Game Reviews

1942 Pacific Front

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| 1942 Pacific Front
1942 Pacific Front
| 1942 Pacific Front

Turn-based strategy games have been re-invigorated by touchscreen gaming. They now come in many mobile flavours.

But one combination that remains under-explored is turn-based free to play. That financial model has applied largely to real-time and multiplayer strategy so far.

HandyGames are making inroads on this virgin territory. First with 1941 Frozen Front. Now with a followup set in the Pacific theatre, 1942 Pacific Front.

The first thing the tutorial will teach about this game is how fond it is of exclamation marks! Even when they're not necessary! In fact, almost every sentence of text in the game ends with one!

After a while, it gets very tireseome! As though you've got a cheerful and well-meaning teacher trying desperately to make a dull subject seem exciting!

Which is appropriate. Because what the interactive parts of the tutorial teach you is that 1942 Pacific Front is trying very hard to make an exciting subject seem dull.

Waste of effort

All the pieces for a decent strategy game seem to be in place. You've got ground, air, and naval units. There's a bit of combined arms tactics, since only anti-aircraft guns and other planes can shoot into the air. There are engineers and artillery for explosive interest.

However, alarm bells go off when you see the supply mechanism. You can repair units damaged in combat either with supply trucks or, you guessed it, by spending premium currency.

It's called Gold, and you can earn a bit by destroying enemy units, or a whole lot by spending real-world money.

This is obviously both unrealistic and an invitation to abuse. On the latter front, Pacific Front doesn't disappoint. As you grind your way through each of the four campaigns, the difficulty ramps up to the point where it's almost impossible to progress without spending.

It wouldn't be so bad if there was a sense you could get past this with good play, solid strategy. The AI on display is almost non-existent, though.

Enemy units just sit in defensive emplacements and mow down your troops, or move in range and do the same. The difficulty increases just come from the game throwing more and more troops at you.

Waste of time

Nor is it enough that the scenario design encourages you to spend in order to progress. There's a large, distracting banner advert emblazoned across the top of the screen during play. You can watch more adverts to gain gold if you want.

And if you don't want well, you have to watch them anyway as the action is frequently interrupted by marketing videos you can't bypass. Except by paying out, of course.

If it was a good game, then you might feel happy dipping your hand into your pocket to support the developers. Yet adding insult to injury, most of the scenarios aren't even that interesting.

Putting you in a fog-of-war and then making you walk, fly or sail the map looking for the enemy is a popular motif. There might be an element of realism to this, but it's not remotely fun.

A similar complaint bedevils the pass and play mode, which might otherwise have been a decent way to pass the time with a friend. The maps are large, the sides start in opposite corners.

So it'll be many turns before you even come to blows. If you can actually find each other in the confusing chains of identikit islands.

Waste of space

There's not even been an attempt at making the game look the part. Units have no animations whatsoever. They don't even turn toward the target when they fire, leading the bizarre spectacle of tank attacks destroying units in the opposite side to where their turrets are pointing. Sound design is similarly basic.

A lot of these complaints also got levelled at Frozen Front. So it looks like HandyGames has learned nothing from this criticism, which just makes this followup even more disappointing.

Free to play might be a novelty in turn-based strategy gaming, but on this evidence I sincerely hope it doesn't catch on.

1942 Pacific Front

Servicable, if typical, strategy mechanics are ruined by an aggressive free to play model and terrible presentation, although pass and play is worth a brief try
Matt Thrower
Matt Thrower
Matt is a freelance arranger of words concerning boardgames and video games. He's appeared on IGN, PC Gamer, Gamezebo, and others.