Ultimate General: Gettysburg is a strategy game that sets you in command of the Union or Confederate troops during the Battle of Gettysburg from 1st to 3rd July 1863.
This battle is crucial in that it is believed to be the turning point of the Civil War for the Union. Tragically, this is also the battle with the highest number of casualties.
The game was programmed by Nick Thomadis, who is the author of excellent mods (the Darth Mods) for the Total War strategy games series (Empire, Napoleon, Shogun II …). Its developer talents are well illustrated by the qualities of this game:
Advanced and versatile AI: before the battles you can choose between 9 AI personalities that are defined by two axes: aggressiveness and difficulty. In combat, the AI will follow its personality and behave accordingly. You will not only determine the strength of your opponent, but also its propensity to carry out risky attacks. It’s very nice not to face a difficult AI that simply has higher bonuses depending on the chosen difficulty, but to see it act accordingly to his defined traits.
Excellent tactical fights: the battles unfold as a series of maneuvers, and you will have to constantly adapt your strategy to win. In many strategy games, when you have gained the upper hand the remainder of the game turns out to be a mop-up operation. Here, an unfavourable situation can be reversed by repositioning your troops and a routed unit can recover its morale and cause trouble. These are also the strengths of the previous Darth Mods: a tough AI that adapts, longer fights and a real strategic game of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers.
Consequences of previous battles (in campaign mode): during the 3-4 days that the campaign lasts (up to 3 phases or battle scenarios happen per day) the game keeps track of the number of soldiers still standing, the morale and position of the troops. So you’ve got to protect your troops and take care of what happens until the end of a battle, because your heroic charges could well leave you in control of only a few dozen pitiful soldiers, tired to continue the battle the next day. Interestingly the battle timer is not exact, and the end of battle can be slightly delayed.
Terrain importance: the importance of terrain and especially the height difference is crucial in the game. Located high upon a hill, your cannons will pound the enemy to shreds. Similarly, troops will progress more slowly through the town of Gettysburg or a forest but benefit from cover. You will find yourself checking elevation to hide a cunning maneuver set to bypass the enemy and attack his exposed flank.
Historically, the game seems very well documented and still offers the opportunity to change history. After the first day for example, you can choose what global strategy to follow, which will determine placement on the battlefield when the mayhem resumes. This is an interesting strategic element that complements the tactical combat well.
A game that I recommend without hesitation to strategy enthusiasts and Total War series fans. I hope Nick Thomadis revisits other battles and eras like this.
Why to play this game: if you fancy a great tactical combat experience, with a strong AI that will make you work for the win.
Why not to play this game: if gathering resources, building bases and units are the aspects you enjoy most in strategy games.