Most computer games trade off historical accuracy for the sake of making more sales. But not these games, oh no. Here's five games that only the most hardcore gamers and strategy obsessives enjoy. Are you among them?
The 'Authentic History Problem'...
'Historical' computer games aren't usually as historical as they're meant to be. Many which are set in the past tradeoff historical accuracy for the sake of the gameplay. This is understandable, games should be as fun as we can make them, right?
But what about games that are really interested in historical accuracy. Could they be fun to play as well?
Here's some of the most painstakingly realistic historical games from various periods of history. Real time, turn based, grand strategy, open source - there should be something here for every strategy game lover.
Game: Europa Universalis III
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Time Period: 1453-1820 (Early modern period)
Genre: Grand Strategy
Appeals To: Hardline fans of the Early modern period. People who want to try and take a tiny, obscure nation to world domination.
Europa Universalis III is one of the most ambitious attempts at simulating every aspect of economical/political history between 1532-1820. To see this, all you need to do is just take a look at the ingame map which is massive, and crazily detailed. Containing over 1700 provinces and regions of water, the game has over 300 playable countries, ranging from the major European powers that everyone knows to relatively obscure places like Moldavia and Pommerania.
You can start at any point in the time period, though the game suggests certain interesting points in history you may want to start from. It also advises you on how hard
Though you'd think it'd be turn based - it's actually a real time game, though you can pause or slow the action down to a crawl if it all gets a bit too much.
Other particularly detailed aspects in EU:III include diplomacy (in which you can arrange royal marriages, issue insults and trade embargoes) and economics (where nations who print too much currency have to deal with runaway inflation).
Oh yes, there's many good reasons why this one made #1 on our list.
Game: Rome Total War - Europa Barbarorum (Mod)
Developer: The Creative Assembly (Game) - The EB Development Team (Mod)
Genre: Real Time and Turn Based Strategy
Time Period: 272 BC -14 AD (Classical Antiquity)
Appeals To: Ancient/Classical history fans who want a more authentic gaming experience, a little less tainted by Greco-Roman take on history.
Europa Barbarorum isn't actually a game, but is instead a mod for the RTS/TBS classic, Rome: Total War. Years in the making, it's possibly one of the most complex strategy game mods ever (seriously), completely overhauling the original game in pretty much every aspect. Even the soundtrack was put together by musicologists to best reflect the music of the time and the culture that you are playing as.
Additions include completely reworked tech trees, new units and unit skins, new factions, new buildings and voiceover dialogue in the original Ancient languages of the time. The whole thing is as close to historical record as the modders could make.
Die hard strategy fans will love EB for the sheer, insane amount of detail that has gone into recreating the historical accuracy, but not at the expense of gameplay. As an examples, Greek players will periodically find royal family members disappearing off to participate in the Olympic games, coming back victorious, and all the better for it. But then they may later find the same family member developing a drinking problem that reduces their management and leadership abilities to almost useless.
Game: Hearts of Iron III
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Genre: Grand Strategy
Time Period: 1936-1948 (World War II)
Appeals To: Hardcore wargamers who, when they think about WW2, also wonder 'What if?'
Hearts of Iron III gives you complete economic and military control of a nation in the tumultuous period of history we now call World War II.
The game has seven recommended starting dates (such as the German invasion of Poland) or you can jump in at any point you choose. And, as you'd expect, the game focuses on the three main factions; the Axis (led by Germany), the Allies (headed up by Great Britain), and the Comintern (under the Soviet Union), but you can play as almost nation that existed back then (such as Canada, or Panama)
And yes, this one is detailed as well. Roughly 15,000 geographical provinces await your control, each with their own traits represented by industrial capacity and the kinds of natural resources available within each one.
Amidst all this choice, it does seem like the player would get bogged down in the details, but HOI:III allows players to choose the amount of automation that they want within their nation, so if you want to focus purely on managing diplomacy, espionage and combat you can delegate the rest to your political staff.
Other things that add to the realism are continually shifting weather fronts which affect the economic potential and battle outcomes, and the ability to set the laws that affect how your country runs itself. You can also use espionage to steal technologies and sabotage enemy economies.
Game: World War One
Genre: Grand Strategy
Time Period: 1914 -1918 (The Great War)
Appeals To: Hugely detail oriented wargamers who want to mastermind the WW1 conflict
Despite being panned for it's difficult interface and lack of user guidance for it's complex gameplay, developer AGEOD has clearly put a lot of thought (and research) into how to make a WW1 game as detailed and realistic as possible.
So, there's a two 'grand campaigns', which comprise the main part of WW1 and cover the bulk of the conflict, one has 4 sides, the other has two. There's also four shorter scenarios which encompass smaller, more specific aspects of the Great War (such as the war in Prussia, or Serbia). At the beginning of the game you pick a 'war plan' which affect your initial strategies and provide certain bonuses to your nation.
Each 'turn' lasts a month or so and has several phases, the most important one probably being the military phase, where you organise, move and direct your armies in combat. Combat here is a bit more than 'point and click', you assign the multiple units that make up each each 'stack' to specific roles, such as near backup, frontline deployment, or reserve.
Another interesting aspect that shakes up the game is the addition of random events, such as assassinations and so on. There's also a diplomacy system that is a little different and more complex than a lot of it's competitors (for example, your ambassadors do much of the negotiation and political decision making for you, coming up with their own treaties).
Game: 0 A.D
Developer: Wildfire Games
Time Period: 500 BC-500 AD (Classical Antiquity)
Appeals To: Classical history fans unafraid to try something a little less 'polished'.
"It's like Empire Earth, and Rise of Nations had a baby and it came out free"
We included this one, because asides from the fact that it was developed with a high level of historical accuracy in mind, as the developer's quote suggests, it is free!
0 A.D is an open source strategy game in development by WIldfire games, a team of volunteer, hobbyists who also double as game developers. It's currently still in Alpha, but is very playable nevertheless. 0 A.D has actually been in development since 2001! The graphics aren't exactly cutting edge, but eyecandy isn't really what the game is about - instead everything in the game is validated by what the developers call their 'History Department' - hopefully giving the historical accuracy the precedence it deserves.
Combat is similar to many RTSs of this genre, with ancient units duking it out on a battle map (so, think the Age of Empires series). However there are some differences that distinguish 0 A.D from it's less realistic competitors...
Regular infantry and cavalry also double as 'citizen' soldiers; which means they have economic functions as well. Other features include more realistic sea warfare (ie. ships, to scale, ramming each other, naval action, ship capture). The game will probably evolve in the coming years to encompass more functions, and we hope to see a proper Beta release sometime soon.