Aug 23, 2017 Last Updated 10:50 PM, Aug 23, 2017

Afghanistan '11 Review

Published in Strategy
Read 1141 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Afghanistan ‘11: The Woes of Guerrilla Warfare

Using turn-based gameplay, Afghanistan ‘11 (Developer: Every Single Soldier) simulates the hardships of regular troops facing insurgents in guerilla warfare. While popular titles of the genre encourage the player to steamroll and expand their territory quickly, the emphasis in this title is on securing small gains. The tedium of the gameplay -- consisting of fighting an elusive opponent, managing public opinion, and political strategizing -- conveys the real atmosphere in the Afghan theater of conflict around 2011. This realism, however, comes with the gameplay challenge of keeping repetitive tasks entertaining and not letting the tedium overpower the game experience as a whole.

Failing the First Time

The player has the option of playing campaigns with specific objectives, or skirmishes where the only goal is to stabilize the region and drive out the insurgent forces. When I began to play, I was taken aback; acquainted with games from the Civilization or Total War series, I moved my troops all over the map to look for insurgents. I lost after four turns: My MRAP vehicle ran out of fuel, my Blackhawk crashed, my Marines were out in the field starving, and I was not able to buy supply vehicles to rescue them because I did not have the necessary political backing from Washington.

How to Make Progress

I reviewed the tutorial again and began to play more carefully. I realized you cannot send troops on a mission without plans for how to sustain them. A supply vehicle has to be able to reach them from the base any time their fuel runs out. My second foray went better -- I lost after eight turns. The reason for my repeat failure was what sets Afghanistan ‘11 apart from other turn-based strategy games: I was fighting the opponent without the support of the local population. Necessary support is earned by visiting villages, delivering UN aid, and building structural improvements -- peaceful, constructive actions which raise the “Hearts and Minds” score. That, in turn, decreases the attacks by the insurgents and offers the possibility of bonuses.

Frustration is Part of the Experience

Although I was improving, I became frustrated. The micromanagement involved is staggering. In this release, it feels like Every Single Soldier really makes you manage every single soldier. Additionally, there is pressure to keep the local population happy, and to secure support of US public opinion, and, on top of all that, the Taliban seemed to always undo my progress immediately. Three steps forward, two back. As I was sulking and feeling like everyone’s punching bag, I realized: this is what it must have felt like to command a base in Afghanistan! The humdrum and sometimes thankless work required of troops and their commanders in Afghanistan is familiar from media reports and documentaries. As a video game, Afghanistan ‘11 is effective at conveying interactively distrustful civilian populace, public opinion at home that’s critical of any setback, and the frustration of facing the constant threat of attacks by guerrilla forces who then retreat to their hideouts.

Three’s the Charm

I started over again. This time much, much more scrupulously. I only bought the most necessary units, and I moved my vehicles such that they would not get stranded due to lack of supplies. I sent them to villages and engaged the local populace -- and see there; I was winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans and the support of public opinion. That, ultimately, enabled me to fight the insurgents more efficiently. Finally, I was able to finish the campaign.

How Turn-Based Strategy Games Entertain

Turn-based strategy games in general struggle with the issue of how to entertain the player. The movements in turns over hexagonal tiles are an abstract concept. Thus, such games rely on work done by the player’s imagination as he suspends disbelief and accepts the hexgrid and the events within as “real.” The player needs to contribute actively to his own entertainment entertained. In the case of Afghanistan ‘11, the ‘fun’ lies in being ready to grasp how troops in Afghanistan struggled with guerrilla warfare in 2011. Expository introductions before each mission referencing real historical occurrences offer context and contribute to the immersion into the scenario. However, what the narrative setup promises is not held up by what the player sees on the screen. The sprites don’t show much variation and appear sterile. The animations for each movement are identical and keep the player out, when they should help draw her in. After repeating the same menial clicking task for the hundredth time, the intent to convey the experience of commanding a base in Afghanistan misses its target and throws the player out of game flow.

7

The Verdict

The attention to detail in the game mechanics, the developers’ efforts to maintain relevance and historical accuracy, and the rewards of mastering its intricacies set Afghanistan '11 apart as an exceptional title. However, an unusually steep learning curve, which might be hard to accept for someone who wants to casually try a turn-based strategy game, keep this release from broader appeal. Afghanistan '11 requires a sustained interest in either the historical subject matter or turn-based strategy games, promising little to those who aren't history buffs or part of the wargamer scene.

Enzo Scavone

Enzo is a writer of Italian descent. He has lived in Germany, Switzerland, and recently settled in New York City where he works as a freelancer. When he is not exploring the city or losing at Street Fighter 5 tournaments, he likes to play role-playing and strategy video games. You can check out his work at www.enzoscavone.com.

Related items

  • Strategy and Tactics: Dark Ages Review

    Strategy and Tactics: Dark Ages by Herosoft is the latest iteration of a risk-style board game that is enhanced by persistent upgrades to generals and leaders and a large variety of different troop types and formation options. In the end however, the bigger army wins, and getting the bigger army in this turn based game is disappointingly trivial.

  • Total War: WARHAMMER - Norsca Review

    Yet another in an already long line of excellent pieces of DLC for what has shaped up to be a living classic in the realm of PC games. If you like the game, you'll almost definitely like this, because who doesn't want to wear a bunch of skulls like you shop at some kind of Tiffany in hell and, maybe more importantly, who doesn't want to hang out with a bunch of dragons and war mammoths, slaughtering enemy after enemy with nary a thought of going home? Just me? Didn't think so.

  • Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates Release Date Announced

    Developed by a team of industry veterans from such influential companies as Crytek, Creative Assembly, Codemasters and Digital Reality, Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates is a top-down isometric RPG that takes place in an alternate industrial New York circa 1911.

Latest Shows

The Search Inter…

Embark on a journey of discovery and inspiration in The Search - a story-driven puzzle-adventure set in a mysterious world where art comes to life! In an unknown world, you'll sear...

OPN DevLounge Mo…

Episode Six, Season One! OPN's DevLounge Monthly is a lively conversation between game developers on Twitch, on the hottest PC games to be released this upcoming month. Watch it on...

Out Soon

PC Gaming Incoming

The Inner World …

The flute nose dynasty has been watching over Asposia for centuries on end. In secret, they fill the...

Total War: WARHA…

Sequel to the award-winning Total War: WARHAMMER, Total War: WARHAMMER II introduces a breathtaking ...

Total War: WARHA…

Yet another in an already long line of excellent pieces of DLC for what has shaped up to be a living classic in the realm of PC games. If you like the game, you'll almost definitel...

>observer_ Re…

The same elements and design choices in Observer that make it a cerebral and provocative failed-future experience are those that prohibit satisfaction in its gameplay. Detailed wor...

Strategy and Tac…

Strategy and Tactics: Dark Ages by Herosoft is the latest iteration of a risk-style board game that is enhanced by persistent upgrades to generals and leaders and a large variety o...

Startup Company …

Naturally, I named my brand in Startup Company “OPN.” Within four months, I took over the market with my flagship product, 'Rey Judges' (inspired by this gif featuring OPN's editor...