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Dogs of War

Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Talonsoft
Developer: Silicon Dreams
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Dogs of War are quite nice, reminding me of what BattleZone II may have looked like had it been a straight-forward real-time strategy game. The landscapes are nice and colorful, filled with mountains and snow and whatnot. And then you get to the city levels, and you feel like you’re looking on, say, a mad improved version of Imperium Galactica II’s land battle system or perhaps Explosive Wars of SimCity (no, that game doesn’t exist). The resolutions scale up nicely, letting you get as much eye candy as you like.

Unfortunately, the units themselves leave something to be desired. They suffer from the same affliction that the Total Annihilation series did -- too similar for its own good. The only method I found of really telling my units apart was a major zoom-in, so I could see the weapon that they were holding or the slight bend in the shape that differentiated a troop carrier from a tank. This is a shame -- with an engine this nice, they could have done a good bit more with the units, giving them a unique flair. As such, you’ll be grouping them into sets as types just so you don’t have to dig for the “little dude with a rocket” in the middle of all the “little dudes with guns.”

The audio in the game is nothing special, neither irritating nor evocative. The booms and bangs are more than adequate for the job. A special note must be made for the voice acting, done with a wonderful British accent that really got me into the mood for the game. The entire training mission, with its half-cocked humor and “buggroff” attitude really got me into it, and made me believe in the world of Dogs of War a little bit more.


A damned shame that the gameplay almost ruined it for me. Dogs of War is a real-time strategy game, in the line of Ground Control -- leaning heavily towards the tactics and less so towards the entrenched strategic warfare from the likes of Command & Conquer and Dune II. The problem is that the game is damnably difficult, and has a host of odd little, err, quirks that make the game considerably more antagonistic than it needs to be.

I’ll get into the Difficulty bit in the appropriate section, so let me talk about the rest of the game. You start each mission with a briefing, giving you the general gist of what you’ll need to do to accomplish the mission correctly. Then you go to the load-out screen where you assign the available troops to the various vehicles that you have at your disposal. As you progress in the game, your troops are promoted. As they are promoted, they become better at what they do -- faster, smarter, tougher. I like this a whole lot as it gives the game something of a continuity that games like this often lack. It also pisses the hell out of you when you see your fourth-level dude get nuked by indirect fire. Argh. You can also sometimes buy new hardware for the mission, giving you an added advantage should you pick the right troops for the job.

The battles themselves in Dogs of War are negotiated in classic RTS style, grouping troops, moving them around to the best locations, and engaging the enemy. Because of the 3D nature of the game, you can use the map’s natural defenses to your advantage, hiding behind hills and whatnot. Unfortunately, the 3D nature also bites you in the ass more often than not. This is especially evident in the Direct Control mode.

In Direct Control mode, you jump into the body/vehicle/whatever that you’ve clicked on and get to move that person around. It controls something like Abuse would have controlled had it made the jump to 3D. You move around with the keyboard and aim with the mouse. This is fantastic for units with long-range weaponry like certain tanks and snipers, as you can climb to a certain location and aim from afar, not relying on the A.I. to jump out and get killed. Problem is, it doesn’t work quite like it should. You can have perfectly clear LOS to a unit, and the game will pretend like there’s a large obstruction in the way, even when there isn’t. You often have to get to the very edge of a hillock or mountain before you can fire, and although I know that it would block it partially, there’s no way that it should be blocking as much as I see it. I’ve been running down a slight gradient and have not been able to hit a unit five “feet” in front of me because of some crazy LOS thing. This is absolutely ridiculous.

Did I mention the game was hard?


Dogs of War strikes me as one of the most difficult strategy games I’ve ever played. In every mission, even the first, you’re challenged to do it right or die. It helps immensely that there’s a Strategy Guide (in glorious PDF format) on the CD that the game comes on, but I’ve found that sometimes the things that the Strategy Guide says to do are pretty much the only thing you -can- do. At times, they’re pretty sensible (the first few missions). But after that, it’s as if the designers of the game were developing levels with the knowledge that there would be a strategy guide, so that they didn’t have to worry about difficulty. I wanted to kick the game in the head a few times after I did something not-quite-right and got the ever-loving crap blown out of me.

A -serious- pisser is that there’s no mid-level save. Argh. I bitched about it when Ground Control came out, and I’ll bitch at it even more now, because there’s really no excuse any more. Playing an hour and a half long mission over because you clicked slightly off near the end of it is a Very Bad Thing. Please do not torture us like this again, game developers. We’ll have to come and bust some skulls. Really.

Game Mechanics:

Dogs of War’s menus are drab but certainly functional, although it took me a minute to find the “back” button on some of them. The in-game interface is manageable, and I certainly like the message pop-ups on the right side. The camera is something of a bear to deal with, and I really wanted to have some sort of mouse-look method like Soulbringer or Dark Reign 2. But alas, the keyboard was where it was at.

Did I mention that you can’t save inside of missions?

Dogs of War is not a bad game. It’s got an interesting little backstory, told much better in the beginning bit of the game than in the woefully inadequate instruction book. But the uninspired units, difficult gameplay, and lack of a mid-level save feature make Dogs of War more of a novelty than a real must-buy title. If you’re absolutely clamoring for more RTS action, then Dogs of War may be your thing. But for the rest of us, we’d do better to wait for a game that is genuinely good instead of outstandingly mediocre.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

Win9x/NT/2000, P2 266, 32MB RAM, Voodoo or better 3D card, 16 bit sound card, 650MB HD Space, 4X CD-ROM

Test System:

AMD K6-III 450 running Windows 98, 256MB RAM, Creative Sound Blaster Live! Sound Card, Creative TNT2 Ultra w/32MB RAM, 6X/24X DVD-ROM

Sony PlayStation 2 Prince of Persia: Warrior Within Windows Deer Hunter 4

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated