.

Last edited by Jinzor; 06-23-2014 at 01:33 PM.
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  #6  
Old 02-18-2013, 12:54 PM
Sneaksie Sneaksie is offline
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First of all, thank you for kind words. The games had their flaws, but there was something that made you return to play more.

Here's a short rundown on pros and cons of various games in the series. New features were carried over to later games of course.

ToW1
+ Has more units, maps and scenarios that all subsequent games combined
- Infantry can't enter buildings
- Graphics are OK for a wargame, but look more dated obviously
- Interface overlooks (like you could select only a couple of dozens units at once)
- Impact and armor penetration routines are simple compared to ToW2 or ToW3, which led to errors in some cases (for example, a penetration where the armor should have stopped a projectile)

ToW2 Africa + Centauro DLC
+ Nicer graphics (HDR, ambient occlusion)
+ Infantry can enter buildings, but 3D means you could see the AI limitations in tight situations (more below)
+ More accurate impact calculations like projectile normalization, advanced ricochets, advanced projectile path modeling inside a vehicle
- Hardly any trees or foliage since the game happens in desert

ToW2 Kursk + Caen DLC (my personal favorite)
+ SpeedTree foliage
+ F4 invokes a detailed damage overlay which shows all hits and penetrations as 3D vectors (a feature I proud of since it was me who pestered lead designer long enough to include it to show off how detailed the calculations are 'under the hood')
+ Skirmish mode (you can enter parameters like time of day, enemy type and strength, available support and play a generated scenario) in addition to existing scenario wizard and advanced editors
+ '2d wargame mode' - a camera mode that lets you see the battle in top-down perspective
+/- Initial stage of Kursk battle and document-based engagements (more here) means that Germans are almost always attacking and Russians are almost always defending. Caen battles were more variable though.
+ Persistent roster (you can view your entire staff, thousands of people, at the start of the campaign instead of getting small portions of new units for each mission)
+ You can rename units and soldiers, hear gun sounds in encyclopedy, other minor improvements

ToW3 Korea
+/- Has strategic map mode, but it's simple and not everybody liked this change
+/- More modern setting
+ Completely new frag and explosion damage calculations simulating ground cover on a whole new level (you can read my short article about it here)
- Pathfinding bug that wasn't eradicated completely (units may choose strange paths to move when you played for a prolonged amount of time or loaded a saved game)
- Not enough maps were made in time, so you may encounter the same tactical map in another part of Korea

That's basically it. I would suggest getting the game(s) on Steam. On large Steam sales you can get 50% off usually (or more if it's a special sale of a game).

You may wonder, for example, why infantry couldn't enter buildings in ToW1 while other wargames of that time had this feature. The answer is simple actually - perfectionism (BTW, did you know that all insides of a particular tank like engine, transmission, crew members, bulkheads are placed true to life in ToW series)? All (or almost all) other wargames modeled a house like an abstract semi-transparent entity. Infantry inside would simply get a bonus to their cover parameter and have a better firing position if they are on higher floors (if a wargame modeled floors). On the other hand, ToW lead designer wanted to do everything properly. In ToW2, when house interiors appeared, the houses were actual houses with doors and windows (but only one floor because of path-finding limitation). A soldier could see only what he really could see through the window. This led to a mound of problems - they couldn't see an enemy or get a clear shot most of the time. The fact that there were performance problems (see below) made things worse - each soldier AI could 'recalculate' what is happening and ray-trace what he can see now every several seconds, otherwise performance impact was too severe. That led to stupid behavior when an enemy soldier could run into a house and quickly kill a couple of defenders before they could react (it happens in real life too, but since its a game, it looked like an AI glitch).

I think that Close Combat series (2D real-time wargame) approach was the best. When an enemy squad rushed into a building occupied by your squad, you could only imagine what is happening there (tiny sprites symbolizing soldiers moving inside a house, grenades going off, cries and shots). Very atmospheric. Your imagination is and will always be the best video card in the world, so you felt like everything that was happening was right. If a soldier sprite stopped in the doors for no apparent reason (AI glitch, for example) and got mowed down, you automatically imagined that he hesitated, or stumbled, or anything. That's why soldiers there left like real people. On the other hand, in ToW, where everything looked like as is and you could pause the game anytime to assess the situation, you immediately noticed any AI glitch clearly in 3D. Your imagination could no longer hide a dumb behavior of AI in a particular situation from you, that's the price of seeing the action close up

To summarize, the series offered some unprecedented features at that time (some of them are still unique because hardly any developers are making something as deep as company or battalion combat simulation today), but these features limited the game in other areas. 2x2 km playable area with lots of units meant very stressful path-finding routines, especially for mostly one core CPUs of 2007 (the engine could used up to 2 cores). Real-time ballistic and impact calculations of 200+ units firing at once didn't help to get a higher FPS either. The fact that ToW engine was based on Il-2 Sturmovik engine that was written in Java meant that the simulation was a memory hog (the whole idea of a Java-based game was very questionable I'd say, it plagued Sturmovik games, which were very successful, as well). It was like, let's say, trying to make an almost perfect company level engagement simulation with a less than perfect engine, so compromises (less units, longer unit reaction time) were to be made.

