Game Review: The Bluecoats – North Vs. South
Depending on how long you’ve been gaming, you might or might not have heard of a little turn-based strategy gem called North vs. South, a great game that barely got the attention it deserved when it came out decades ago to now-ancient computers. The game has been re-released upon the world, and remade as The Bluecoats – North vs. South (though for convenience, it’ll just be referred to as NvS). NvS is a remake for PC, iOS that successfully blends turn-based strategy, arcade action and third-person cover-based shooting. Wait, what? This sounds impossible- but NvS pulls it off with finesse.
Starting with gameplay, you spend much of your time in this game watching a map from above, making important decisions for your bases (or forts, I should say) that are scattered across the United States. You also direct your soldiers on which way to go, which enemy forts to attack, and sometimes you’ll be combining two groups of soldiers into one troupe, which may or may not work to your advantage. The trains, which run between captured forts, will give you money- money that you need for more troops, along with other perks, such as extra lives during one of the battle modes (I’ll explain that later). Before I put you off by being too verbose, this game’s much simpler than I make it sound. You can pick it up and learn to play in mere minutes. Mastering this game, however… That could take a lifeti- that could take hours. And they’ll be excellent hours. But moving along, besides the controlling of troops, resources and forts, there’s the unique aspect that really sets this game apart: the fights.
There’s two different battle modes. The first seems to have a slightly RTS leaning: you’re staring down at a battlefield, and your men will run towards the center of said field from one direction, while the enemy will run in from another. You’ll be able to direct your men to open fire on specific troops. You’ll have cannons, men with muskets, horsemen, and a… Destructible environment? The Bluecoats surprises us at every turn, and it’s possible to use a cannon ball to do something like, oh, destroy a bridge and watch as your foes plunge headlong into the abyss below! ‘Tis a thing of beauty, a destructible environment, and it’s something you can use to your advantage.
The second battle mode is a cover-based shooter that’s both insanely challenging and surprisingly entertaining. In the second, you’re defending your fort from the enemy, and this time you’re a lone soldier with nothin’ but your trusty revolver. In this mode, you’re hiding behind cover and taking shots at the enemy as they pop up from behind their cover. It’s kind of like Whac-A-Mole, but deadlier. Also, your cover is limited- you need to get out of it every so often for a bar to recharge, and you need careful timing to avoid getting shot (since you only have so many lives). I must say that this part of the game was very well implemented, and reminded me of old-fashioned shooting-gallery style games at county fairs. Is this what they were aiming for (excuse the pun)? It seems to have paid off.
There’s another mode that involves train robbery- if you have troops stationed in a state through which train tracks run, and a train happens to pass by, you can intercept said train. You’ll be on a horse, dodging attacks (not to mention branches) and leaping over obstacles until you’ve finally got that sweet Confederate gold.
Visually, I like this game a lot, the cartoonish style seems to work quite well, and the character animation is mostly fluid. The battlefields are bright, colorful and full of cheer- lovely things, if I do say so myself. The game’s music is also very good, and it makes me want to sit in a rocking chair, nestled up with a big cup of tea and watch old Civil War movies to my heart’s content.
The only real gripe I can think of is regarding replayability- sure, it’s a title that can keep you occupied for hours, but there’s not that much variety. There’s four different scenarios based on four years of the American Civil War, and if you’re feeling ambitious you can crank up the game’s difficulty, but there’s not that much too it. Still, I’d definitely say that this is a title worth buying- the gameplay you do get is excellent, unique, and it’s a great remake of a classic.