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Desktop Generals should enjoy the newest game in the Campaign® series from Talonsoft, provided they can put up with a few quirks.

By - Tim "Juan Golbez" McConnaughy (02/26/00)

Talonsoft's newest addition to it's strategy-wargame Campaign® series is a good one. Set in the Pacific theatre of WWII, it offers the chance to storm the beaches of Guadalcanal with the Allies, or seize the airfields at Milne Bay with the Japanese Axis powers. Both sides can be played in a variety of historically based scenarios and campaigns under a variety of conditions, from soggy, dense jungles to dry rice paddies baking in the sun. Rising Sun even offers night scenarios, complete with a set of visibility rules specific only to them.

The island of Luzon in the Pacific Theatre.

It should be pointed out, however, that the game has a few quirks. Talonsoft uses an archaic interface with the game itself. Rising Sun runs in a full-screen window, allowing you to switch between tasks as necessary. Of course, this isn't really a bad thing, since it is a turn-based game. The problem is that Rising Sun changes your Windows color scheme to a military olive when you start playing a scenario. I've had the game crash on me, and had to return the color scheme to something I could tolerate. Rising Sun will not put a shortcut on the desktop, and I still can't find an .exe file that will run the game without crashing, so I couldn't make one. Get used to the start menu, folks. Lastly, since I have a cable modem, I elected against registering, since Talonsoft still clings to the belief that everyone uses a phone line to connect to the Internet. Two options are presented upon filling out the registration form: Print, or use the modem to call their registration service. You can't register at the Talonsoft Web site, either.

A few more problems I had with the game, then on to the good stuff. Novices to the strategy wargame genre should probably pick something with a smoother learning curve and mission tutorials that are in-game. Talonsoft elected to have a printable version of the tutorials, to be read in unison with the tutorial scenarios, instead of integrating the two. It's not the worst thing they could have done, but it does make learning an already tough game harder. Rising Sun is not a game you can play without reading the manual. No, I should correct that statement. You can play the game without reading it, but the steep learning curve and wealth of keyboard commands not found on the mission toolbar will hurt you. The last gripe is with the graphics. I don't expect a lot of graphical innovation with a turn-based wargame, the hallmark of the genre has always been mediocre graphics, but Rising Sun is pretty bad. For example, gun flash at night is represented by a bunch of yellow dots on the hex.

Having said my peace about the few problems plaguing Rising Sun, let me assert that I love this game. With attention to scenario balance, maps and units, as well as historical detail, Talonsoft has created a game that is sure to provide excellent game play for years to come.

A word on customization: Loads. Besides being able to create your own scenarios, you can generate random ones with the Random Battle Generator. Simply select the year, side, weather, force size and general objective, and it will generate a scenario. For desktop generals who aren't as tactically sound as they'd like to be, an Advantage slider lets you give one side an advantage, making weapons slightly more accurate and damaging. So, though novices may be overwhelmed by the amount of options and complexity of play, they can hold their own until they pick it up.

I can see my house from here!

The scenario interface is not intuitive, but neither does it detract from play. A toolbar at the bottom serves as the most common map interface, while a menu bar across the top is used for the more intricate commands and reports. The map can be zoomed from an up-close view of the units back to a birds-eye view of the entire map--a useful feature when planning strategy. In addition, the map can be modified by hotkeys to look more and more like a hexed game board. Players have hotkeys that will show hex lines, contour lines, and unit ranges, or they can elect to do it like the real generals and go only with the au-natural map.

Units have an option to have the "bases" of the "game pieces" turned on to show nationality. Information on a unit is garnered by clicking on it, and inspecting the ring surrounding its picture. The ring gives important info such as morale, weapon strength and current action points remaining for this turn. This ring interface saves space while making it easy to check the status of your units.

That's right, I was a general in WWII. Want to make something of it?

Units may be disrupted, isolated, and retreat from advancing enemies, just like real soldiers. Disrupted units can't be ordered to go closer to a visible enemy unit, simulating the very real "soldier in fear" factor. Many wargames involve fearless units, which follow orders to the letter and without question. It's refreshing to see a crucial element of realism make it into Rising Sun.

Next: Gameplay Modes, Artificial Intelligence, and The Final Word...

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