Massive Assault Network 2 PC Review
Described as – “turn-based. However, it uses cutting edge 3D technology, which makes it look like RTS” – on their website, Massive Assault Network 2 (MAN2) is a strategy game where all the battles take place online against other human players. Another phrase used is ‘think-based strategy’ as it seems to have been designed like an elaborate chess game, with the thought processes of surprising your enemy and revealing your plans at the last possible moment taking precedence over sheer force of weapons, though having a huge army helps too of course.
Join the League
There are only two different armies to choose from in each battle, the Phantom League and the Free Nations Union, with each army having different units to fight with. From land-based tanks to stealth bombers and armoured boats, there are a lot of different units to buy during your Recruitment phases. The animations of each unit are all quite well done and very detailed, all the way down to fans whirring round on the top of the transport ships, and it’s also nice to see that when you put a unit inside a transport ship the door opens up, the unit is reduced in size to drive in and then the door closes. I found this a really nice touch compared with other games where they just stand on top of the transport and vanish inside. There’s also a box to the bottom right of the screen which shows information about the unit you have the mouse hovered over, which has a nice image of the unit and stats like hit points and how much damage it can do.
The rest of the graphics are not as fancy as many new RTS games out now like Company of Heroes and have more of a Civilization feel to them, with the use of a large city and then smaller troops to defend and fight with. Some of the maps are not very detailed, seeming to be merely an area of land to fight over, although a few are very nicely done including one that is set as if on top of a giant metallic spaceship, with strategically placed platforms that usually result in a stalemate as the only entrance is extremely narrow and can be defended easily by a small force. The explosions are pretty spectacular and vary depending on the particular weapon used to destroy a unit, resulting in shockwaves of purples and yellows as you can see from the screenshots; I couldn’t resist hitting the button when I saw a nice kaboom!
This is helped by the great addition of the “Fancy Camera”, probably my favourite bit of the game; when there’s a particularly impressive kill about to happen, the screen swivels round and zooms in on the action so I can get a lovely picture for you to see on this page.
Phases set to Stun
Each turn is made up of four different ‘phases’ called Guerrilla, Movement and Combat, Recruitment, and Disclosure. In each phase you are allowed to perform different actions to advance the game, hopefully in your favour.
I said earlier that it’s supposed to feel like an RTS, something it achieves by allowing you to fire and move your troops in quick succession whilst still taking turns, resulting in faster gameplay with more of a flow to it. This is slightly spoiled by the inclusion of the Rewind and Undo buttons which allow you to take a step back and cancel the last move you performed, as well as the last move performed by a certain unit. It’s a nice touch that comes from the turn-based aspect of it, but hinders its job at trying to be RTS-like.
Each battle takes place on a planet with different areas, or countries, that have to be controlled by you before your enemy for you to win the match. To successfully capture a country you have to build an army and invade by just strutting over the border. Watch out though, as a neutral country may not have any troops in it when you cross the border but as soon as you do, your opponent, on his next turn during the ‘Guerrilla Phase’, is allowed to spend the Guerrilla points that the city has on summoning units to help defend their country from your ruthless invasion. Overcome these and walk over to the capital and the country is yours! You will start to earn revenue each turn the country stays in your control; larger cities have more revenue income per turn, which can be used to build troops or defences. Be wary though, each country only has limited resources and will only be able to provide you with revenue for a set number of turns after you take control of the country. This length of time is set by you (if you challenge someone), or your opponent (if you are challenged) before the start of the match.
The ‘Movement and Combat Phase’ and ‘Recruitment Phase’ are both pretty self-explanatory. The game’s other interesting feature is what the ‘Disclosure Phase’ is for. This is the use of so-called Secret Allies; at the start of a match you are assigned a number of countries that are allied to you and your cause. These are placed randomly so you never know where you’re going to have to battle from, increasing the strategic element to the game by making you think on your feet. At the start of the match both players reveal one ally and can reveal others on any turn during the ‘Disclosure Phase’. Revealing a secret ally allows you to summon some units by spending the secret army credits, which can be used to great effect to aid your side of the battle. If disclosed at just the right moment you can surprise your enemy and wipe out his invading forces before he can say, “Hehe, doesn’t Guerrilla sound like Gorilla?”
Massive Assault Network
Now we come to the important bit, the online functionality. To put it short, you need an internet connection to play this game at all, but then you must have one or else you wouldn’t be able to read this review. The game is only available on the internet, via the M.A.N.2 website where you buy lifetime membership. The only offline parts of the game are the training missions, which are really very helpful in getting you used to the mechanics of the game and gives you the opportunity to see some controlled explosions before you battle the veterans online.
There are a few different ways you can play over the internet; you can have some training battles against some AI sprites over on their server to help you practice before you challenge the real people to get you in the mood, or if there’s no-one of your level around you don’t have to get bored. As well as that, you can play against other, real people in real-time, taking turns at building a bigger army and blowing stuff up. Another way to play is kind of like chess-by-email, where you play against another player even when they’re offline by taking turns and then sending your moves to your opponent so they can pick them up the next time they log in. This is a great mode for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time to spend playing games, but still enjoys them just the same.
By winning games online you earn points which are put towards your rank, starting out at conscript and leading up to the best players at the rank of Marshall. These ranks are moving targets, and aren’t fixed at certain levels, as no more than 1% of players at one time are allowed to become Marshalls. So, bare with me here, you have to get more points than the lowest scorer in the rank above you to be promoted to the next rank up. If that rank has reached its quota, then you will be promoted and someone will be demoted, until someone else comes along with more points than you. It might seem a bit strange, but it makes people keep coming back to the game to ensure that they keep their rank, or gain a higher rank.
The voice acting can sound staggered at times, but there were some memorable lines uttered by the instructor during the training missions, including; “The enemy annihilator was foolishly left within range of your bombers,” but there isn’t a lot of it about as there is little AI contact whilst playing the game. Some of the sinister music comes in at just the right moments; however, sometimes the powerful, battle-type music can seem out of place when trying to simply select units and it can occasionally go quite quiet in the middle of a battle too. When the game gets it just right it can be fairly moving, but it’s nothing special.
Overall, Massive Assault Network 2 is quite an enjoyable game but I found that it can be a bit slow at times, such as when waiting for people to come back online to send them the next turn of a battle, and especially for people today who enjoy fast-moving RTS games like Command and Conquer. It didn’t grab me as Civilization 4 did at first, however it seemed to grow on me once I got online, causing me to play for hours on end. A good game once it takes you, but definitely one for the strategist.
Minimum requirements: 1.6GHz Processor/512MB RAM/GeForce 5600 128MB or better/ DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card/Internet Connection/Windows 2000 or XP
Reviewer’s Machine: AMD Athlon 64 3200+/512MB RAM/GeForce 6600 GT/ Broadband connection/ Windows XP Home.
The turn-based adventure that thinks it’s RTS.
7.5 out of 10