"Storm Over The Pacific" is a classic hex-based wargame covering an area of WWII which has not had the game coverage that it deserved. The European Theatre of Operations is relatively familiar to most players, had the benefit of large set-piece armies and battles, discernable front lines, and of course a huge, burgeoning Russian gaming industry popularising the "Great Patriotic War". The Pacific war, on the other hand, appears much less cohesive with fluid front lines characterised by "Island-hopping" amphibious landings and massive fleet actions. The Polish-based team of "Wastelands Interactive" have taken a solid grasp on this campaign and crafted what promises to be a comprehensive approach to this unique theatre and style of warfare.
While it is too early to judge the game since it is still in Beta, at build 27 as I write this, what I have seen promises great things. Supply is central to conducting effective operations, but fortunately the game does not bog you down in moving boxes and barrels around the map. The programme handles most of this "boring" function for you creating a radiating supply chain of ports and towns for you which you only see in it's ramifications on the effectiveness (shown as a percentage) of your individual units. Get too far from a supply centre and see your units effectiveness plummet, conversely, surround an enemy assault and cut them off from their source of supply and an unstoppable juggernaut is reduced to a toothless hulk that can be mopped up easily, even by smaller and less technically advanced units. But do remember to set up "Convoy Routes" from your main port to your newly captured ports.....Or wonder why your newly-landed army is turning to mush in your hands. In terms of gameplay this encourages you to practice a strategy of manoeuvre and leapfrogging amphibious assaults very similar to the strategies actually practised during WWII by both Japanese and American forces. Amphibious assaults are expensive in PP (production points) the basic currency of the game, which depend on the towns and cities you control. Basic port-to-port sea transportation is less expensive, hence the above strategy.
The naval fleet actions take place in much larger "hexes" comprising entire sea areas, and are fought out either ship-by-ship in a series of "turns"......Which crashed me to desktop each time I tried it after the first move, or by allowing the AI to calculate outcomes and casualties. This obviously is still a "Work in Progress" to be fixed before the game goes gold. One aspect of the naval combat that I liked was the ability to set individual flotillas to either "Engage" or "Raider", the latter is ideal for submarines who then hit and run, small fleets of patrol craft performing reconnaissance or transport fleets who I prefer to keep well clear of fleet actions. In game I would use sub and "patrol craft" flotillas set to "Raider" one sea square ahead of my carriers and battle squadrons to act as a screen to find and fix the enemy before bringing the full might of the capital ships in to really beat them up.
I am an inveterate fan of "What if" scenarios, my favourite being "Operation Sealion", the aborted German invasion of the British Isles planned for the summer of 1940. So I could not resist playing the Japanese invasion of Australia which is one of the 14 scenarios within the game. Initially I was only using the troops already on the ground as it took me a while without a manual to realise that not all my reinforcements were showing up in the "Reinforcement" panel, alot were appearing as troopship convoys in various sea-squares. Once I stumbled upon these windfalls I used my PP (production points) to buy amphibious assault points, put strong regiments into landing craft, and began leapfrogging down both the east and west coasts of the continent capturing ports which could then be used to disgorge these transport fleets full of soldiers and form expanding bubbles which would merge to take over the whole continent.
Graphics are not particularly stunning as one would expect with a top-down hex map, although the sprites (switchable alternative to military symbol counters or figures) are well done and easily differentiate the various unit types, as well as different tech levels of troops. The upside of low demand on graphics cards is, of course, a fairly low SYSTEM REQUIREMENT. The soundtrack is excellent, contributing greatly to the atmosphere of the game, generally martial, and at times downright intimidating. Occasionally I found myself reconsidering a perilous assault as a scary track darkened my optimism. One track "Japan win the war!" made me feel like a ninja while Track 10 had me sympathising with the "Diggers" with its cadence so reminiscent of "I WAS ONLY 19" by the Aussie band "Redgum".
Should you buy this game? Well, to be frank, I would advise waiting until it goes Gold unless you really have to dip into the Pacific right now. If you do, and are prepared to play a Beta build, you will find excellent support via the Wastelands FORUM and especially "Doomtrader" the moderator there, who is an integral part of the development team, and was most helpful to me in getting into the game and overcoming occasional glitches.