Fields of Glory
for Amiga (OCS/ECS)
Also available for: Amiga (AGA) / Amiga (CD32)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Microprose
Year: 1994
Genre: Strategy
Theme: Historical / War
Language: English, Français, Deutsch
Licence: Commercial
Views: 10076
Review by Mr Creosote (2016-11-25)

The increase computing power of game machines around 1990 led to some attempts to revolutionise the wargame genre. Where before, armies and units were represented by abstract symbols, many developers tried to build sort of a “diorama” game, i.e. to come close to showcase tabletops which used fully modelled miniature landscapes, models and figures.

Fields of Glory is a fairly advanced one in this regard. Simulating several historical and fictional Napoleonic battles (the historical ones can be fictionalised by putting completely different army distributions as well), the level of detail of what is shown on the map and how the soldier figures are modelled is quite high.

The ideas here are indeed formidable. Different units have different effectiveness depending on their type, the enemy's type (e.g. infantry is very efficient against cavalry, but not so great against artillery) and the formation (spreading out when rushing artillery, for example, is a good idea) as well as the terrain (cavalry in a forest?). Buildings may also function as “stationary units”, shooting at enemies.

On top of that rock-paper-scissors concept, the level of control over the units is hardly perfect. Realistically, commands can only be given when a unit is within the range of the right commander. When it's off fighting somehwere, it will act autonomously. So planning ahead is absolutely key.

So much for the concept. The execution, however, is a complete mess. On some battlefields, rivers are quite prominent. This should make for some interesting tactical options, right? It would, if the terrain had any actual effect on movement. Unfortunately, all units will just pass over any terrain as if it were open plains. Scrolling is also an issue: zooming in, not the complete battlefield can be scrolled anymore, but only a fraction of it (maybe to keep only a part of the battlefield in memory?). So the player constantly needs to zoom out and zoom in again to visit the different corners of the action.

Scrolling, of course, is very slow and jerky as well. On a regular A500, the game is virtually unplayable: nothing is moving, mouse clicks are not properly registered etc. On an A1200 class machine, this becomes somewhat bearable. Why an OCS version of the game was even released if a much faster machine is needed anyway remains a mystery.

Coming back to game contents, though, the next disaster concerns the AI. On all but the highest difficulty level, computer-controlled armies will remain totally passive. The individual units will defend themselves, but not even rush to help other units when those are attacked. Not a technical one, but nevertheless another big hinderance of fun gameplay: Prussian and French troops are virtually impossible to tell apart, both of them wearing blue. It's a little better with the (red-skirted) English armies, but not by much. With all these issues piling up, it's no surprise that the translation into German and French is absolutely awful.

With the right hardware (or emulation settings) and the right in-game settings (highest difficulty, only battles between English and French etc.), the game becomes somewhat playable. It is, however, far from being fun. It's so incredibly buggy that it is hardly imaginable it went through any quality control. Releasing such an obviously unfinished product is quite insulting. And, yup, I even bought it, so please excuse my frustration speaking…

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