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Review by
Philippa Irving

 

 
Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Ogre
1986 Origin Systems
Programmed by David Lubar
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the thirty third issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: December 10th, 1987).
 

OGRE
Microprose/Origin, 19.95 disk only


Ogre describes itself as a strategy wargame, and I suppose it is a wargame insofar that it deals with the systematic destruction of a war machine by other war machines -- but the supertanks employed in Ogre are entirely fictional. This isn't a fault by any means -- Ogre has a classic concentration, simple where it helps the gameplay and complex where it makes things interesting.

We are, in concept at least, on the battlefields of the 2lsl century. The predominance of small-scale nuclear weapons have made infantry troops rather too expensive and cumbersome to use in battle, and defences against long-range missiles have become so sophisticated and widespread that they're no longer an option. The development of a new kind of wonder metal means that tanks are back in fashion, the most advanced kind being a 50-metre-long 'cybernetic attack vehicle' -- the Ogre.

The action takes place on an unidentified battlefield. There is no assumption, not even an implicit one, of an East-West conflict, and the situation is highly stylised. The Defender, who is always the player, has a command post and an assortment of mechanised tanks. The Ogre, the single piece controlled by the computer, is out to destroy the command post.

A very simple hex map fills two screens. It's glaring white, which I found fatiguing to look at for a period of time, and its blankness is interrupted only by a few unclear squint lines which are intended to represent rubble, and a sprinkling of red circles which denote craters. The rubble lines, which are not particularly distinct, run between hexes and prevent a piece moving from one to another. Hexes with craters in them can't be entered at all.

Actions are selected from a series of pull-down menus, and are carried out by pressing fire. At the start, the player chooses a 'field' -- merely a particular arrangement of rubble and craters on the hex map -- and deploys his forces. For a quick start, there's a choice of five preset fields with the defences already deployed, and a further five pre-designed maps which allow the user to place his units as desired. The third alternative is for those who like to play around with editor programmes and make an entirely new 'scenario'. I'm not convinced that the shape of the map has much effect on the outcome of the game, but the type of tanks chosen and their arrangement certainly does.

Against the single computer-controlled Ogre, the Defender has a range of five weapons. The capabilities of these are defined by five parameters: attack strength, attach range, defence strength and movement. Attack strength determines the percentage chance of hitting the Ogre, attack range determines how many hexes ahead the missile weapons travel, defence strength is the measure of how resistant they are to attack, and movement is self-explanatory. Heavy tanks have a high attack strength and are fairly strong, but their range is short. Missile tanks have less chance of doing damage and are slower, but they have a longer range. Howitzer tanks have a range far wider than the Ogre's own, and are extremely accurate, but are almost defenceless and can't move at all. Ground effect vehicles are super-fast -- they actually have two movement phases in one turn -- but are moderate on other abilities. Finally, the player has some infantry at his disposal, and disposal is usually the operative word.

The defending player has quite an assortment of these weapons at the ready, all ranged against a single enemy piece. But the Ogre is a thoroughly nasty collection of hit points and has four clusters of weapons, each equivalent to an ordinary tank, two missiles, one main battery, four secondary batteries, and eight anti-personnel. In addition it can move at a speed of three hexes per turn. The defender's task is to wear the Ogre down weapon by weapon, chipping away at its attacking strength and attempting to slow it down by blowing up its caterpillar tracks.

The action takes place in turns of multiple phases, with the defence moving first. Details about each piece may be accessed, and it can be moved if required. The Ogre's details can also be examined -- useful, since a knowledge of the Ogre's state is essential when the attack is planned.

If you try to exit the movement phase without having moved all your pieces, you're asked to confirm this decision. A similar query at the end of the firing phase is very useful, but I found it irritating here. Quite often it's tactically acceptable to leave tanks in position.

Having manoeuvred the defence weapons, the player gets to fire at the Ogre. Moving tanks close is essential, but it also means that in its firing phase, the Ogre fires back. Each tank has a choice of shooting at one of the Ogre's weapon banks in an attempt to take them out, or going for the treads to slow it down. The Ogre has forty-five treads, and every fifteen destroyed means one less movement point per turn. It's fairly important to attempt immobilisation, because even if the Ogre is stripped of its weapons, it can simply roll over the command centre and crush it.

Depending on the target's attack and defence strength, a tank has a percentage chance of hitting a weapon of its choice. The powerful Howitzer tank has 100% chance of hitting the poorly-defended anti-personnel weapon, while the Ground Effect Vehicle has only a 17% chance of destroying the main battery. This percentage chance is increased by combining the attacking force of several tanks. Any number of tanks can aim at the same target and increase the chance of hitting it, but the effect will be the same as if a single tank has made a lucky roll, and the firepower of the extra tanks, who only get one shot per turn, might well have been wasted. All tanks have a 33% chance of hitting the treads, but they can't combine firepower on the target.

This clearly-defined percentage chance-to-hit system is well suited to the game's stylised nature, although it seemed to me that the Ogre managed to hit my tanks much more often than I managed to hit it! One major advantage which the Ogre has is the ability to disable the player's tanks on a 'roll', where the same result for the player just 'glances' the Ogre, and has no effect. So every time the Ogre hits, it does some effective damage.

 

The multiple choice of targets -- the different ways in which you can attempt to cripple the Ogre before it reaches its target -- makes for a satisfying variety of strategies. The instruction booklet is substantial and deals with the mechanical aspects of the game thoroughly, including tables which makes it clear how the computer calculates combat results. A second book in the package goes into the tactical theory of the game, under the pretence of being a manual for command post commanders, and it makes interesting reading after you've played a few times and got a grasp of what this involves in practice.

Personally, if I was in charge of this battlefield I would make sure that the helpless command post was properly fortified so that it couldn't be crushed by the Ogre in such a casual way, and I'd have another Ogre -- or two -- lined up to meet the enemy. But it's not fair to take the scenario too literally -- as a game it works very well indeed.

   


Presentation 70%

The packaging is substantial, but this is offset by the awkwardness of the mouse-style control system.

Graphics 51%
Highly unimaginative.

Rules 87%
The rulebook itself is methodical, and the 'notes and tactics' book makes useful and fascinating reading.

Authenticity 60%
The 'rules and tactics' book attempts to generate an atmosphere, and the rationale behind the futuristic war machines is explained -- but this is very much a game.

Playability 85%
Easy to pick up, and absorbing.

Overall 86%
Well worth investigating.
.

 
 

 

Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (4 Feb 2006)
There were no screenshots in the original review.

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