Better than Gettysburg
It's always a sad day when you see classic titles from your gaming past appear as abandonware on the internet, but it's something that does happen. A brief Google search may or may not produce results for one or more sites that allow you to download the fantastic Civil War Generals 2: Grant, Lee, Sherman. This game is a sequel to an original that proved very popular, Like its predecessor, Civil War Generals 2 is a turn-based strategy game centred entirely around the Civil War, but unlike fellow Civil War games such as Sid Meier's Gettysburg, this one actually allows you to take part in every single aspect of the conflict in an historically-accurate fashion. It may sound ambitious but the reality and result is that you get to experience around 46 different realistic battle scenarios through commanding either the Union or Confederacy Sides whilst carefully managing elements of the battle/your troops such as morale, terrain, formation, and weaponry.
Before beginning, it must be said that this game isn't for the feint or impatient of heart: it's a complex little number and may take a while to grasp. The complexity is such that the action requires an initial tutorial to take you through the action, since to start with you have around three times as many types of units to command and manage as were present in the original. You've got the usual infantry, cavalry, and artillery like in Madminute Games' Take Command 2: Second Manassas, but there are additional units here. Specialists can be used as well as additional types like engineers, heavy artillery, corps HQ, horse artillery, frigates, and mortar gunboats. The additional units are reflective of just how broad of an approach the game takes to the Civil War, allowing you to experience all battles and aspects of it instead of being limited to one or two battles with sub-scenarios.
Unlike with many other games concerning the devastating American Civil War, Civil War Generals 2 has an overarching sense of continuity that runs throughout, since although you can play individual battle scenarios, the campaign takes into account your performance in each battle and carries over the wins/losses and resulting boost/dip in various aspects like morale. Overall, this makes for a more seamless experience that you can become engrossed into instead of having the illusion broken by fighting separate battles with no bearing on the next one.
It Gets Pretty Real Out There
The continuity and attention to historical detail are paramount here, but these all count for little if the game isn't very realistic. Luckily, you've got a huge number of considerations to take into account as a commander of the Union/Confederacy. Things like the terrain (which is very accurate to the actual terrain, or as accurate as it can be anyhow) make a huge difference in battle since the different types of land must be used to your advantage (high ground advantageous, some ground slowing you down etc.). As well as the terrain you have things like morale and even the changing weather conditions to consider, all of which can swing a battle in your favour or hand the opposing forces the advantage over you. You'll also find yourself having to coordinate actions of multiple units as one as well as pay attention to the usual limitations such as ammunition and strength.
End Thoughts: Looks Good, Feels Great
Though veterans of the series will recognise little difference in graphics between the original Civil War Generals, the game still looks fairly realistic and as polished as you can expect from a game that was released around seventeen years ago. The music also keeps in with the tone of the Civil War, feeling authentic and giving a real driving energy to the battles. The biggest criticism is that when it comes down to it, the gameplay is really very similar to the original. One of the saving graces here is the scenario designer, which allows you to construct battles in a manner that best pleases you. Civil War Generals 2: Grant, Lee, Sherman is fantastic game in itself, but as a sequel it lacks true improvement where it counts.