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Game Info:

Ultimate General: Civil War
Developed By: Game-Labs
Published By: Game-Labs
Released: July 14, 2017
Available On: macOS, Microsoft Windows
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
ESRB Rating: None specified
Number of Players: Single-player
Price: $29.99
(Humble Store Link)

Disclaimer: This review was co-written by myself and my friend Martin (Unionac on Steam). The latter provided invaluable assistance regarding gameplay information since they have more recent and involved experience with real-time strategy games than myself and whom I owe an immense debt for back-checking me on critical technical information, and thus this work is as much to their credit as it is to me.

War is a bloody affair, and one of the worst ones in US history was fought on its soil between its people. The American Civil War was also notable for providing the world with many advances in tactics, technology, and changing the very face of strategy in militaries the world over. It has become a rich source of interest for historians and amateur armchair generals who wonder how things might have changed had the war been conducted differently. "Ultimate General: Civil War" is the answer to this desire to explore this speculation, and lets you change the fate of either the Blue or the Grey.

The game follows the military events that took place during the American Civil War, from 1861 to 1865. At the beginning of the game, you go through a section that allows you to build up the story of your game character, personalizing yourself as an officer in the United States Army before the Civil War. You are asked to take a series of roles that define your story as an officer, giving you perks and stats. Once you are done, you get to choose a side in the war. Playing as the Confederacy allows you access to a pool of high-quality recruits that will be used to supplement your regiments' combat power, but your funds and manpower pool is lower. Playing as the Union gives you access to vast quantities of recruits and funds, which you can use to equip a large and well-equipped army, but the quality of the recruits is lower, so you will have to level them appropriately.

The gameplay is much like any other top-down real-time strategy game. The premise represents the end of musket warfare in a very realistic way, paving the way for rifled muskets to dominate the battlefield. Using all cover available is thus the wisest option, for charging in the open against fortified positions will only serve to get men killed needlessly (Just ask Ambrose Burnside how that ended up for him at Fredericksburg). The campaigns of both sides end up with a hypothetical battle on each side, with the Union assaulting Richmond, and the Confederates launching an attack on Washington D.C., but you will need an experienced and large army to tackle those battles, especially playing as the Confederates. Playing either side is not likely to take less than a week or two of dedicated play to beat the war for your chosen side. There is a "random campaign" option as well, but it's basically a semi-randomized mini-campaign based on the main gameplay that only adds a few more hours for the average player.

Ultimate General: Civil War
Highlights:

Strong Points: Excellent realistic tactical gameplay
Weak Points: Hard to read UI text
Moral Warnings: Minor use of h*ll/d*mn in a few intermission quotes by famous Civil War officers; depictions of combat between soldiers (albeit in a very tame and bloodless way)

The game has an army management system, which allows you to recruit and equip regiments of infantry, cavalry, artillery, and skirmishers. Winning battles give you War funds, recruits, and perk points, which you can invest in different skills. "Politics" gives you more money and recruits per battle, "logistics" gives you more ammo for all of the units, "Medicine" allows your unit to recover losses taken in battle, and so on.

Graphically, this is not a demanding title, and while the colors are crisp and the army formations just detailed enough to be distinguishable by unit type, the player will have to do a lot of clicking around to get detailed information on troops, as the text and overall UI is a bit small. Battles aside, most menus, in general, are readable but again have some very small text. Since this is a game where you’ll be doing a lot of strategies, this can cause eye strain while you handle all the bureaucracy in-between battles.

The sounds are excellent, with each side having clear voice-overs and weapons being quite period accurate aurally. The music is like something out of a Civil War movie, which is more than fitting for the tense mood of the battles. Controls are driven by a keyboard and mouse, especially the latter. While the game functions are easily explained and well laid out, the small UI and large maps can make it tedious to control multiple units at times. If the armies get too large to manage, there's an option to assign those units to an allied AI. You can give said AI general orders, and it will obey them as precisely as possible.

In terms of stability, this is a recommended title for those who want a fairly non-demanding game, being able to run even on aging middling laptops with a considerable degree of quality. There are a few odd bugs with the flanking code, and a few times the enemy can run through barricades when they shouldn’t, but these bugs are either very minor or can even work in your favor. Compatibility with Steam on Linux via Proton is also quite good, though it can vary, as the player may have to play around with the DirectX and OpenGL drivers to find the most stable one to use.

Ultimate General: Civil War
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 84%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Morally, this is not bad at all for a game about the American Civil War.

Language is mild save a few quotes on the intermission screens quoting famous officers from the Civil War, a few instances of the words h*ll/d*mn used at worst in said quotes, presented in an educational/historical sense. Sexual content is nonexistent, and this is a title with no occult/supernatural elements, being very grounded in the real events of the battles of the Civil War.

Violence is surprisingly sterile for a game of this nature, with the birds-eye view of the field barely giving you an “ants in a shoe-box” look at the soldiers. No blood or gore is shown at all, and bodies representing soldiers who fell disappear immediately to show units who have lost troops.

Given we are referring to war, this game is quite free of anything that would be considered a depiction of a war crime. This is slightly unrealistic, given historically they did occur, but this is more a consequence of the myopic game design focusing only on the battles from a tactical standpoint, not intentional historical whitewash, and this aside, it’s otherwise very accurate to the details of the battles themselves.

In short, it’s a very detailed tactically based real-time strategy game that could be used to educate players about how the battles were fought given its focus on realism, a few very minor bugs and small user interface text issues aside. From a moral standpoint, there is nothing anyone from a young teen on up could not be expected to handle maturely either.

Overall, while it’s not a game I recommend to casual fans of the RTS genre given its focus on realism, it’s a great game for American Civil War students and tactical war gamers in general.

About the Author

Daniel Cullen

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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