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Take control of history as you follow Hannibal's path to conquest, or take command of the Roman Empire and repel the Carthaginian army. Second in the Great Battles series, The Great Battles of Hannibal continues with the hex-based style of strategy. March your phalanxes, throw your javelins, and move your elephants to victory and the chance to change history; a seemingly distant relative of Risk on the computer. Much like a board game, you take turns moving your units around trying to formulate a strategy, and just like other turn-based titles, turns always seem to end just when you have your people almost ready. Such is the lot of a general.
Most of the movement of your units is done with the mouse. You select a unit, which give you a highlight of the spaces you can move it, then you click on the space you want, and there you go. Attacking is the same as moving, only you choose the space that an enemy occupies. Unit strength is measured in cohesion points, and when a unit's points are matched by their hits, they rout (run away). If too many of your units rout, you lose the battle. To maintain control of your units, each of your leaders in the battle has a certain radius throughout which they can "shout" orders. You can move your leader around to reach all your troops, but you tend to run out of turns faster the more you move him. I was disappointed that there was no order for an all-out suicidal charge.
It can take forever to move your troops into a position to make a well-balanced attack. Invariably you almost have your enemy-crushing formation ready when, all of a sudden, it's the other guy's turn! At least nothing can stop you from yelling a curse or two at your computer.
The artwork in Great Battles of Hannibal portrays the soldiers very well as they were in 200 B.C. Players can really see what a battlefield might have looked like back then. I enjoyed watching the animations of the troops marching to their destinations. The formations slightly loosened while they turned and changed direction which gave it a realistic look. After a few battles you find yourself yelling at your soldiers to hurry up, though, as the animated marching loses its luster after a while.
Unlike the marching animation, the combat animation is really rather cheesy, with units walking back and forth toward each other with weapons swinging, and the swinging swords don't look all that good. Imagine a warrior from this time just hacking at something as fast as he can -- there's no finesse! Horsemen continue jabbing their spears forward as infantry are below them -- hmmm, aren't the infantry lower than them? The men don't even face off one-on-one, just walk in between each other. Then some guys suddenly fall dead, and that's that.
The audio in Great Battles of Hannibal was pretty good. The soundtrack on the CD that plays during the game features some nice battle-type music (it's the same type of music you'd hear in the movie Gettysburg). Fighting sounds include the battle cries of warriors and swords clinking. Men tend to yell and get rowdy as you march them closer to the enemy. All in all, the audio is one of the better parts of the game, as it gives a nice feel to the battles.
A 108-page manual is included with charts of unit types, short summaries on the real historic battles, and tutorials. It explains the manner in which you must fight and strategize. The book and online help have most of the same content, so if you can't reach the book, go for the help menu. The strategies will be a bit of a change of pace from the blast-'em-all sci-fi titles filling the market right now, so take some time to read up on how people did battle two thousand years ago and your frustration level will be considerably less.
Required: Pentium 90, 16 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, SVGA graphics, and Windows 95
Reviewed on: Pentium 133, 32 MB RAM, 6X CD-ROM drive, Matrox Mystique, Ensoniq Soundscape
Great Battles of Hannibal can be one of the most entertaining games with a group of people to represent each of one side's leaders. All of you can share plans and work in a more efficient manner than a single player can, but as a single-player game played by yourself, Hannibal fails to shine.
The Great Battles series shares a lot in common with the classic board games such as Risk and Axis & Allies. If you like those, a good chance exists that you will enjoy games of this series as well. I liked the historic/educational undertones to this game, and you can actually learn quite a bit about the period and how war was fought -- more than you would with the older board games.
Overall, Great Battles of Hannibal wasn't really great, but it wasn't really bad either. It sort of hangs around in the middle of the pack and scores a 78.