Review: No, Dai Senryaku is not another fighting game.
War video games seem to be popping up on store shelves faster than money sucking EA sports titles. Dai Senryaku VII Modern Military Tactics is yet another one of these war games. The big difference is this is not your typical first person shooter copycat; this is a deep and time consuming turn-based strategy game with tons of battle scenarios and hundreds of real life war machines at your command. Although it certainly isn't the best looking game on the market, Dai Senryaku VII is still one very complex and addictive game.
Dai Senryaku VII doesn't really have much of a story line to it. There are no charismatic heroes or evil dictators to speak of here, the game just jumps straight to the action and focuses on the various battle scenarios. In the single player campaign you are in command of an all blue army after a rival red nation decides to invade peaceful neutral territory in an act of war. During the course of the 25 missions you'll encounter all sorts of different vehicles and new friendly and hostile nations.
For the most part Dai Senryaku VII is easy and intuitive to grasp, especially for fans of these types of games. The controls are well set up so players can do several commands easily and the camera angles can be altered any time too for added convenience. The game also plays like your typical turn-based strategy title. Once you're done moving all your army on the stage, it's the enemy's turn to strike back and you continue to take turns until there is only one left standing. Victory can come in two ways: either capture the enemy's headquarters, or destroy all the rival units. Each unit has a limit range of movement, and you can measure this on a map that consists of multiple hexagons. If this sounds familiar - it is - because the hexagon map system was used in one of my personal favourite strategy games of all time: Military Madness for the TurboGrafx-16 and Sony Playstation. If you played that game before, you will feel right at home with Dai Senryaku.
Dai Senryaku VII also has a wide range of units to master. Each one of these units is based on real life war machines throughout history, from 8 different countries (China, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Russia, USA and the UK) and each one comes with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Most tanks, for example, are great at direct land combat but some may not be able to attack all units. Trucks are great for transporting other slow moving units, but have limited firepower. In-direct units have ammunition that can shoot down units from a distance, but have poor defence. You can also use aircraft and navel units here as well, and they can not only do many things that the land units can do, but some of them can change their altitude to help either increase their movement range or avoid enemy fire. Of course, the better the unit the more it's going to cost to produce, and that's why you also need units that can capture factories and cities to increase funds.
So far it doesn't sound like the game is all that complicated, but here is where things get a little tricky. If you think being able to control 100 plus vehicles in a Grand Theft Auto game is overwhelming, wait until you see all the over 400 different playable units here! Now you would think getting a huge list of vehicles would be awesome, but the problem is a lot of the units tend to look a-like, and it can be confusing trying to tell one from the other unless you go by name. You will have to study the in-game stats hard to learn each unit's abilities as well since the game doesn't let you cancel a move.
Since the game has so many units and various conditions it can be incredibly frustrating for first time players. Thankfully, the game comes with a lengthy but necessary built in tutorial and a huge instruction booklet to learn some of the basics. Dai Senryaku VII is definitely one of those games you have to play for a few hours to truly understand it.
To add even more depth to the action, units can gain experience and level up after enough battles. This gives some role-playing elements to the game play where you normally wouldn't expect to find it. Players can also stride to see if they can ?collect them all' and unlock all of these 400 units. The more you play the more you can unlock, and the newly won items can be used on your friends in the multi-player game. Players can even create their own maps and scenarios in the Edit mode to help with the game's replay value. Dai Senryaku VII may be a budget title, but it sure puts lots on the table.
Unfortunately one of the biggest things that irritated me about the Advance Wars games is also a big part of Dai Senryaku VII as well. The term is called ?Fog of War' and it means you can't see your enemies unless they are in visual range of your own units, even though you can still see the full size map anytime you like. It adds realism to the missions and there are special Recon units that can help spot out hiding units, but it also turns a lot of the experience into one big guessing game.
The Fog of War effect would have been a great way to hide your tactics from your friends in multi-player battles, but you can only play the game with up to 4 players on one TV, so each player can easily see what the other is doing. Sadly, you can't play the game over System Link or Xbox Live either, so the Fog of War feature serves no real purpose. Another problem with the game's multi-player Free Mode is that I could change sides anytime I wanted during a game, which certainly eliminated any challenge.
Although the game certainly doesn't play like your average budget title, it sure does look like one. Most units consist of only basic flat shaded polygons when they are viewed from the in-game map, plus the super blurry hexagon environments look even worse. It isn't all bad because some of the unit models are fairly believable during the battle scenes, and I like the option of being able adjust the view at will, but the advanced Xbox technology is clearly not being fully used here.
Listening to the game's audio isn't much better either. A few of the background tracks are adequate for a war simulation, but they do get repetitive in a hurry - especially since most of the missions can take hours to complete. Sadly, there is no Custom soundtrack support so you're stuck with this lack lustre music unless you turn down the volume. I was impressed with the different sound effects for each unit, but the game also contains no voice acting so you'd better get ready to do a lot reading.