Not saying that this can’t happen in the real world but in the game that’s all you see. With engagement ranges limited due to the 3D accelerated environments of the game you can’t use proper tactics very well.
Normally you’d move your armor units ahead as the tip of the spear and move your anti-tank platforms in positions of support at long range from suspected enemy positions. With the 3D accelerated environment of Force 21, you can’t do that since visibility is limited to a couple of hundred meters instead of the thousands needed to keep those thin skinned vehicles alive.
Not only does the friendly AI have problems with pathfinding but with also firing their weapons. It seems that both the friendly and enemy AI have a tendency to not wait until the tube’s clear to fire at a target, instead they fire directly into the mound of dirt in front of them.
Not that it matters much to your ammo conservation, as there don't appear to be loadout limits. But it can get them killed as they move and reload, allowing the enemy a chance to take them out. Worse, the enemy AI doesn’t seem to suffer this problem as badly as your own units, and their accuracy is much better.
On the ... Move?
Movement of your units is also very flawed, as they tend to bump into each other a lot when given a change formation order, so we see the ‘bumper car effect’ again here. Once engaged with enemy units you must manually force your units to face the enemy to bring your front slope to bear on enemy weapons, hence presenting a smaller silhouette and your strongest armor.
What would have been nice here would have been a ‘contact drill’ button or hotkeys where you could just click and have that unit perform a specific action. For example, you have a platoon of tanks moving along and all of a sudden you see enemy AT vehicles to your right. You click on the ‘action right’ button and your platoon would automatically key off the platoon leaders tank which would turn right towards the enemy and lay off a snap shot.
While this may not kill the AT vehicles, it should at least cause them to occasionally go off target with their wire guided missiles. It also gives you a fighting chance against the enemy and allows you to fight the battle instead of each individual tank and engagement. While micro-management may be fun for some, it makes the game feel much more like an arcade action game that a strategy wargame.
Summary and Pesky Insects
Another issue I've had is lockups. It seems Force 21 has a tendency to lockup every now and again for no reason. I've had this happen to me when I first start it up, when I'm in the middle of a mission and even after having completed a few missions. There seems to be no head nor tail to the lockups other than the game has a habit of doing so, which can quickly get on one's nerves.
The concept for Force 21 is great but the execution is flawed, leaving the gamer wanting and expecting more from the game. If you’re looking for some quick action with a modern armored environment and can deal with the lockups and AI issues, this might be one to look at. Otherwise I'd check out Panzer General 3d or wait to see if the game gets patched. This one reminds me of Hidden and Dangerous; great concept but failed execution.
Possibly a comprehensive patch could fix the AI and pathfinding issues as well as the graphics glitches and lockups. Force 21 is not a strategy game as much as it is an action game, with the emphasis heavily on action. The addition of a mission editor adds some replay value to the game, something I think should become a necessity in all games released these days.
With some patch attention to address the AI issues mentioned above I think Force 21 would be a better deal for the gamer. As it is now the game is playable (beyond the lockups) but has little life beyond the linear campaign missions.
Core Rating: 50
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Last Updated October 1st, 1999