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Steel Beasts is a tank simulator developed by eSim Games and published
by Strategy First. Once only available online through a smaller publisher,
Strategy First has recognized the quality in the game and made it available
as a boxed retail version.
game reproduces the US M1A1 and the German Leopard 2A4 tanks in intrinsic
detail to create a highly accurate simulation with a war element. It comprises
of scenarios for the player to take the role of either a tank commander
or gunner in one of these vehicles to battle against various opponents
including enemy tanks, other armored vehicles, and infantry. A mission
can be as simple as taking the role of the tank gunner, to being the commander
of an entire platoon including APC’s, IFV’s, and more. Most importantly
about this simulation is not a typical drive and shoot ‘em up game but
one designed more for enthusiasts with detail and accuracy that could be
used in real life simulations. As such the game will most likely not appeal
to the mass market but to those with more specific interests in planning,
strategy and simulation.
While the graphics in the game leave something to be desired, there
is immense detail in the reproduction of the aspects of tank warfare including
terrain and environmental effects as well as features including different
ammo types and specific damage impacts on parts of the tank, e.g. communications
or the Laser Rangefinder. Some features include the tank being harder to
detect while it is amongst the bush rather than having the skyline behind
it, or the tank’s mobility being affected by the terrain that it is on.
Formations are another important factor, from column formations for maximum speed, to line formations for maximum firepower and
everythign in between.
There is also a level of AI so that the tanks can act intelligently
for actions such as avoiding minefields or automatically finding the best
tactical location within a short radius of their designated position.
In order to attack a moving enemy tank, its distance, height and lateral
speed needs to be calculated in order to set the trajectory and to calculate
how far to “lead” the target. For all this to take place modern aspects
of tank warfare such as lasing the target, thermal imaging, and gun stabilization
are implemented into the game. You can even call in an artillery strike!
The controls for the tank are just as complex – you’ll find yourself
using almost the entire keyboard and mouse in the plethora of commands available
including basic maneuver commands, changing views, as well as other advanced
options such as radio orders to other units under your command.
To make it easier for you to keep in control of your platoon(s) during
the actual mission there is also a planning phase for every operation.
This includes a mission overview, consisting of an overhead contour map
with information on your forces, terrain factors, and known enemy forces.
Another important feature is the Line of Sight map – a strategically vital
feature only available while planning your mission. In this view clicking
on any spot in the map will shade in the surrounding terrain to show which
areas have direct LOS, no LOS, or partial LOS to your tank. It also shows
areas where your tank will be in a more protected “hull down” position.
These features are vital in planning ambushes or determining safe positions
during the mission.
The planning phase also allows you to create specific instructions
to your platoon while on the mission. These range from behavioral instructions,
which give directions on what tactics to use if confronted by enemies,
to movement instructions, such as proceed to point A and wait for 5 minutes
before proceeding to point B.
Conditions for actions can also be set; such as an instruction to retreat
once a certain amount of damage has been sustained.
Steel Beasts allows the freedom to take direct command of the weapons
to engage the enemy forces, where even if your Laser Rangefinder is destroyed
you can guesstimate the position of the enemy and manually target/fire. Or if you feel
like it you can take the commander’s view and watch the battle unfold through
the conditions you set in the mission plan.
The sound effects and music, while not spectacular, do compliment the game well. These range from radio
transmissions to sound effects for movement and weapons fire.
Replayability is offered through the multiplayer options, adding a new
dimension into planning, coordination and gun fighting against a real foe.
Additionally missions can also be created/edited through the mission editor
where you can create an entire platoon of tanks and infantry under your
There are a couple of drawbacks to the game, including the mediocre
graphics, which are only available through software rendering. The game
also lacks weather/lighting conditions or any air support. There
is also no actual campaign available, instead a range of individual missions
each with different objectives and units under your command. The need to
command an entire battlefield in the heat of battle may also prove overwhelming
The game sounds extremely complex – and it is! The developer has provided
many tutorial maps within the game to help you master it, as well as an
extremely detailed 100+ page manual. The learning curve for the game is
fairly steep, and will take significant amounts of time to master but is
well worth it for those willing to sacrifice superficial gameplay for a
more sophisticated experience. There is a realistic and intense feeling
provided by laying in wait for the enemy hoping that your gunnery skills
will take them out before they even knew you were there.
There is also an interesting section in the manual detailing the history
of the tanks, as well as information on amour, ammo, technological advances
etc. There is information from the birth of the tanks, choices on design
decisions with speed, mobility, firepower and amour, right down to what
fuel consumption is required. Also included is information on various types
of tank ammo, anti tank weapons, amour types and more. It is quite
an interesting read and goes to show the level of research the developers
put into the game.
Final score: 80%
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