DOS - 1996
Description of Gender Wars
A fun isometric squad-level strategy game à la X-COM but with a unique premise, Gender Wars was unfortunately largely neglected when it was first released.
Games Domain's Chris McMullen says it all in his thorough review of this forgotten underdog: "Gender Wars is not a game that takes itself too seriously. Bearing certain similarities to Bullfrog's Syndicate, it takes place some time in the future. A time where certain problems have arisen, so that the inhabitants of Earth have divided up into two factions, male and female... The planet is slowly decimated by a number of civil wars, and the population is forced to move into vast underground cities. But, as if that wasn't bleak enough, what were relatively minor disputes soon become an all out gender war. This is where you, the player, come in. Taking control of either the male or female side, you must ensure total victory for your forces. This entails guiding a small squad of soldiers through a number of missions of increasing difficulty, preferably with all limbs and organs intact.
Sounds easy? It isn't. There are a total of 28 missions, 14 for each side, each of which has a number of objectives, both primary and secondary. The primary objectives must be completed in order to move to the next mission, and are usually relatively straightforward. The secondary objectives, on the other hand, are optional, giving you a higher mission score, but usually entail going well out of your way to complete them.
The actual mission objectives vary, but the missions can be split up into 3 basic types - offensive, defensive, and stealth missions. Offensive missions involve heading into enemy territory, armed to the teeth, to retrieve an item, or destroy an enemy target. Defensive missions involve protecting friendly cities from enemy attack, and often wiping out the invading enemy forces. To complicate things, some missions are set under cover of darkness, or give you just one soldier to complete the mission with. The first mission is relatively simple, but things get harder, very quickly. You have a number of soldiers at your disposal, ranging from battle-hardened veterans to total rookies, each with varying abilities. You can take a maximum of four soldiers into each mission, and should they manage to survive a successful mission, they gain experience and slowly rise through the ranks. The ultimate accolade for a soldier is to become a squad leader, who can then lead other soldiers into battle.
Unlike X-COM, and Syndicate, you can't just keep shrugging off losses and throwing new soldiers into battle. Each mission team needs at least one squad leader to order them around; lose all your squad leaders, and the game is over. And with only a handful of squad leaders to start off with, it's a case of assessing the risk of sending your best soldier into battle. So you can already see there's a tactical element to Gender Wars, as opposed to solid blasting. Within the mission, keeping your soldiers alive is your main priority. Each person has an energy shield, which will absorb a certain number of weapon hits. Lose that energy, however, and further hits will take energy off the life bar. Should the life bar be emptied, that soldier dies.
But despite what I've said so far, there are a number of criticisms. For a start, the vicious Beast of Buggyness rears its ugly head again. The soldiers appear initially to have a decent level of intelligence, and can be ordered to retreat, defend, or fire at will. And indeed, they will, if so ordered, wander off after their own targets. But sometimes, they seem to go completely nuts. Not battle crazy nuts, but 'intelligence of a rock' nuts. If they spot an enemy, they will happily charge into a clearly visible electric fence just to get at him or her. Despite shouts of 'No! You morons!' they still belt merrily into the path of the forcefield, viciously damaging themselves.
Then there's the lifts. Take your squad leader up a lift, and your soldiers will usually follow. I say usually, but they have a tendency to just stop at the bottom of the lift. It's not that they have got one foot in the way of the lift, as the manual mentions; they just stand there, not moving. And they sometimes even get stuck walking against a wall, walking like they're actually getting somewhere, but to little effect.
Despite what I've said above, Gender Wars is definitely worth playing. It's hugely entertaining, easily better than Syndicate, but the bugs, and lack of a map just stop it from being a classic game."
Fans of unique, tongue-in-cheek games such as Z will in particular enjoy this one. Thumbs up!
Review By HOTUD
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