Installation and Setup
As I stated earlier, Operational Art of War III is a downloaded game that you can purchase only from Matrix Games. Matrix Games, along with companies like HPS and Battlefront, have carved a nice little niche for itself among the wargaming community by producing creative and intelligent wargames for the consumer. Matrix is probably the most diverse of the three companies, having been involved in the release of add-ons for the IL-2 series and assistance with games like WW2 Online (now known as Battleground Europe). Still, their bread and butter are wargames and they have done well with them.
Of course downloading any game this size can be a hassle for many individuals. Matrix does have the option for a CD purchase of the game if you have a relatively slow connection and don’t want to wait 3.2 days to get the game on your dial-up connection. For those of us that have a fast connect, it usually isn’t a problem. Generally you can go through their service, purchase the game and then get the download done in a relatively quick time. The service is quick and secure and I have actually used it for purchase for several games.
Once downloaded the game installed quickly and without a problem. You will be e-mailed with a CD code that will unlock the install and will allow you to put the game on your computer. My only complaint is that the code is something like 20 digits long, and those of us that seem to have numerical dyslexia can have a hard time getting the numbers in right. My other complaint is that every time you update and patch the game you have to put the code in again. This means you had better keep the code somewhere, or else you will be scrambling to Matrix game’s web site to retrieve your lost, forgotten codes. It is a minor gripe but one to bring grumbling when installing a patch.
Setting up the game is relatively simple. Remember that this is a circa 1997 game and as such it was developed in the days of the Pentium II and the Matrox Millenia video card. This means that video settings are essentially non-existent. The game is a 2d game and anything in a computer made after 2000 will run the game. It is a perfect laptop game in that it has low system requirements. The manual states the system requirements are a minimum of 32 megs of video memory and 800 mhz computer, but I managed to get it to run ok (with smaller scenarios) on a PIII 700 with 16 megs of ram. More horsepower is always better, especially with larger scenarios, but this is a game that can be run on a laptop in the airport easily.
Sound options are equally simple, essentially on or off for background sounds and ‘battle’ sounds. There is very little that you can change in the game overall but this is a relatively simply setup game that has no need for any complicated graphical or sound changes. Let’s just say that if you are a graphic and sound fanatic then this probably isn’t the game for you.
The interface is fairly straight forward as well. You have a row of five buttons at the bottom of the main screen that allow you to start a game, resume a game, play an e-mail game, change the rule setup from regular to complicated, and to edit a current scenario.
Documentation for the game is, of course, electronic and is fairly well made although gone is the massive manual that originally came with Operational Art of War. The manual (in PDF format) is approximately 75 pages long and does a good job of showing how to get into the game, what each button shows in the game, and how to edit and create scenarios. In addition, there are several different PDFs and Word based articles showing how you create new missions as well as the units and scenarios currently in the game. All together this creates one of the best documented games currently produced. This is nothing new for Matrix; every one of the games that I have gotten from them has been well documented. Paper would be nice but there certainly is some good reading for those that want to get into the game.
Graphics and Sound
This should be short.
Graphically, like I said, this game looks like a cleaned up version of the original game. There is an option to place the original graphics in the game, something some folks may want to do, but the current graphics are crisp and certainly remind you of the original game. There is no gee whiz bang up graphics with the game, so if you expect anything special you won’t get it. The game can be played in a window or full screen, although full screen isn’t possible if you have a wide screen monitor.
Sound is pretty rudimentary with a basic bang and boom type of sounds along with music that is essentially the same as the original music that shipped with the game. While entertaining the songs get repetitive after a while and will eventually get shut off.
The graphics and sound aren’t cutting edge, but who expected them to be. This is a hex based wargame, not a first person shooter and as such there isn’t much need for anything other than utilitarian graphics or sound. This is what OPART III brings.