By: Pseudo Nim
Simulation games are usually available for a dime a dozen at your
local software retailer these days. However, those usually include
driving some sort of a vehicle, be that tank, helicopter, plane, jet,
the Space Shuttle, you name it. In any case, it usually doesn't
apply to humans - how could you possibly 'simulate' humans?
Well, that's what Empire intended to do with 101: The Airborne
Invasion of Normandy, and... the result is, to say the least,
interesting. Mind you, this game isn't for everyone - Empire aimed
this title at the hardcore market, and impatient people won't find
much fun in it.
But more to the point. Primarily, what I absolutely have to
mention, is that the learning curve of this game is SO steep I
thought I'd fall off it as I climbed it. And I only climbed about as far
as from my chair to the door of my room, and, believe me, that's
not far. The concepts are easy to grasp - but the techniques and
amount of detail thrown at you are so vast that a newbie will get
completely lost at it at the beginning. You can pick your squad
(either from officers or enlisted volunteers), you can pick the
equipment they will carry (i.e. jump suits (which you don't really
have a choice of deleting, considering the squad deployment by
paradropping) as well as water flasks, gas masks, jump boots,
maps, compasses, field rations, first-aid kits, even cleaning patches
(only to name a few). Your weapon choices aren't exactly
Commander Keen's, either - the arsenal is so vast it makes war
almost fun. Handguns (ie Colt M1911A), rifles (M1903A4, M2),
submachine guns (M3A9), machine guns (M1919A6) even a
bazooka - and there is usually more than one type of offensive
weaponry per category.
The mosts blatant problem, if it could be called that, is the
extensiveness of options you can select. There IS an 'automatic
select' for every choice you have to make (squad selection,
weapons selection, etc.) - but the button is so nicely blended into
the background even THAT is hard to find. Apart from that, very
extensive information is given for all choices, up to biographies of
all the privates and officers, full description of just what exactly an
item does, as well as full stats for the weapons. Those come in
pretty useful, considering you'll have to figure out enough stuff by
yourself - you wouldn't want to figure out what the difference
between an M1 carbine, a M1 Garand and a M1A1 is. (Please, no
flame mail - not everyone knows that.) For that matter, the
realism level is astounding - but, perhaps, a bit overwhelming, at
least at the beginning. As I never read any manuals, readmes,
'Read This Urgently.txt'-s, and the such, I was completely
dumbfounded at the beginning. I mean, it takes you a little while
to figure out that once your soldiers paradrop (and you lose a third
to half the squadron while paradropping), you have to: a) take off
the parachute, b) wait a few turns and c) realize you have
two types of actions during a turn - one attack phase and
one movement/attack phase. All that happens in slow motion, too -
considering all I have is an elderly P200. More so, once you're
done figuring that out, fire comes raining down on your troops,
and I'll be damned if you think of 'Looking' around immediately.
It would be nice, too if there were some training missions. That is,
there ARE - but you have to know about them, as they're skillfully
disguised as a black-draped door in a black wall in the dark corner
of the room. But, as I later learned, though, 'Look'-ing doesn't
do such a good job - for some reason, the enemies are
visible only during the PC's turn. That doesn't end up working too
well, considering that even under the strictest realism rules, once
you know where your opponent is, lest should he move, you can
safely assume he's at the same precise location. Well, you can't in
the game - you have to fire blindly at the spot where you KNOW
the soldier is. Sometimes you're rewarded by a death scream.
Sometimes not. In any case, you'll probably end up being shot
because an enemy will pop out of nowhere.
Apart from that, the game is pretty neat. The environment is
destructible (Rebellion managed to kill a cow), and houses look
like they can be entered - I never tried though, as my troops were
dead long before they even approached the house. That makes
me think - by laws of optics, if the enemy sees my trooper, my
trooper can see him - and, considering my trooper is lying down
and has the suspect building within visual range, I'm surprised at
why the enemy can see me and I can't.
Another concept that takes some getting used to is the sequence in
which your soldiers move. Since this is a turn-based strategy game
(which is a welcome refreshment from the flood of RTSs we had
lately), you cannot select a random soldier and execute his action
sequence. They all take turns - and, in my view, it would be neat if
I wasn't forced to select them all in order.
The graphics in the game are somewhat jaded. There are no vivid
colors in it, and, albeit the load on the graphics card shouldn't be
too excessive, I found the game to be very slow at times. The view
is top-down, too - so one would think that it could be faster - and
we got Commandos to prove that, even though it's an RTS. Troop
movement, scrolling - all that was fairly lagged, and reminiscent of
the good old C&C days on my DX/2-80. Does Empire deem a
Pentium 200 to be equivalent of a DX/2-80 two years back
perchance? Possible, I am no judge. Some of the objects are
somewhat undecipherable, too - I'm still unsure as to whether they
represented a cemetery, hanged bodies, cows, or enemy soldiers.
