Wargame: Red Dragon, despite its bare-bones naval combat, is the greatest Wargame to date. It is difficult to write a review in a traditional manner with this game as it has depth akin to a black hole, so I'm just going to list down in-depth pro-cons of this fantastic, fun game.
1. - This game is far more accessible than most folks give it credit to.
The controls are not convoluted, nor do things have unnecessary functionalities or five thousand menus to grind through to complete simple tasks. This game is complex in the best possible way for a game of its caliber; the depth of its combat.
This strength makes the game an extremely enjoyable experience as none of it is bogged down by simulation-esque frivolities. Mechanically it is somewhat similar to games like StarCraft (this isn't Harpoon
or Jane's Fleet Command
), although the scale is increased one-hundred fold. The game is complicated only in that it requires not only knowledge of units and their roles, but also quick-thinking and problem solving. The learning curve is steep but I'll be damned if I didn't say I had a blast getting to the point where I could consistently win matches.
2. - This is any political/military nut's dream.
There is a reason why much of its consistent playerbase is made up of people from /pol/ (don't let that intimidate you, the community is leagues better than most skill-based RTSs). You can simulate any "What If" scenario using countries like the People's Republic of China and North Korea all the way down to nations such as Norway and Sweden. And the game's compelling campaign missions simulate this also; what if the U.K. had not peacefully given back Hong Kong, and had to defend against waves of PLA tanks? You can do everything from sending Navy SEALs behind enemy lines to destroy Soviet command structures to launching massive armored offensives using the latest modern equipment. And it is all (mostly) pinpoint accurate.
3. - The game is well-built, diverse and reliable.
They aren't kidding when they say "1,450 units that have been meticulously reproduced from their source!"
There are maps ranging from suburban sprawls to massive tracts of forest prime for special forces operations, using anything from Polish commandos to Czechoslovakian airborne. If you find the game enjoyable it is difficult to get away from, as there is so much content to explore and master. Every unit has an easy reference-sheet that you can view at any time, and all of them (save for PACT/NATO copies of Soviet/American equipment) have unique stats. Some countries have more options than others, but that is only to maintain realistic integrity. You cannot expect Norway to have a better military than the United States, but that doesn't mean they wont have superior niche units such as special forces. Countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia recently were balanced in a patch, making them up to snuff with everyone, so you can likely expect more free DLC patches to the other nations as well. Not only that, but this game is incredibly resistant to technical issues. I have not crashed once in all my hours of playing (this always varies with different machines, though, but I've but this game through hell and its always been fine). Your experience will rarely be interrupted.
4. - Deckbuilding is EXTREMELY enjoyable.
I've spent half of the time in this game making decks. It may just be personal preference, but because of the thousand+ units, you can find yourself sinking a lot of time into this; not out of necessity, but simply to create fun and personalized armies.
Those are my major PROs. Now I believe I should address the hindrances to the gameplay here.
1. - Naval combat is easily the weakest part of the game.
It is painful saying that, honestly, but that is the truth. It is horribly imbalanced, inaccurate and barebones compared to every other part of the game, and this is especially true in NATO's case, but I'll get to that later.
Combat revolves around three principles which usually do not interact with eachother whatsoever; you either mass missile-heavy ships and launch them all at the same time at another blob of ships hoping to get through its CIWS guns, mass low-cost ships and rush them at lower numbers of expensive ships to stun them with cannonfire, or mass aircraft and do the same thing mentioned with the first option. It makes for a very uninspired and boring experience, and although it somewhat
resembles small-unit naval combat well, beyond that it is entirely inaccurate. There are no submarines, nor aircraft carriers, no exciting fringe ships such as Soviet battleships. You get a very thin selection of classes which makes large engagements very stale.
The worst part of this feature is that it is terribly imbalanced in favor of PACT. Most of NATO's ships are comprised of Japanese ships, with occasional exceptions. The flagship of NATO is some ship I've never heard of called a "Kongo." No Ticonderoga or Arleigh Burke's here, folks. Just awful surface ships with inaccurately-modeled weapons (harpoons can't hit anything!). This is in vast contrast to Soviet ships which outclass them in nearly every category; superior accuracy, firepower, durability, range, etc. Their flagships are the popular Udaloy/Sovremenny class destroyers, which are infinitely more famous than the Kongo.
Riverboats can be fun (the napalm Minotaur can torch vast swatches of riverland in fire, the SHMEL can launch hundreds of missiles) but are ultimately uninspired as they, too, revolve around massing and throwing at the enemy.
2. - Frustration comes easy at times.
Games drag on, especially if you're losing. Comebacks happen often but many times the case comes down to you being dominated for half an hour, and it makes this game a huge time sinkhole. You learn slowly and losses can be draining once you feel you've gotten better at the game than before; it takes constitution to get to a point where the shoe is on the other foot. It is difficult to be carried in this game as well, since it usually comes down to whatever team is best coordinated wins. This is not always the case, as skill is definitely involved and one person on a team can slaughter half the enemy's army through shrewd positioning, but that's an "If."
~PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION: Yes.
If you have an interest in modern military combat, or even if you just like a fun and deep RTS, this is the game for you. I adore it for all of the reasons above, and I think the pros vastly outweigh the cons with this gem of a title. If you can spare the cash and you like the concept, go for it. You won't be disappointed.