Civil War 1863 Review

War for the well-mannered

The great thing about civil war is this: Let’s say the south of England took up arms against the north of England due to the escalation of a diplomat from Manchester forgetting to wipe their feet on the doormat of a cabinet member from London and leaving mud all over their brand new carpet (wars have started for a lot less). Well then, isn’t it just splendid that after all the bloodshed and carnage, England still ends up the winner? You can see where I’m coming from right? Am I missing the point here?

Civil War: 1863 allows you to relive iconic battles from the American Civil War using your iPhone. I don’t mean this literally of course, chucking your 4S at a couple of hundred blokes with rifles and cannons wouldn’t get you very far, rather it’s a strategy war based game where you take control of the Union forces against the Confederate…er, people.

Your battlefield is a hex grid map where you command 7 different unit types politely taking turns to direct your units into head-on battle or strategic positions in an attempt to capture key outposts.  You’ve got Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, Generals and Wagons from all over the US under your authority, with such monikers as 9th Malitia, 69th New York and Company C, 83rd Illinios, making it seem like a nationwide gang meet. Select each unit by tapping on it and moving it into position where you can attack the enemy units if you’re close enough.

There are a few varying objectives to complete, like survive for 15 turns or capturing certain control points first, but due to the first eight levels being pretty much training stages it routinely boils down to positioning and shooting until each unit is dust. Things don’t really get interesting until the next eight stages, where the odds are actually not in your favour, you have to use a measure of strategy to position your troops, and you may even die. It’s only then you’ll try and work some of the nuances of the game into your battle plan such as reading the terrain, formations which allow your shooters to aim more effectively (at the expense of speed) or battlefield terrain that affects line of sight.
Tackling all this on the iPhone isn’t recommended. It’s not unplayable by any means, and you can still make a good fist of it, but from the moment you enter the battlefield, it’s clear too see (or not see as is the case…hurr, hurr), that the potential of this game can only be realised on an iPad. Everything seems a little restricted, and even though you can still see the animation is done well, you really ache for a bigger screen after a while.  You’ve already bought it? Oh dear.

Sound is also an issue. The battle cries and effects are actually well done, but only seem to play in snippets when you perform an action. It leads to dull playthroughs which contain as much atmosphere as a house party full of train spotters.  A simple loop of battle noises combined with a bit of tense music would’ve solved this problem.

As such, it’s not the most replayable game out there. Unfortunately, there are only four campaigns of eight levels each, and only the first two campaigns are free. With the first bundle of levels being an introduction to the game, that leaves you with precisely one campaign to mess around with before your wallet surrenders like the rookie 69th Malitia from Cleveland. Throw up your gang signs.

Make love, not war with Kevin on Twitter @dreagleg. Man, that sounds wrong.


Civil War 1863 is available for £1.49 on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Get it now on the Civil War: 1863 - Hunted Cow Studios Ltd.

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