Whether fighting in fantasy worlds or gritty reality, 3DS-owning strategists have had a steady stream of wargames to keep them busy since the system's launch. CIRCLE Entertainment has been responsible for a particularly prolific eShop invasion, with World Conqueror 3D, European Conqueror 3D and Glory of Generals all joining the front lines within the last few years. Glory of Generals: The Pacific brings more of the same with a new setting, but, as with the first Glory of Generals, a few fun ideas aren't enough to save the ship - dedicated war-gamers might have a decent time island-hopping through the lengthy campaign, but we'd advise most civilians to steer well clear.
In gameplay terms, Glory of Generals: The Pacific plays out exactly like is predecessor: it's a turn-based strategy game on the World War II stage with the feel of a digital board game, and has a unique focus on the historical generals who helped shape the conflict. Our review of the first game has an in-depth overview of the systems at play here, which haven't changed at all in the Pacific iteration - you'll still be leading troops across a grid-based map, pitting them against enemies in random-roll skirmishes, and capturing cities and bases to upgrade and expand your army on the fly.
The two main modes return from the first title, with Campaign and Legion offering two different ways to play. In Campaign you'll work your way through four distinct theatres of war - The Pacific, the Far Eastern Front, the Korean War, and the Middle East - fighting real-world battles in chronological order, with each mission unlocking as you complete the previous one. You can play as either Axis or Allies armies here, with unique missions for each - a nice touch that neatly doubles the amount of action on offer. In Legion you'll be treated to more fantastical fights of fancy, as you take on alt-history battles like the 'Invasion of Australia' and 'March on Canada'. Every Legion mission within a specific theatre is open from the start, though you'll still have to unlock the latter three locales by completing missions in the first.
In both Campaign and Legion modes victory conditions can change based on the mission at hand. Sometimes you'll simply need to wipe out all comers, while other expeditions require more finesse: occupying a certain city, or protecting territory for a certain number of turns, for instance. Along with the clear conditions, you'll also have a much trickier 'Great Victory' target to shoot for in each mission, often involving completing the mission in fewer turns.
On the ground you're charged with several different tasks en route to victory. You'll command your units directly, tapping on them to open a grid and then tapping again to move and order attacks, with damage doled out via random rolls. You'll also be in charge of securing different structures, from cities and factories to forts and airports, all of which have different functions in battle, including recruiting new units, ordering airstrikes, spying on the enemy, and raising money or 'Industry Points'.
Luckily, you won't have to go it alone - the titular generals play a big role, with each of the hundred-plus real-world heroes offering different buffs and bonuses to your troops. You can summon a general into battle whenever you like by tapping on a unit and paying the appropriate number of medals - earned by completing missions - at which point the commander will beam down in their place and join the fight. Generals are significantly more powerful than normal troops, and can make a big difference in tough situations - and since Glory of Generals doesn't abide by a literal interpretation of history, you're free to call on any commander no matter whose army you're in charge of. Open-minded history buffs should enjoy leading MacArthur in a charge against the Allies, for instance, or having Yamamoto help push back the Japanese forces at Midway.
Giving some screen time to real-life generals is a great idea, but sadly the implementation is decidedly underwhelming. The commanders have very little in the way of personality, and very little to distinguish them from each other aside from relative strength and stats. Their dialogue is all drawn from the same shallow pool, and there's no in-game info on their real-world exploits - if you want to tell Rommel from Rokossovsky, you'll have to head for Wikipedia on your own time.
Along with a lack of personality, the great generals featured here are united by their tenuous control over the English language, courtesy of a rather poor translation. Texas-born General Nimitz, for instance, seems to have lost some definite articles in the chaos of war, declaring eloquently in our first battle: "I'll block Japanese fleet at southern sea. You must eliminate their land troop as soon as possible to secure safety of Port Moresby".
Translation troubles plagued the original Glory of General as well, and unfortunately all of the first game's problems have enthusiastically extended their tour of duty into The Pacific. Many of these revolve around a single central issue: ostensible strategy stymied by opaque systems. There's a weakness chain, for instance, but it's unintuitive - footsoldiers trump tanks and cars are impervious to rocket-fire - and left completely unexplained, as is the effect terrain types have on troop movement. There's also no way to tell what type of unit a troop represents after initial recruitment - with each army sporting different artwork, working out what kind of warriors you're working with can be a non-trivial task - and the wordless stat icons displayed on each unit's info page aren't intuitive enough to be meaningful without explanation.
Then there's the control scheme, which returns unchanged in all its unergonomic glory. Stylus controls are used to tap on troops and issue orders, as you'd expect, and while that works well, moving around the map is mapped to two different inputs: the Circle Pad moves the overview map on the top screen, while the D-Pad pans the actual playing field on the bottom. As in the first game, this ends up being a rather uncomfortable set-up during long campaigns - we found ourselves moving the touchscreen view constantly, and only rarely needing to adjust the top screen, and supporting the 3DS with only one hand is considerably less comfortable when defaulting to the D-Pad instead of the Circle Pad. Making matters worse, the 'cycle to next troop' button - invaluable for figuring out who still needs orders on your turn - is mapped to the 'R' button instead of 'L', making the one-handed hold even less tenable. We found the most comfortable way to play was to rest the 3DS flat on a table - not the best sign for a portable game.
Presentation-wise, The Pacific is nearly identical to the original Glory of Generals. Lots of assets are re-used, and though many of the new maps put more of a focus on water and island territories than the first game - which does make a difference in the feel of the battles - aside from the scenery swap, there's very little new to see here. That's not to say it looks bad, however; the boardgame aesthetic is definitely appealing, with hexagonally tiled territory and gamepiece-style sprites, and the relatively realistic artwork portrays the different troop, terrain, and building types well. There's a definite lack of animation - units still only shift left or right to fire, and movement consists solely of still sprites gliding along the ground - but the stiffness fits in with the tabletop conceit and doesn't feel conspicuous or out of place. The soundtrack is still excellent as well, though it's largely recycled from the first game, so expect audio flashbacks if you've been to battle before.
Like its predecessor, Glory of Generals: The Pacific has some good things going for it, including fun alt-history battles, plenty of unique units, an enormous stable of real-life military commanders, and a metric ton of content - there are over a hundred missions, with longer campaigns easily filling an hour. As in the first game, however, these are held back by vague systems, poor translation and impressively awkward controls. Pacific also relies solely on a change of scenery to distinguish itself from the original, so it feels more like a map-pack than anything else - and the first game wasn't exactly brimming with personality. If you played and enjoyed Glory of Generals and are looking for more, this is exactly that - for everyone else, we'd recommend conscientious objection, or defection to Advance Wars' colourful camp.