Dogs of War
a game by Silicon Dreams Studio
Much like the recent Force Commander and the soon to be released Ground Control, Dogs Of Waris a 3D real-timer, which, unlike Tiberian Sun and Age Of Empires, doesn't require you to build bases or hoard units and allows you only to take into battle the units you'll need - no harvesting required. Sometimes you'll be able to 'buy' a few extras, sometimes not. The point is, if you can't complete your objective with the units under your command, you shouldn't be in control of a mouse.
Leaving aside the storyline for a moment (because it's rubbish) Dogs Of War professes to be a little different to your average strategy game. Apart from the switch of focus to more action-oriented play, there are a number of other chapters in the real-time strategy developers' rulebook that have been ripped out and replaced, and not all of them make for interesting reading. Traditionally, in real-time strategy games, units can only see about 3ft in front of them, beyond which great balls of cotton wool are put in place to obscure the unexplored terrain. In Dogs Of War you're allowed to see the entire map from the off, with enemy units appearing only when seen. Consequently, line of sight plays a large part in the game, with planes and helicopters able to act as spotters for artillery units.
Unfortunately, while the line of sight model works, in that being on higher ground affords you some protection, it's difficult to judge sometimes if you are on higher ground - especially when you use the third-person view. Wassat? Third-person view? Yes, Dogs Of War allows you to command every unit in the game directly, moreover it allows you to command and control the other units at the same time, much like BattleZone II. Unfortunately, it never works as well or looks as good, thanks in the most part to the unwieldy control interface and the unresponsiveness of the units.
Moving the map with either the mouse or the keyboard you find that unless you have the view set at the right angle, suitably far out enough to fit the bulk of your units on screen, the camera juts across the landscape, which isn't so bad until you play across the most variable terrain. Without being drawn into specifics, because the controls are tailored to suit both the strategy and the action side of the game, it tends to feel over-complicated.
It would help the score if in direct control you could trust the actions of the units around you, but after watching tanks trying to drive through walls rather than around them, I have to say that it was only by avoiding the third-person mode altogether that I managed to get any enjoyment from the game, which is a shame because next to BattleZone II Dogs Of War is a much more strategic game.
Paws For Thought
While the missions themselves are varied and often frenetic, with some truly spectacular battles played out for your visual entertainment, Dogs Of War is encumbered with a rather poor interface. Once mastered and on level terms with the computer, things pick up, but it's the actual process of getting used to it that will turn most people off.
Heavily scripted Al lends itself to more surprises than puzzle-based tactical play, which means for the most part each mission sits well with the unfolding story. However, because the missions range from difficult to almost impossible, after attempting to complete a mission for the umpteenth time there are no surprises left. It wouldn't be so bad if there was some sort of 'skirmish' mode, whereby you could set up a game against the PC outside of the linear campaign game, just to brush up on your skills, but If there isn't. What there is though, is one of the most irritating and unfunny tutorial sequences ever, starring the ubiquitous Craig Charles. Across the whole game, in fact, Dogs OfWartnes to make up in laughs what it lacks in gameplay, but even Alan Partridge wouldn't be able to save this one.
In its favour Dogs Of War is different and it does try, but just like those Innovations catalogues that come with your Sunday paper, Dogs Of Wans.
Our second helping of RTS action comes in the form of Take 2's Dogs Of War. Set in the future, the story bares several similarities to Starship Troopers, with strange alien creatures threatening humans and an unhealthy public interest in watching war on TV (which is a bit like nowadays really).
Dogs Of War features a tutorial, narrated by non other than Craig 'I must be a craaaaaaazy guy 'cos I'm always talking about lager' Charles. He leads you through all of the game's intricacies, and we'd recommend that you go through this before attempting to play It.
When you've come to grips with the controls, you can try your tactical skills in a real combat situation. Eliminate all enemy units and capture Southford Bridge in order to complete the mission. Your task will be made harder by the enemy's ability to launch long range ground-to-ground and ground-to-air attacks. You've also got less firepower than your foe, so you're going to have to use guile if want to succeed. A head-on attack will usually end in a heavy defeat. Working out your units' strengths and the enemy's weaknesses are also major factors in gaining the advantage.
With lots of high speed action, excellent explosions and pounding sound and music, you'll have to act fast and think even quicker if you want to have any chance of succeeding, but with a man such as Craig Charles teaching you how it's done, you've surely got nothing at all to fear.
2018-10-30 Dogs of War game added.