How frightfully naive of me. I'd assumed the 'II' in the title of this turn-based WWII grand strategy goliath signified that it was a sequel. Now that I've played the thing, I realise it's a reference to the framerate.
On a dual-core system that runs Hearts of Iron 3 and Empire: Total War effortlessly, MH2 moves with the natural elan of an arthritic badger. An arthritic badger that's just had its hind quarters squashed by a Sherman tank. Scrolling the pretty global map is like trying to spread chilled butter on soft bread. You could open a can of beans in the time it takes to open a city menu, and load a dishwasher in the time it takes to load a savegame.
The feeling that Muzzy Lane have bitten off more than they can chew, both technically and conceptually, intensifies the more you play. For my first foray into '30s geopolitics I chose 'The German Question' from the three available scenarios, and France from the list of 80-odd playable states. Seventy laggy turns later (one turn = seven days) I'd conquered most of continental Europe including the Third Reich and Mussolini's Italy, and done it all without building a unit, using an aeroplane, or garrisoning a captured territory. I didn't so much feel like I was making history as mocking it.
Game two was slightly more plausible. This time I opted to play as a techno Franco. Spain, sitting aloof from WWII, was to be transformed into a scientific powerhouse. Fifty turns in, with most of the huge tech tree still towering above me, I gave in to temptation and invaded Portugal and Ireland. The British alliance responded forcefully – credibly even – with an amphibious landing in Belfast. MH2 was just beginning to show a smidgeon of promise when a crash undid all the good work.
Sessions three and four ended in the same frustrating fashion. If ever a game needed another year in the code womb, this is it. The extra time would have given Muzzy a chance to debug, inject a little more sense into the strategies of AI states, properly balance the five-resource economic system, and flesh out woefully weak areas like diplomacy, ideology and espionage. Currently, the different government types have no domestic effects, and it's impossible to butter-up hostile neighbours or improve your covert capabilities.
A delay would also have permitted the developers a documentation rethink. The absurd 20-page 'manual' found in the boxed version of the game is about as much use as Chamberlain's Munich souvenir.
All of the big Hitler-em-ups – HoI3, Strategic Command, Gary Grigsby's World at War – have flaws, but none arrived in as parlous a state as Making History II. This is Muzzy Lane's Dunkirk. I reckon they and their game will eventually recover, but it's going to take a lot of blood, toil, tears and sweat.
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