A few hundred years into the future, two nations are battling for control over several unexplored planets. Your task is to choose a side and strategically create and deploy units in order to defeat your opponent. It's a story that has become fairly common, but one to which we all keep coming back to for more. The draw of futuristic fighting and supreme domination is impossible to overcome for any strategy fan. Although the story does matter for creating the environment and atmosphere of the game, it is usually more important in single player campaigns than in online battles - since there is less of a focus on story online and more of a focus on the world that is present and the options it presents. The question of whether we will play any given game then usually turns away from the story to the actual gameplay itself. Put very simply, is it fun?
The sequel to the popular and highly acclaimed 2004 turn-based strategy Massive Assault Network allows players to choose between the Free Nations Union and the Phantom League and join in an online world to wage battles against live opponents. Yes, there are some AI opponents present to start off practicing your skills, but the real fun is found in crushing others around the world. With many improvements and several new features, Massive Assault Network 2 attempts to surpass the original game in many ways. The game features a beautiful 3D world with 21 different maps to choose from. In addition, battles can either be played offline by downloading the latest state of your current games and making your next moves which will be updated the next time you connect, or completely online in "real time" against another online player. This means that each game can now take anywhere from around 30 minutes to complete to the days or weeks it took in the original game depending on your preference, as well as your opponent's.
Developed and published by Wargaming.net, MAN 2 is an online-only turn-based strategy game that allows players to go head to head in an attempt to improve their military ranking from Conscript to Marshal. The main new feature is the ability to wage war completely online, waiting for another play to make their move and plotting your own without the delay of hours or days between moves in the previous version. On each players move, the combat plays out as follows: the Guerrilla phase, where any invaded country deploys the additional guerrilla troops that are allocated, the Combat phase, which involves movement and then firing upon enemy targets, the Recruitment phase, where resources from your countries are allocated and new troops can be purchased, and finally the Disclosure phase, where players can choose to unveil their Secret Allies.
To understand the last phase, players must first understand how games are setup when they start. First, depending on the map size, each player has a number of given locations that their opponent knows about, as well as several secret locations that they control that are not disclosed. To keep things from being obvious, there are also neutral countries on each map that no player controls, but that any player may invade during the gameplay. The Secret Allies are those locations that you initially have control over, but that your opponent will not know about until you disclose their location. Upon disclosure, players can place their troops in these countries as they normally would. This element makes the gameplay more interesting and tactical; before invading any given country, players must first check the bordering nations and risk that any of these may be a secret ally of the opposing nation.
For players of the predecessor, some of the new features in MAN 2 include many optimizations and interface improvements, as well as the ability to watch other games in progress. Other features include an excellent matching system that allows players to find other opponents to play against (listing their rank and difference between their level and your own), 42 different land, air and sea units, of which 16 are new, a detailed award system that changes based on the number of games won against other players, and the ability to upload your own avatar.
The graphics of MAN 2 are looking sharp; from the cool explosions and combat animations to the camera angles presented in replays of an opponents turn, everything looks highly polished. For beginners or returning players who may need a brush up on their skills, the tutorial system in the game is outstanding. It seems to have just the right learning curve so that each aspect of the gameplay is presented in enough detail to learn it well, yet it does not require all that much time to go through all of the lessons, thus avoiding the boredom usually associated with picking up a new game and trying it out. It also does not skimp on strategy elements, introducing players at the proper pace to pick up the basics as well as see how the more advanced features could affect the game later on.
While this was only a preview copy of the game, Massive Assault Network 2 appears to be taking the addictive gameplay of the original to new heights. Its addictive gameplay, excellent graphics and ability to play games at whatever pace players may choose are only a few of the features that stand out. Finding games is also an easy task, and the tutorial and AI opponents will get newcomers up to speed in no time. Fans of turn-based strategy games, as well as fans of strategy games in general should definitely check this one out when it's released later this year.