The first and unfortunately last entry in EdenSoft's ambitious "Victory in the East" wargame series, Red Thunder is a good operational-level hex/turn-based wargame for die-hard wargamers. The year is 1944. The Soviet Red Army is starting the counterattack against the German Army, which was "down, but not out." You can play either the Soviets or the Germans in one of the most exciting theatres of war. |
At first glance, Red Thunder looks like a polished shareware wargame that rivals commercial titles. The unit variety is high, the pace of play is often rapid thanks to a fluid game system (which isn't broken down into distinct phases), and you can finish the game in a modest amount of time. Unit sizes range from divisions to battalion: most Soviet infantry units are divisions while most German infantry units are regiments. The computer puts up a decent fight, although the game is much more interesting when you play as the Soviets rather than the German. Most of all, it?s generally fun to play, and feels like a commercial title rather than a shareware release that it was (sold only directly via EdenSoft's website, now defunct).
Upon closer inspection, however, Red Thunder isn't as polished or "complete" as it first seems. The interface is cumbersome and full of curious quirks, unlike the similar but more polished interface in Atomic Games' World at War series. For instance, it's not easy to tell select or identify units, and the "jump map" for some reason shows only terrain but not units on it. The game is also very poorly documented - a result of EdenSoft electing to release it when the manual wasn't quite ready (and the promised expanded manual never materialized). Even when compared to other independently published shareware wargames like HPS' or Incredible Simulations' games, Red Thunder isn't nearly as polished, as accessible, or as well-documented. As a shareware wargame, the game has many merits and a competent enough AI to keep die-hard fans of the Russian Front happy for hours. The lack of many scenarios is somewhat compensated by the decent scenario editor shipped with the game, and the PBEM multiplayer feature works very well. Overall, Red Thunder is a game well worth your time if you're a veteran wargamer who doesn't need extensive documentation to make sense of a conventional hex-based wargame. It's a diamond in the rough that doesn't quite have the professional polish required to succeed, but it's quite a lot of fun nonetheless.
Reviewed by: Underdogs