Publisher: Muzzy lane
Developer: Muzzy Lane
System requirements: Windows XP SP2/Vista/Win 7 (Also available on Mac), 3.0 GHz Pentium IV or greater, 256 MB graphics card, 1 GB RAM, 1 GB hard-drive space
ESRB rating: Teen
Release date: Available now
Written by: Ian Davis
You’re something of a nerd. When asked what you read, you say “history.” What upset you about the movie Valkyrie wasn’t Tom Cruise, but the liberties taken with the actual facts. You regularly brag that were you Stalin (as you wiggle your thick mustache), you would have made a pre-war land-grab for Africa. Muzzy Lane Software understands you, unlike your so-called “friends”. “We know of your desires,” Muzzy whispers softly in your ear. “We know you yearn for more than just a wargame, but a mature, full-featured simulator of the mid-20th century.” Muzzy slips a disc from its coat and slyly passes it to you. It’s labeled Making History II: The War of the World. A shiver runs through your body. Can it be?
You’re wary. You’ve been told about this Making History II before and you’re concerned about bugs and performance. Muzzy knows and cares. Nurtured from its pupate state, the motherly developers have woven a cocoon of patches around it. Six months later, it emerges; evolved into something unlike its original state. It is now a pinnacle of grand strategy, rippling with all the promise and depth inherent in the genre.
As expected of the genre, Making History II lets the player control any political entity around WWII, from the USSR down to Bhutan. Four scenarios are available, each in different stages of the war. From there, you’ll trade, build, develop and battle. The permutations of verbs placed before you too numerous to list. A complex web of decisions stands before you and your goal, whether it’s conquest or survival, empire or hegemony.
It works well, but with a few caveats. The economic side is far more developed than the military; the battles themselves being largely uninvolved affairs. Yet, all military units are represented by the same models, regardless of size, forcing you to rely on info boxes and tooltips instead of a simple visual. The interface often relies on arcane symbols where text would be much clearer. You’ll quickly memorize their meanings, but it’s a bump that could have easily been avoided.
Making History II tries to be as approachable as any grand strategy game can be. With mechanics that are patterned after global geo-political phenomena and scenarios that are not always “winnable” by easily quantifiable methods, the barrier to entry is understandable. Here, the simplifications (a relative term) are good things to those just entering the genre. The tutorial (posted online, not in game) does a good job of leading you along and showing you the basic components with which you’ll try to construct an empire. You’ll need more help, but the active community is more than happy to help you with their guides and FAQs spattered all over their message board. However, you will fail, quickly and often. Soon, you’ll fail more gradually, and you’ll count this as success.
MHII will scowl at you and demand that you peruse PDF manuals and message boards for hours during gameplay. Yet, for every standard Man Power Unit (MPU) you allocate to “Project: MH2”, you’ll be rewarded with two units of satisfaction. It stands as a bridge between more deep but obtuse titles and the easier, shallower ones. It won’t placate those raised on a diet of Sisyphean XP bars, but to the scholars and plotters among you, Making History II will eagerly stoke your slow-burning fires into world-consuming flames of conquest. Or peaceful Hegemony, if you wish.