We have a special guest reviewer with us today. A man who's no stranger to epic battles himself. He's a Hollywood actor and director. Let's have a warm welcome for the one and only, Mel Gibson!
Jimmy Clydesdale: Thank you for joining us Mr. Gibson.
Mel Gibson: My pleasure Jimmy and please, call me Mel.
Jimmy: Today we're covering Data Becker's America: No Peace Beyond the Line. Why don't you start us off Mel?
Mel: I have long feared that my sins would come back to visit me, and the cost is more than I can bear.
Jimmy: Umm. No Mr. Gibson, this game isn't based on the American Revolution.
Mel: They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!
Jimmy: No, that's William Wallace. You haven't played this game have you Mel?
Mel: I know what women want Jimmy.
Jimmy: (Sigh) I'm sure you do Mel. I'll take it from here. Mel Gibson everybody!
America: No Peace Beyond the Line is a real-time strategy game from Data Becker. The last time we crossed paths with Data Becker, we experienced KO Boxing. Amazingly enough, KO Boxing has now survived three Super Bowls in my collection… of coasters. Their latest release is certainly a step-up, introducing an Old West motif to the real-time strategy genre, a refreshing sight considering all the medieval and fantasy-based themes that flood the market these days. While perhaps a little odd that a German developer is assigned to tell the tales of the Wild West, Data Becker does a credible job bringing the Battle of Little Big Horn and the fight for the Alamo to life, among other campaigns.
America follows a time frame from 1820 to 1890, an era that witnessed the Gold Rush and the War with Mexico, among other historical events. The game can be played from a number of perspectives including that of the Indians, Mexicans, Americans, or a gang of desperados. The game features over 30 missions divided into four campaigns. The campaigns recount historical story lines for each of the nations. While relatively accurate, the story lines lack a sense of flow to them. The missions feel broken up, a problem compounded by the fact you can't carry over units from one mission to another. Each mission begins with a lengthy monologue, but these spiels often have little relevance to the mission objectives, let alone the fact they often go on far too long. The end result is a campaign that features a few intriguing missions, but lacks a sense of purpose overall.
The heart of America is a generic real-time strategy game. There are three basic resources to manage. Wood and gold are gathered, interestingly enough, from the same source, while food is produced by building and working farms. There are a few unique twists to this formula however. The desperados are different in the fact they require whiskey instead of food (who doesn't though?), which is produced by building distilleries. Another interesting feature is the ability to harvest the local animal population for food. So if you're low on resources, don't hesitate to round up some of the local livestock come chow time. As the game progresses, you'll need to build weapon factories to supply your troops with rifles and corrals to produce horses. Horses are very important throughout America, serving multiple purposes. Units can mount and dismount them at will, supplying speed and fighting bonuses in the process. You can raise horses but you can also capture wild ones, buy them, or steal them by raiding your enemies or by simply shooting enemy units from their mounts.
Each of the settlers in America is different in many fashions. For starters, they each sports unique units. The Indians, for example, offer a medicine man. The medicine man can bring rain to the fields and make them bear fruit, as well call upon storms in the heat of battle. The Americans feature a Sheriff unit with increased visibility, while the Mexican padre always manages to recruit enemy fighters for the Mexican cause. Each of the nations also affords various defensive and offensive strategies, such as the Indians' ability to swim and traverse through dense forests. The Indians also have the skill to pack up their tepees and travois and set them up elsewhere. Each advantage brings a disadvantage with it however, as the desperados don't have munitions factories at their disposal, which means they have to steal all their weapons from other settlers, while Americans have to pay a pretty penny for their modern weapons. These extra elements really add another dimension to America that other real-time strategy genres have failed to do.
Graphically, America certainly isn't top of the line. The level of detail isn't particularly high, but the structures and units are all large and easily distinguishable. As for the sound effects, I've noticed a few people comment about the level of racism in the game. Perhaps I'm not as sensitive as those people, but I didn't mind the use of accents or stereotypes in the game. The audio department as a whole is disappointing though. The sound effects are lacking and the music wasn't very lively either. The presentation could have been much better in general.
America falls victim to a few fundamental real-time strategy faux pas. For starters, the game doesn't allow queuing, so you'll have to constantly watch over a variety of tasks. The unit AI is terrible to say the least. For starters, the pathfinding is atrocious. I was happy to see that friendly units were able to walk through each other, but getting a group of infantry to obey my orders was a task in itself. On top of that, units would often stand around getting slaughtered, waiting for my next order. There are aggressiveness settings, but it didn't seem to matter what those were set at.
Perhaps the biggest frustration with America is the difficulty level. Instead of a progressive increase in difficulty, the game throws you right in the middle of the fire. The first couple of missions took me several tries to succeed at. I'm all for tough competition, but America doesn't allow you to get a feel for the game before it tries your skills. The difficulty settings did little to help the situation. It seemed like the computer was always one step ahead of me at all times.
Unfortunately, American doesn't offer much in the way of multi-player. While there are 20 multi-player maps available with the package, skirmishes are limited to LAN play only.
When the West is won, America: No Peace Beyond the Line is a bit of a disappointment. With so many interesting features, not to mention a refreshing motif, the game fails to execute some of the most basic elements of a real-time strategy game. The poor AI, the lacklustre presentation, the incredibly high difficulty level and the lack of multi-player variety all contribute to the downfall. America is certainly an improvement over Data Becker's previous projects but that's like saying the Chia Pet is an improvement over the Pet Rock, it's all relative.
[ 28/50 ] Gameplay
[ 05/10 ] Graphics
[ 04/10 ] Sound
[ 05/10 ] Fun Factor
[ 03/10 ] Multiplayer
[ 05/10 ] Storyline