Shattered Union Review
The premise behind PopTops turn based strategy game, Shattered Union, is fairly simple, yet introduced very well in superb pre-game cinematic. Basically the United States has shattered into six factions after a series of terrorist attacks and disputed elections. Your goal: reunite the United States using one of the six regional factions, the California Commonwealth, the Confederacy, the Great Plains Federation, the New England Alliance, Pacifica, the Republic of Texas, or the European Union peace force that has invaded the Washington D.C area.
As Im sure youve guessed already, every faction is unique in more than just location. The six American factions are all based around the same group of modern day units, so for the most part the units are all the same, excluding the European Union which has its own set of cool European units. Every unit has strengths and weaknesses that are decently balanced, giving the player a good variety to choose from. You can only have 42 units at a time (both during the campaign and the skirmishes), so youre forced to balance out your force if you want to stand a chance. Theres a total of 9 unit categories each including 2-3 units, so you have quite a bit to choose from.
In addition to unit choices, Shattered Union also features special powers. Every faction has their own set of special powers that you can use during the game to help you, or hinder your opponent. The powers are dependant on your reputation as a faction; when you do battle your reputation is decided by how much damage you do to the map, if you do little to no damage itll rise, and if you make the place look like hell your reputations going to drop. Having a good reputation offers a set of good powers (think heroism and bunnies), while having a bad reputation offers a set of bad powers (think death and destruction). There are eleven stages of reputation that decide what powers youll have access to. Of course having a bad reputation has a bit of a downside; youll experience extra units fighting you as partisans.
The game can be split into two categories. The campaign map, and the turn based battle map. The campaign map is only available in single player. You can play the heart of the game, the turn based battle map online or against an AI.
The campaign is a little on the monotonous side. Its fun for a little while, but as you progress you realize how few options the actual campaign map offers. And after fighting on one of the 24 zones for the 24th time, you realize you could be doing something more fun; multiplayer. There are, however, some cool things about the campaign map. A personal favorite is the fact that every region will retain the damage thats done to it for the rest of the campaign. If you blow up a bridge itll stay blown up, if you destroy a city itll stay destroyed.
As I already mentioned the battle map is the heart of the game. Basically the maps are large amounts of hex-squares that represent the 24 zones of the game. Gameplay takes place turn by turn, and you have 13 days to take over a set amount of cities, or kill the entire opposing force. The system is fairly fun, and the AI is good enough to present a challenge not that Im any good though. I imagine online play is the most fun aspect of the game, but I was unable to catch a match, as nobody seems to play online.
For a turn based strategy, the games graphics are rather good. Theyre nothing impressive, but they serve their purpose. The battle animations are nothing special, but they too serve their purpose. One of the best things about the graphics is the ability to zoom way out of the map, to the point where you can see the whole thing from an overhead view. At this far out its near impossible to make out what units what, but it does give an overview of the map. Of course nothings to scale, but again, scale isnt important to the game, its turn based after all. The user interface is one of the things I disliked. There arent many opinions to choose from in the first place, but the arrangement and graphics are not impressive. Occasionally I even found myself forgetting which button did what.
On that note, if youre totally new to the turn based strategy genre PopTop does include a tutorial. However theyre badly done video tutorials. They may go over just about everything youll need to know, but theyre not interactive, and are generally pretty boring. Luckily a tutorials really not needed; the game can be picked up right away without much of a headache.
As far as sound goes, I think unimpressive is a good word. The games sound is fine, the battle noises sound okay, but theyre nothing worth writing home about. The background music is hardly noticeable, but it doesnt take away from the game at all. Unfortunately it doesnt add anything special either.
What it comes down to is that if you like war-gaming turn based strategy, youll enjoy Shattered Union. If you dont, then Shattered Union offers nothing groundbreaking to pull you into the genre. Nevertheless its an enjoyable game to play, just not something particularly immersive. If youre a TBS fan you cant go wrong; the game retails at $30.