Afghanistan ‘11 came out early last year, and after being pretty well received across the board by fans of wargames, the game is now back with a few new additions.
Genre: Strategy, Turn-based
Developer: Every Single Soldier,
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.
Release date: 6 Sep, 2018
Afghanistan ‘11 is actually the sequel to Vietnam ‘65, which, despite taking place in extremely different settings, both share the same core gameplay identity that really made themselves stand out on the map amongst many other turn-based strategy games. Taking place in the 2000s, and portraying the United States of America military operations in Afghanistan, the game sought to bring a new take on the military turn-based genre, by adding focus to the local populace and to a gameplay style that seeks to recreate the constant threat of dealing with insurgents and guerilla warfare.
While most games of this genre will put you fighting with the enemy head on, Afghanistan ‘11 was never about that, as the whole thing feels as if you’re playing a game of cat and mouse, as you try to pinpoint the enemy locations and attempt to destroy them in one swift swoop. Even so, at its core, this is not really a game about destroying all enemy forces, as you are also trying to gain the favour of the local population, via the game’s Hearts and Minds system, which determines how the locals view your presence, and this can ultimately determine whether you emerge victorious or not. Likewise, the game’s main form of currency takes the form of political points, which represents the support towards the military operation that you’re conducting.
Now, about a year and a half after the original game’s release, the game receives a new major content update in the form of the paid DLC Royal Marines. This DLC grants you access to the Royal Marines from the United Kingdom, which boast their own specific unit types that play differently from their American counterparts, not only in Skirmish mode, but also in 10 new missions that encompass real military operations that have also took place throughout the 2000s.
Each mission is quite long, they’re not your typical missions from strategy games where you can easily beat in about an hour or so, you’ll need quite at least a couple of hours even for the very first missions. The game is extremely time consuming, challenging, and unforgiving, but it doesn’t punish you unfairly, as most of the times, if you fail, it’s because you didn’t manage to adapt to what’s going on around you.
Besides the new array of scenarios that Royal Marines brings along with it, the DLC also introduces new gameplay mechanics such as: civilian vehicles, which can actually be car bombs with the intention of attacking villages; the ability to set up roadblocks in order to thwart any potential car bombings; and Afghan Police units. On top of that, the DLC also changes how a few things worked on the original game, most notably the now limited FOB (Field Operating Base) limited capacity, and how frequently intelligence can be gathered from villages, both of which still retain their role as fulcral gameplay elements.
With that said, while the original game featured four pretty lengthy tutorial missions that teached you almost everything you needed to know before playing the actual game, Royal Marines surprisingly does not do that. I find this to be particularly odd given the new mechanics that this DLC brings with it, even though there are not even remotely close in number as to the ones that you’d need to learn about when starting a new game. Still, a short introduction to the new features and units would be nice, as it would save a bit of time of experimentation during actual gameplay.
While the DLC brings along new missions, I feel as if these only make it seem that this is a game that is better off played on the Skirmish mode, mostly due to the fact that the maps are randomly generated. First, this expands the amount of replayability that you can get from the game even more because terrain layout (mountains, roads, etc) plays a huge role in Afghanistan ‘11, and second, the missions on this DLC do not actually feel that great to play. The missions introduced by the Royal Marines DLC seem to be a lot more focused on clearing out the enemy forces from the map, particularly clearing specific areas in the map, as opposed to focusing on the game’s most interesting mechanic that is Hearts and Minds.
The new scenarios that come with the Royal Marines DLC are not bad, but they feel as if the developers are trying to turn this into just another strategy war game, while the original base game’s campaign seems to put more emphasis on what makes this series unique. Nonetheless, the new mechanics, the new British units, the new scenarios, and the tweaks made to already existing mechanics should turn this DLC to an attractive proposition for hardcore fans of the original game. However, if you’re hoping for something completely new, something groundbreaking or completely game changing, you might end up disappointed.