To my knowledge, the only tactical wargame series with similar realistic approach still being developed today is Achtung Panzer series (and Combat Mission probably, but I haven't heard if they are developing a new installment). It's from a different team, and they use a different approach. When in ToW you could control almost anything, including selecting a next round to be loaded into a tank gun if you want, in AP your role is limited to general instructions like in Close Combat series. The graphics may look ugly, but they are gritty on purpose like one of the developers said. Interface is also can't be called intuitive, but it's an interesting experience to try overall. An experienced team as well, they made tank simulations Steel Fury and Steel Armor - Blaze of War.
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  #7  
Old 02-18-2013, 02:20 PM
Markojager Markojager is offline
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Great review of the series, probably the best that I have seen. I agree in many things as the Close Combat (im)perfection in its limited gameplay, that Achtung Panzer is also a good tactical series (better strategic map than TOW and CC, but less options than TOW), I never try CM (which is pretty weird when you play a lot of this things) but seems good too. Thanks to explain some of the performance issues and the no-enter policy in TOW1. I hopes that as I discovered CC like 8 years after the second (and best) game and rediscovered TOW2 after almost 4 years of the release, some people will also find this great game and swim in this sea of possibilities.
Now I got this games for every level:
TOW from soldier to company-battalion size
Conquest of the Aegean (and other Matrix Games) from Company-Battalion to Division size.
Heart of Iron 3 from Division to Group of Armies size.
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  #8  
Old 02-18-2013, 09:38 PM
Jinzor Jinzor is offline
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Wow, that's some really interesting information about the game(s) in the ToW series.

A question, do you know if there is going to be another ToW game coming out in the future? If they are making one, what kind of things do you think could (realistically) be fixed/added to it to make the experience better? Making infantry die less in ToW 3 was a step in the right direction.

Last edited by Jinzor; 06-23-2014 at 01:34 PM.
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  #9  
Old 02-19-2013, 11:13 AM
Sneaksie Sneaksie is offline
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Unfortunately, no ToW sequels are being developed at the moment. I think the new game (ToW4 or a spiritual successor) will not use the same engine if its development will begin, so ToW3 is the last game based on it.
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  #10  
Old 03-06-2013, 11:03 AM
hedley hedley is offline
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Thanks for the outline of the ToW differences etc Sneaksie. Interesting to get the inside view of the series.

I have all ToW games. Don't regret buying any of them. Play all of them a lot & find Korea to be the game I fire up if I just want a hour or so of action. Don't know why but the way it's been designed ironically made me less worried about completing a campaign.
It is still great to look at & I like the terrain which causes some real problems (like pathfinding ).
I didn't mind the absence of music, it's quite handy to add your own or drop it altogether. [I often wish war films would focus more on the sounds of battle & not 'mood setting / heroic' music.]
Intro vids might have been nice but I prefer to see the $$ required for good video ploughed into the game itself. The advertising videos showed some of the beauty of the game in action & reading the history in the briefings was better for learning about what was being modelled.

I think the choices made were generally right as they set ToW outside the realm of the "ADD type" players & into the area of more serious gamers, but obviously the problem becomes one of sales figures vs investment. I suspect a lot of 'serious' wargamers don't spend money on hardware in the same way if the posts at BFC are anything to go by...

I had CC, & I have CMSF & have tried CM Normandy, but prefer ToW.
I think Tow changed my game buying, up until then I still liked the C&C type things, now I don't even bother looking at the demos, Starcraft2 was enough of a disappointment for me
I got AP cheaply & recently APOS at very low price in a sale (Strategy 1st & Gamersgate). Found the interface & learning curve a bit tricky after so many hours on ToW & then it suddenly 'clicked'.
Also great games & worth buying if you are a wargamer.

APOS has apparently used the gfx card to run a lot of the calculations on so the modeling remains deep but it doesn't hammer the CPU as ToW did on earlier hardware. The game is a great achievement for a small group of programmers - 4 or so I think someone said.

My vote is for a Cold War ToW, epic scale across Europe with 'modern' weaponry.
I'm ready to sell my neighbors kidneys on ebay if I have to, to get it.
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