16 March, 2017

Syrian Warfare Review

Syrian Warfare is a game set in the still ongoing, and, of course, controversial Syrian war. In the game you follow Police Lieutenant Anwar, who takes control of his hometown's police forces to defend against invading terrorists in a realistic strategical game of modern warfare. As time progresses, you will rise through command ranks and eventually will be given military units to command, as well as being allowed to call in Russian bombings on your enemy. In addition, units that survive and vehicles you take from the enemy can be carried on to the next mission, allowing you to build a preferred core of units if you don't let them die.

The first thing one may notice is the lack of a skirmish or custom battle option. There is only a campaign with pre-set missions as far as I have found. While there is plenty of content in the missions and you will almost certainly need several attempts to do everything in them, it would be nice to have a way to set up my own engagements, even just for things like testing out unit accuracy or to see how long one can hold out in defence.

Secondly would be the graphics. They look good, and I find myself wanting to look at the action as it happens.
And that leads to the next thing I want to point out, namely the difficulty. Things move quickly, and they die quickly. As can be expected from an era of warfare where there are weapons against everything, your men are not safe even inside a tank or a big building. Using vehicles or squads of soldiers properly is a large factor in whether or not you are successful. Anti-tank missiles do exist, and are very capable of taking out your armoured vehicles. At the same time, a smaller car or technical vehicle can be taken down by a machine gun, and it is often more likely to kill the driver or crew of a vehicle than it is to destroy the vehicle outright. Which in turn means that you can take over and often repair the vehicle for your own use.
Aside from that a large part of the difficulty comes from the numbers involved. With limited forces and limited reinforcements it is difficult to attack. Defending is easy enough, fortify a position and hold them off. But to attack when the enemy outnumbers you is difficult. To do so while also under time pressure for optional objectives that you will want to complete is even harder. Some missions need you to take out 500 or more hostiles, while you will not have even half of that. As you do not 'build' units like in most RTS games and instead only get a limited amount at the start and limited reinforcements this can make for a very difficult situation where I found myself often asking 'Am I missing something? Am I doing something wrong?' while I am micromanaging the one squad of infantry that hasn't been reduced to a single living squad member to clear out several buildings.
Or maybe I'm just bad at modern tactics.

Everything appears to be very detailed, from vehicles having many parts to them that can be individually disabled to buildings seeming to be fully modeled, though without furniture, to every individual soldier having their own health and carried weaponry. Buildings can have parts of them get exploded, and even fully collapse. I've found it a pleasure to watch what happens to a building and the hostiles in it as it gets shelled by a tank.

In between missions you will be able to follow the social media, giving you stories from people involved in or commenting on the Syrian war. Some serious, and some amusing. Others give background information to Syria for those who haven't paid attention to the entire conflict. At this point, I will say that this game displays some favour to the Syrian army (and Russia) and not as much to the opponents of said army, though it does so without politics getting in the way of gameplay - perhaps it simplifies the situation a bit, but complex politics would not really do much for the gameplay itself.

There are some negatives as well. Aside from there not being a custom battle option, it seems the pathfinding is a bit questionable. Often it will drive, or walk in places you really do not want it to. Infantry in a building can be given a command to face one way, but they will ignore it if fire is incoming from the other side. Such as large explosive tank shells. And then they will stand on the balcony where said tank shells are hitting. They will go onto the roof even when mortars hit, and you can't tell them to take cover in the lower floors when artillery strikes the building and takes off the top floor. Along with the tendency for a squad to get split up this makes it difficult to shield your infantry from harm.
At times it appears the AI doesn't do much - except for a few times it mostly seems like it is up to you to attack, and it does not always seem to react to being attacked. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, because if it would react then I am sure I'd be losing pretty much every time I try something.
I have also found the camera to be restrictive. At one point I managed to fly a helicopter to the side of the map where I couldn't see it anymore, at others it felt like I couldn't zoom out to take a look at the whole situation, something that often resulted in me not noticing an enemy RPG team trying to sneak up on my vehicles.

Sound and voice acting are good. With dialogue and voice acting being well done with a touch of humour at times, and the sounds being as one would expect - good quality and distinct enough to be able to tell what is happening without looking at them, though often only when you're late because that rocket flying at your troop transport means you're already too late to stop it in most cases.

In conclusion, Syrian Warfare is not a meme game or trying to sell based on controversy. It is detailed in many aspects and very good in many more. Though there are some slight issues with the pathfinding and the AI, it is very much worth playing for anyone who is into modern strategy, or if you just want to see how well you can do at it.

Disclaimer: Game copy provided for free.

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