All the latest news for the ST user -- October 1988
Universal Military Simulator
An ST vs. PC Review
By STEVE PANAK
Universal Military Simulator just might be the best wargame simulation available on any personal computer. One particularly striking feature is its display. The software uses vector graphics to place you on a futuristic battlefield--an abstract, barren grid, with marker flags indicating troop and landmark location. Green squares represent forest, while hills rise and valleys dip three-dimensionally from the landscape. This is in sharp contrast to similar programs with graphics that resemble an arcade game. But even more striking than the look of the game is its control interface.
View the battle from any direction, zooming in or out. Drop-down menus remind the novice of all the options, while keyboard commands speed the expert through play. To control your armies, access a command menu for each unit and then issue orders. When all units have received their instructions, the computer (or human opponent) moves. An analysis screen keeps a running tab on the action, and you can print the battlefield and view the program's evaluation process during battle.
PC VS. ST
To me, the IBM PC version lost out to the ST on both graphic display and control interface. By using the CGA color display (But displaying in monochrome), the PC game packs only a fraction of the resolution of the ST. The PC's battlefields might have been a little sharper if the program supported a Hercules monographic card. As it is, the movement arrows are a mess when a lot of units are bunched together.
Also, the PC provides no automatic mouse support, which would simplify learning this complex game. But experienced PC mouse users shouldn't feel obliged to design their own mouse interface. The menu-driven command mode is simple to use, with all options listed at the bottom of the screen and allowable commands highlighted. It's always easier to learn to play a game, especially one as complex as Universal Military Simulator, when you can choose from a complete list of onscreen commands.
Regardless of which computer you own, you can get right into the action by loading on of the five scenarios included with the game. Command Alexander the Great at Arbela, Napoleon at Waterloo, or Lee at Gettysburg. Or use the complex editor to create your earn battles. Design both the field and the armies, exerting a large degree of control over your own imaginary universe. For instance, you can vary the speed, strength and efficiency of a stock infantry unit, or you call use wildcard units to create the army of the future. You're limited only by your own imagination.
Two complete, computer-specific manuals explain the use of the program, while a separate booklet provides historical background on the five stock scenarios. It's unlikely that you'll ever explore all the possibilities that UMS has to offer, but it's nice to know that you could do it. For ST or PC, the Universal Military Simulator is a blast.--STEVE PANAK
$49.95, color or monochrome. Rainbird (Mediagenic), 3885 Bohannon Drive, Menlo Park CA 94025. (415) 322-0412.