DGS Games

GrogHeads Reviews The Longest Day for iOS

The Longest Day invades your iPad.  Michael tells you where you’ll find all the sand afterwards.

Michael Eckenfels, 3 January 2015

click images to enlarge

The Longest Day is a second effort by the makers of Frontline: Road to Moscow, a game which I’ve heard of but have not played. If you’re looking for comparisons between the two, keep on looking because they ain’t here.

Instead, what you’ll see here is how Slitherine has created a fairly basic and AI-timid romp through the hedgerows and beaches of Normandy. It is June 6, 1944 (at least, on your iPad when you fire this up, like me), and you’ll find yourself in control of several Allied units looking to wrest control of Utah Beach from the occupying Germans.

However, before you get there, there’s a bit of confusion. The app itself is called “D-Day: The Longest Day,” but when you touch the icon, you get a mish-mash of images on a screen, including infantry storming a beach, but there’s no game title.

The giant in the background seems unimpressed.

The giant in the background seems unimpressed.

I suppose I do not need to be told what game I’m playing, but there is a certain amount of OCD some gamers have (myself among them), where it’s nice to see such a thing. Be that as it may, there is little in the way of instructions or tutorials, at least initially before the game begins; the Campaign screen is little more than a map with a nice pink explosion over Utah Beach, which I suppose sort of indicates you should start there. I say “sort of” because it’s not immediately obvious if I was given a choice between beaches to command.

 

So…I touch the explosion, then?

So…I touch the explosion, then?

 

Objectives are given to you before you hit the e-beaches, so you at least have some idea of what you should be pushing for. Instead of just lumping a bunch of objectives for you to capture before a scenario ends, you’re instead given three different types of them.

 

Good to know, and kind of cool there’s more than one type of objective.

Good to know, and kind of cool there’s more than one type of objective.

 

There are ‘normal’ Objectives, which the game says you must control to ‘achieve victory.’ Makes sense – the Western Allies didn’t do their share by sitting in their LSTs offshore playing 52 pick up or cribbage or whatever our grandfathers played back in the day. Then there are Progression objectives, which when captured will unlock new areas of the map. Finally, there are Reinforcement objectives, which let you call reinforcements. Initially, you can only call for reinforcements on the beaches, so capturing these points will help you bring the fight to the Jerries that much quicker.

 

Aaaaand we’re off!

Aaaaand we’re off!

 

Now, for the obvious: you see these images, and you’re going to immediately accuse it of being yet another Panzer General clone. And you would not be far from the truth; it’s hex-based, turn-based movement, with units ranging in strength from 1 to 10. There’s not much else to say about that, because it is what it is. Regardless of Panzer General’s rather long-cast shadow across the plains of wargaming today, there are unique bits in this landscape to make it slightly different. For one, the objectives. For another, it has a rather rich reinforcement system.

 

Aaaaand we’re reinforcing!

Aaaaand we’re reinforcing!

 

Along the bottom, a press/swipe will bring up a row of units that one can ‘purchase’ out of their available points. I say ‘rich’ mainly because the number of points you get are rather generous, and increase with lower difficulty levels (there are three levels that I can see, with ‘normal’ being the lowest). Units do not cost that much; they’ll set you back between 35 and 200 but mainly fall in around 100 points each. It’s easy to go hogwild and buy a bunch of them early on, but this game is like a marathon in that you need to curb any all-or-nothing wildness and plan for the future. Just when the Germans decide to attack with heavy armor, for example, will be the time where you don’t have any points left to buy new units. What’s especially tempting is to buy tons of paratroopers and drop them everywhere – but this will suck away your points quickly.

 

Recruiting extra units is a VERY good idea…just be smart and watch your points.

Recruiting extra units is a VERY good idea…just be smart and watch your points.

 

Once the game begins, if you’re new to it, there will be hints and tips that pop up to instruct how the game works. At first, not seeing any titles, instructions, or information otherwise made me a bit fearful that the game would be utterly trial-and-error. Fortunately, this is not the case. The language and phrasing isn’t all that great in these tutorials, but it gets the point across, and unravels much of the mystery of the game without you having to go in and figure it all out yourself.

