Mosby’s Confederacy is inspired by the actions of John ‘The Gray Ghost’ Mosby, a Rebel cavalry leader who specialized in raiding Union lines and having a cool nickname. And it’s reviewed right now. Let’s start by doffing our caps to Tilted Mill. Instead of grinding out yet another game about Gettysburg, they’ve chosen to put players in control of a small band of hell-raising, Bourbon-swilling skirmishers. Brilliantly, every soldier has a name, combat stats and a home town which they refuse to stray far from.
During the turn-based management phase you control ten of those towns – Mosby’s historical stomping ground – and use points gained in battle to equip and train troops, increase support and improve facilities like stables and hospitals. It’s the real-time battley bit where everything comes undone faster than a saloon strumpet’s corset. Once you’ve picked one of the randomly generated missions from the map and selected your small force, you’re hurled into an RTS so insipid, so tactically threadbare, you wonder how the devs thought they’d get away with it.
Whether the objective is seizing munitions wagons or capturing officers, the path to glory is almost always the same: head towards the yellow crosses on the map. When you get there, line-up your men and have them fire hundreds of high-velocity lead marbles at their apparently deaf, absurdly dispersed foes. Part of the problem is the enemy’s survival instinct, or lack thereof. Lincoln’s boys are sensible enough to surrender or flee when close to death, but they invite extinction by standing around in groups of one, ignoring nearby gunfire and refusing to use cover. Not that there’s much cover to be had. The few structures are all boarded up and it’s hard to tell if fences, hills and woods give troops any edge.
Engagements would be more engaging if Tilted Mill hadn’t pitched the difficulty level somewhere between ‘Cadet’ and ‘Particularly slow-witted pebble’. On the default and only available challenge setting, we went the entire war only losing a single man and he only died because we were momentarily distracted by a Hobnob-dunking accident. Resistance does stiffen a tad towards the end of 1864, but by then it’s too late. The skirmish sequence finishes as it starts, with no fanfare or sense of moment. The campaign summary screen doesn’t even bother to tell you who won the wider war.
It’s all so maddening because the basic concept is so fresh and full of potential. If the battles were brought to life using a tactics engine of Close Combat or Soldiers: HoWW2 caliber, this could easily have been one of our strategy games of the year.
Dec 16, 2008
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