Sid Meier’s Antietam! is the follow-up to Sid Meier’s Gettysburg!,
one of the most successful Civil War games for the PC.
Interestingly enough, Firaxis has decided to offer this title
exclusively through their web site, or by calling a toll free number.
You won’t find this Sid Meier’s Antietam! on store shelves, no
matter how hard you look. Why did they decide to take this route?
Your answer is as good as mine. I can’t imagine selling the game
exclusively over the web will yield the same kind of success as it’s
predecessor. That little piece of information aside, let’s see how
Sid Meier’s Antietam! fairs.
Sid Meier’s Antietam! puts you on a historically detailed 3D
battlefield, commanding animated Union or Confederate troops as
you relive the excitement, drama, and action of American’s
bloodiest day. Antietam! is based on Gettysburg’s award-winning
real-time tactical battle engine and offers the same easy-to-use
interface and menu system. Moving troops is as simple as dragging
the mouse and securing formations is as simple as clicking on
large marked buttons along the bottom of the screen. Icons are
used to indicate the unit’s name, strength, type, experience, and
current morale. This interface, which was developed originally for
Gettysburg, continues to work on a very simple level. It beckons
the old adage, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Antietam! features over twenty new scenarios with historical and
speculative variables. For example, there are full and half-day
battles. This helps to offer a unique environment every time you
open a new scenario. It also adds to the reply value of a game that
some might feel isn’t as different from Gettysburg! As it should be.
A random scenario generator is also included in Antietam!, with
four types of engagements including small skirmishes, minor
altercations, moderate engagement and large battles. The
generator could certainly use touching up though, as I saw little
difference in many of the scenarios it was generating, and even
the large battles seemed quite small in stature. None the less, the
addition of this generator will certainly prolong gameplay and
we’re sure to see numerous scenarios and maps appear all over
Antietam! features a number of new terrain types, such as plowed
fields, bridges, fords, suken roads, and stubble fields among
others. As expected, the Antietam Creek plays a major role in the
battlefield’s geography and your troops will have to deal with it.
Antietam also presents an army of special units, all designed and
rendered in historically detailed uniforms of the Union and
Confederate armies. One thing Sid Meier’s games have always
been, that is accurate. Plenty of Civil War research has obviously
gone into creating such units as the Zouaves, Texas Brigade, Iron
Bridage, Ragged Confederates and Louisiana Tigers. Artillery now
comes in 8 different types.
Graphically, the game certainly feels old. At close to two years in
age, the Gettysburg! engine has seen better days and little was
done to improve the graphics. We saw Panzer General 3D benefit
from hardware acceleration and I think Antietam! could use that
same upgrade. Some of small touch-ups you’ll notice include a
more dynamic battlefield. Also, units have benefited from a little
more detail, specifically to their uniform schemes. As expected
when graphics aren’t as spectacular, the actual movement and
combat phases of the game suffer little to no lag.
In terms of combat, little has changed since Gettysburg!. Before
each scenario, you’re given your objectives as well as tips in terms
of which units are more valuable for the scenario in question. Each
scenario is timed and must be completed before the clock runs
out. After each battle, you get a rundown of the units that fought
Just to run down some of the other changes in terms of gameplay,
the line of sight for some units has been extended which allow for
more realistic fire at long ranges. Artillery can now be ordered to
fire canister which is similar to ordering infantry to volley fire.
These two tweaks make artillery units much more powerful in the
game. Of course, another huge difference between Gettsburg and
Antietam is the duration of the battle. While Gettysburg lasted
three days, Antietam ran the course of a single day. As a result,
you don’t play Antietam in a series of engagements, but rather as
an entire battle beginning in the morning, and running through the
day until early evening. Worry not though, you can save the game
at any time. As mentioned above, there are 20 different scenarios
included in Antietam!, so you have the option of playing chunks of
the battle rather than the entire thing in one swoop.
In terms of multiplayer support, Antietam! allows up to eight
players to take part in a battle over a LAN or the Internet, while
two players can go head-to-head over modem and direct links. The
game is also playable on the MSN Gaming Zone for those who
frequent those battlefields. Each player assumes command of one
of the various brigades involved in the scenario, and while the
games can last for quite some time, historical war gamers will love
Antietam! does just as good a job at recreating the feel of battle as
Gettysburg! did. This game certainly could have benefited
dramatically from an overhaul in the graphics department, but the
gameplay remains top notch. The added refinements and tweaks
make for some excellent gameplay and the addition of the
scenario generator will add that much more in terms of replay
value. Overall, wargame fans won't be disappointed with this
latest creation from Sid Meier and company.