 

Mines are only ‘seen’ and removed by Engineers. I haven’t tried the Stalin method of force-marching infantry through to see if that clears ‘em. Not yet, anyway…

Mines are only ‘seen’ and removed by Engineers. I haven’t tried the Stalin method of force-marching infantry through to see if that clears ‘em. Not yet, anyway…

 

Gameplay is fairly straightforward. Units have a range for combat, and within that range have different abilities against different units. Armor is, of course, good against armor. Flamethrowers are excellent against Infantry. Artillery is…well, you get the picture. Each unit can be viewed by pressing and holding on them (I didn’t even realize I could view this until I accidentally saw it when hesitating to make a move).

 

Information from a US Ranger unit.

Information from a US Ranger unit.

 

There’s more info that appears in the lower left of the screen when a unit is selected, though it’s not obvious what some of this information means. Some units have special abilities that can be executed by clicking a button that appears in this lower left info panel, such as a Supply Truck’s ability to reinforce a unit with strength or with ammunition/fuel. Infantry can entrench to make them more effective on defense. Artillery units (including Mortars) can be transported and move much faster, but need a turn to limber/unlimber. And so forth.

 

The beach isn’t all that big, but it’s a LONG way to that bunker if there’s mines around! Not to mention German artillery…

The beach isn’t all that big, but it’s a LONG way to that bunker if there’s mines around! Not to mention German artillery…

 

The Longest Day’s real enjoyment comes from the fact that one is playing a real slugfest of a game. Reducing German strongpoints and towns is not an easy task. Right off the bat, Allied troops will run into hidden minefields on the beaches, which can only be uncovered and removed by Engineer units. Expect to take casualties if you charge German bunkers, Sgt. Rock style, without Engineers to clear the way. Then again, if you wait around for Engineers to clear a path, you’re likely going to get pummeled by those German bunkers.

 

Bunkers are TOUGH. But Flamethrower units can mess up their day.

Bunkers are TOUGH. But Flamethrower units can mess up their day.

 

Moving inland, terrain becomes important when considering not just attacking Germans, but defending against their counterattacks. Terrain is clearly delineated, but what’s not clear is what terrain does until a unit is in it. A pop-up with info on this would have come in handy, but there is a certain amount of appeal to discovering this on my own. For example, unit effectiveness is reduced in barbed wire and forests. And units defending in towns are tough nuts to crack. Not to mention German artillery, which is merciless and devastating against units in the open…so of course they will be found supporting bunkers and towns. Eliminating enemy artillery becomes a very important task, and one of the things you can purchase with your points are air strikes, which are very effective against ‘soft’ targets like artillery and infantry. Unfortunately though, they cost 100 points a pop, so use them wisely.

 

Air strikes are great for taking out artillery.

Air strikes are great for taking out artillery.

 

There are some other things that make this game enjoyable, though it’s more of a taste than a full-fledged immersiveness. For one, flamethrowers cooking a German bunker is spectacular – hearing the nozzle’s ‘fwoosh’ sound as flames rip through enemy units, that’s something to be enjoyed – but unfortunately it is over all too soon. (Not that I’m bloodthirsty or anything.) The sounds are, in fact, quite enjoyable in this game, but some are confusing. The air strikes, for example: when you call one, you’ll hear the zoom of an airplane engine, then nothing. After a few more seconds the plane finally appears to burp out some machine-gun sounds to accompany clouds of impacts scattered about the hex that was targeted, and then it’s gone. It would have made more sense to hear the swoop of the fighter get louder and louder, then the strafing, and then hear it zoom off into the distance.

 

The entire time, I felt as if I was pulling Germans out by using my troops like crowbars, bending and snapping their defenses as best I could while taking a beating in return. The AI offers something of a fight, but of course it’s nothing like what a human player could do. The German AI charges you pretty much straightforward…at least, units that aren’t covering objective hexes. And if you take an objective, they will come after it with little regard to massing and will do it piecemeal. However, that’s generally how things happened historically (and fortunately for the Allies). Here, it’s much the same thing, because as you push further inland from the beaches, your units will become more fatigued, will get lower on supply, and will be dangerously close to being worn to nothingness. Holding on to your forcefully-gotten gains becomes quite a challenge.

 

CONCLUSION

Overall, The Longest Day is a very simplistic approach to warfare, but then again, it is an iOS program, and for that purpose it does its job well. It is much like Panzer General – nothing I can say will make those familiar think otherwise, so why not admit it as it’s fairly true – but it does add enough bits and pieces as a ‘sprinkling’ of flavor to make this a tasty enough treat of gaming. Fairly bland, fairly straightforward with little in the way of surprises – you get what you expect, but there’s enough substance here to make it worth a small purchase and earn a place on your tablet.

 


Give us your feedback below, or drop into our forums >>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *