Back in 1993, I earned my medals commanding USA flotillas in MicroProse’s WW2 historic surface naval simulator Task Force 1942 (TF1942). I still remember playing the DOS game (which I had picked together with Maxis’ SimAnt as two of my first PC games) on my first PC, an Intel 80486DX-33, which was subsequently upgraded to a DX2-66. I would spend hours perfecting the Allied Forces’ thrust to recapture Guadacanal, or change history by commandeering the Japanese to overrun the Allied bases. Over the years, Moore’s Law took over, Microsoft ditched DOS for Windows, floppy disk drives fell out of fashion, and I could no longer feed my cravings for intense naval battles.
Ever since I took delivery of my MacBook Pro, I’ve been on a path of gaming rediscovery – it’s as if I was playing catch-up after being away from the scene for too long. I found YootTower, a substitute of SimTower. I also spent some time at Abandonware sites going through a bunch of old classics – Stronghold, Master of Magic, Cannon Fodder, Colonization, SimAnt and of course Task Force 1942 – which brought back a lot of good memories. In the end, the monstrosity that is 640×480 full-screened on a 1440×900 display snapped me right out of the good old days. I went down the rabbit hole hunting for the modern-day equivalent of MicroProse Game Labs’ Task Force 1942, and happily came back up with a Mac version of Battlestations:Midway.
Ported by Robosoft and published by Feral Interactive, Battlestations:Midway is an action/real-time strategy WW2 naval simulator that puts the player in charge of realistically recreated air, sea and undersea units in the Pacific War Theatre. In its single-player mode, the game follows the story of naval recruit Henry Walker, from his first assignment at Pearl Harbor and culminating in the Battle of Midway. In its multi-player mode, up to 8 players can control air/sea/undersea units as they recreate the WW2 rivalry between the Land of the Free and that of the Rising Sun – sinking ships, gunning down planes and blowing subs out of the water in the process.
Like most reviewers, I too found the Campaign missions a walk in the park, got bored after the first 2 missions and immediately switched to its Challenge missions. I was soon neck-deep in the first ship challenge mission, “Strike on the Monster” – commanding Battleship (BB) Fuso and aided by BB Yamashiro in its dash to a rendezvous point, while being pursued by a horde of pursuing American torpedo-crazy Destroyers (DD), pesky Heavy Cruisers (CA) and heavy-hitting BBs. My experience from Task Force 1942 soon proved irrelevant, as Fuso and Yamashiro were sent to the bottom of the sea in a flurry of torps (oh boy the torp spread AI is a lot smarter here) and artillery shells from BBs during my first attempt. It was only on my 6th attempt that I was able to complete the mission by sinking all incoming ships (though I still failed to protect BB Yamashiroas a secondary objective). Man, these sea fingers have gotten rusty and overgrown with barnacles over the past 16 years!
I poked around the air (no joystick, ugh, had to wing it with my Mighty Mouse) and submarine challenges and thought the variation added much depth to the game, I still found myself gravitating back to the ship battles. I missed having a historic tactical long campaign mode with surface troops, or the ability to set up opposing fleets against each other and command one of them a-la TF1942; but I guess you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. The complex ship models, effects, high-resolution graphics (native 1440×900!) and increased difficulty (especially in the challenge missions) more than made up for whatever aspects that it was weaker (than TF1942) in.
If you’re a historic war simulator buff like me, don’t forget to check this out!