Video games based on war are perfect for storytelling. The gripping drama and tension taking center stage amidst two formidable opponents set the right atmosphere for an immersive experience. Call of Duty has made a name for itself on this front, raking in over 400 million units. So to have a game with accurate historical facts based on war is pretty much the cherry on top.
Arms Race 2 is a turn-based strategy game based on the Cold War era. It takes you on a historical journey through the five decades of geopolitical tension and ideological rivalry between the United States and the Soviets. Covert operatives, military might, advanced space technology and overt propaganda—all the ingredients for an enthralling war game.
If this tickles your fantasy, stick with us as we explore the nooks and crannies of the tense ideological standoff from a virtual perspective. Without much further ado, here’s Arms Race 2, the review.
Arms Race 2 picks up the pieces from its predecessor, Arms Race -The Cold War Era, with a familiar core gameplay experience. The previous title explored the struggle for supremacy between the USA and the USSR spanning the 1950s to the 1990s. The game has you picking which side to fight and steering your country into victory using all the tactics of war. It expands on the foundation set by its predecessor, but its core is ideally the same. Plus, it features enhancements in the UI and GUI, which generally improve its graphics.
Starting off, players get to pick a side between the US and the USSR. Thereafter, you must assemble your dream team of government officials. Handpick your faction leader and cabinet ministers, each with unique traits that can seriously shake up your strategic game. Take, for instance, Stalin on the USSR side; he brings a +5 power boost to Air, Ground, and NAVY firepower. He also features additional perks like reduced diplomatic construction costs, spy production costs, and industry construction costs.
Moreover, tour leaders’ terms of tenure span ten years, meaning if you’re unhappy with your leader's performance midway through the war, you can change them. However, if you fail to swap out a leader after their term is over, your government will face penalties.
Besides your faction leaders, the type of government you pick influences how the game plays out. You can pick between a conservative, liberal or mixed view. Again, each option comes with its own perks. The Conservative government attracts reductions in military technology, the Middle East gives you additional diplomats, and the Liberals reduce diplomat and spy costs.
With your choice of government in place, the next step is to select how to win the war. The game has three grand campaign missions: Space Race, 50 Good Scores and Coup Your Enemy. The first is, ideally, a Space War race where you develop space technologies. The second requires you to lure opponents to your team, which is a traditional way of winning the war. Finally, Coup Your Enemy is where your sneaky operatives get to shine. Here, you must start a coup in the opposing country. The game lets you tweak its difficulty only after completing the first mission. The first mission serves as the easy mode, while the second and third serve as medium and high difficulty, respectively.
The next step is picking your cabinet ministers. Like your faction leaders, they too have an influence on how the war plays out. You may want to go with ministers that complement your leader's bonus points to give you a stronghold in the area. But then again, it's best to not put all your eggs in one basket. You can spread out your tactics with different perks. Going for the element of surprise is ideally the best strategy in warfare. Plus, the turn-based structure allows you to witness the consequences of your leader's decisions over time, fostering a sense of attachment and investment.
Spies, Lies, and Red Ties
Now getting to the nick of things. The turn-based strategy in Arms Race 2 is its core strength. Each turn allows players to carefully plan their moves, from diplomatic decisions to military maneuvers. The game smartly incorporates historical events, forcing players to adapt and strategize in response to changing global conditions. Each turn is characterized by a methodical pace, allowing you to contemplate your decisions and anticipate the consequences of your actions.
The game starts in the 1950s, where you have a view of the world via color-based maps. Each color represents a country's affiliations. You have the red color representing the communists, the blue color representing the capitalists, and the gray color representing the undecided. These countries should be your main target because you need to rake in more support for your government.
The game gives you all the tools you need to lay out the right strategy. From the screen, each faction has a status bar depicting your country's global influence, firepower, alliance scores, political action points and war budget. Consider this your lifeline because the numbers may drop or increase depending on your actions. For instance, your global influence level shows the measure of your faction's impact, dominance, or sway over the geopolitical landscape. Your faction's global points depend on which countries you choose. Countries like China rake in four points, the USSR 5, Poland 3, East Germany 1 and so on.
Additionally, a standout feature is the emphasis on diplomatic gameplay. You must navigate the intricate web of international relations, forming alliances, negotiating treaties, and responding to global events. The diplomatic aspect adds a layer of complexity, making every turn a critical juncture where alliances can be forged or shattered. For instance, when luring espionage on your side, you can either initiate military or industrial contracts or establish espionage.
Arms Race 2 excels in capturing the military dynamics of the Cold War. Ideally, you must manage your armed forces, invest in research and development, and make strategic choices when deploying troops. The game hinges on the meticulous planning of military operations, making every decision impactful and contributing to the overall narrative of the game.
Moreover, Arms Race 2 expands on the weapons inventory from the original game. The weapons are grouped into air, terrestrial, seal, nuclear and space segments. At the beginning, you get access to the basic weapon, and progression unlocks the more advanced equipment. Since the game starts at the Space War Race, its advisable to expand your Space Tech inventory. Plus, developing these technologies comes at a cost, but it gives you a perk in terms of global influence.
Also, the game expands on the Global Consequences mode featured in the original title. The mode has different eras where your actions influence political power on a global stage. The mode has six potential different consequences for the 1950s and 2000s. Think of the mode as your side mission away from the campaign, since you can score points based on the events you trigger. Plus, you can also build alliances.
The Cold War serves as a grand timeline in history that set in motion diplomatic relations that are holding the fort until today. Living through this critical time in history puts you in the shoes of the soldiers who braved the fronts. The game successfully transports players back to the Cold War era, providing an immersive and authentic experience. Feel the tension, navigate political complexities, and engage with historical events that shaped the world during this fascinating period.
It's ingenious, really, to have to rewrite and relive history through a video game. Nat Geo has possibly done the best they could to give a visual idea of what the Cold War stood for. But imagine being the captain of the ship that decides the fate of your nation. It must not be an easy feat, but heck, I’m here for the palpable tension.
Also, the turn-based strategy encourages players to employ a careful and strategic approach. Each decision counts, fostering a methodical style of play that resonates well with the intricacies of Cold War politics.
Unfortunately, the game doesn't provide a tutorial, which is a major bummer considering its UI is not intuitive. Thankfully, it comes with a manual that can help with basic navigation. I’d recommend reviewing the manual instead of jumping in blindly.
Arms Race 2 stands out as a top-tier turn-based strategy game, offering a rich and dynamic experience of the Cold War. Its thoughtful incorporation of diplomatic, military, and leadership dynamics provides players with a strategic challenge while immersing them in the compelling narrative of the Cold War. It's the right game for war fanatics and anyone keen on revisiting historical events. It gives you a perspective on what would have happened if the USA and the USSR opted for different actions. It may not be 100% historically accurate, but it gives you a picture of how things unfolded.
Arms Race 2 Review (PC)
Cold War Nostalgia Revived
Arms Race 2 is a turn-based strategy game by Alina Digital. The game focuses on historical events that took place during the Cold War. It’s a journey back in time, offering strategic depth, engaging gameplay, and an authentic Cold War experience for both strategy enthusiasts and history buffs alike.