I tried shooting them, and nothing happened - so, assumably, the
latter option can be ignored.
Much as I would like to keep discussing this game, there is truly
not much I can say - overall, it's a pretty good game, but, like I
mentioned above, it's really for the believers. The newbies will get
completely astounded, dumbfounded and flabbergasted, and all
but the most patient and determined ones will most likely give up.
There IS a game lurking somewhere behind the complicated,
maze-like facade - but it's too far down for most people to look for
it. The true fans will likely be delighted, but then again - true fans
are a different breed, and negative reviews don't tend to change
their mind about things. Case in point: Dune 2000.
Highs: Extreme realism, authentic representation of the
era, incredible depth of customization options...
Lows: ... that so overwhelm you that you end up using
Automatic, anyway. And the game is very slow. I still can't
see the difference between 'Run' and 'Crawl'.
Bottom line: a decent sim, but only the diehard simnuts
will stick to playing it. Most other people will probably find their
Fun Factor: 10/20
Overall Impression: 7/10
101st Airborne brings yet another World War II strategy game to
the market. This one comes in the more traditional wargamer
favorite, the turn based style. You manage units of paratroopers in
attacks on France as part of the Normandy invasion of 1944. You
have different missions to choose from each with different
It appears to be more open ended, you get to pick and choose
your missions so it doesn't really follow the "Campaign" idea most
games do. You also have the option of training your men, which
allows you to familiarize yourself with tactics and weaponry and
get accustomed to the game.
You get quite a bit of control over the development of your squads.
You build squads for each mission from a large assortment of
enlisted men and officers, each of which has their own stats and
skills. Units will progress from experience and get better as they
go along (as long as they're not getting killed). I guess it's similar
to Mech Commander in this aspect since you pretty much get to
equip your men however you like and they will develop based on
101 gives a wide range of weapons and equipment, including
pistons, rifles, machine guns and even bazookas from the various
factions including the United States, France, and Germany,
realistic to that era. Each weapon has its own stats including the
usual range/damage/firing rate categories. You also will need to
equip your forces with parachutes (this IS Airborne after all) and
items like rations and med kits.
If you couldn't tell already, you've got a lot of choices to not only
make the game detailed, but also confuse the hell of out you. The
game does provide a method of automatically equipping your
units and it appears to do a decent job. Since I spent most of the
time trying to figure out what weapons to use and wear certain
equipment would be needed and what was required, it seemed to
me that the computer was doing a pretty good job of
The game looks similar to Close Combat, it's a topdown view and
it's pretty square. It doesn't convey any distinct 3D views, thus
following the typical turnbased mold. It isn't graphically impressive
at any given point, but does the job of setting enough enviroment.
You get modifiers from terrain although it's not the easiest to tell
the difference in terrain since there's not a whole lot of difference
The gameplay is quite slow. At first I thought it was something with
my PC, but I've got a P200 that it ran at basically the same rate as
my PII 300, so I guess the game itself is just slow. It tends to drag
the game out significantly with little or no interaction with the
enemy. My highlight of the first 45 minutes was killing a cow. It is
pretty realistic though. For example, when you first land, you will
need to cut off your parachute. This process will take you a few
turns to complete. It may be somewhat boring, but it adds some
realism, no matter how trivial. For me this made the game a low
priority on my time management. I'm not willing to sit around at a
game for long periods of time with nothing happening. However,
wargamers are a strange breed and this may be just the game to
get their feathers ruffled.
The game has nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary in the
audio category. Just the usual gunfire chatter, and background
ambience. It fulfills its objective by accomplishing what it needed
to and not overdoing it.
101 does feature multiplayer. I can only imagine the hours and
hours this game would take to play against another human.
However, it does seem like it would do a great job as a multiplayer
If you're not a diehard wargamer, this game is most likely going to
be way too slow and tedious for you. If you are, hmm, set aside a
full day or so and have at it. I bet you'll either be addicted or be
trading it in for Panzer General II or something that moves a little
faster. As a wargame, it's not pretty, but it's realistic and detailed.
As a plain game, you'll find higher entertainment value elsewhere.
Highs: Detailed and has a high level of realistic complexity
Lows: Slow gameplay, steep learning curve
Entertainment Value: 10/20
Overall Impression: 6/10