For Liberty! Wars of Indendence in America and Hungary, 1775 and 1703

It's two in the morning and I'm writing a video game review. It's been a while since I could say that about a game and it's all thanks to For Liberty!, a smart little turn based game from Battlefront and developer Hussar Games. They've put together everything that I like to see – a deep and detailed wargame that is accessible for the casual wargamer.

Released on the Fourth of July to coincide with the American Declaration of Independence For Liberty! uses the same engine as a previous release from Hussar Games by the name of 1848, detailing Hungary's bid for independence from Austria that ultimately failed due to massive Russian intervention. 1848 is available for free download if you want to have a taste of the gameplay that For Liberty! has to offer.

For Liberty! takes place on two basic levels. The first is the strategic map, in this case a representation of the British colonies in North America in 1775, extending from St. Augustine in the south all the way up to Newfoundland and Quebec. On this map you are able to view at a glance how well you are doing in the war, the number of men, horses, cannon, supplies, weapons and other resources available to you and how well all of your troops are motivated. The strategic map is where you move your armies, capture and pillage cities and recruit troops. The second level of the game is entirely optional but my personal favorite, the tactical battle screen.

The tactical battle screen allows you to command individual components of your armies on the field. Every unit in your army is there with their strength represented under them d the army commander on the field. You are responsible for moving them around, directing their fire and their formations to achieve victory. Alternatively you can order the computer to command your troops. Doing so will give you a message dialogue detailing events as they happen in the battle and keeping you updated with an on the fly casualty total. The speed is adjustable every time you fight.

Battles are won through a combination of firepower, position and morale. The morale of your troops is just as important as the casualties they're taking. It's entirely possible for troops to rout after taking only minimal casualties. This is where officers fit in. Every officer is surrounded by a circle representing a command radius. Troops within that radius get a morale bonus and every round the officer can conduct a rally action to have a chance of increasing the morale of every unit in that circle. A unit can be shelled and shot at for the length of the battle and even be wiped out without breaking so long as their morale is carefully managed. Other things such as proximity to allied units also affect morale. Morale is decreased primarily by being attacked, either by being shot at, shelled or forced into melee combat. Units that rout and flee will decrease the morale of other units around them to the point that an entire line could collapse by a single unit breaking.

The graphics are fairly simple as evidenced by the screenshots but effective. This has the added bonus of decreasing the system requirements greatly. The sound effects are basic but effective and the soundtrack is composed of various military fife-and-drum tunes from the period, including the infamous "The World Turned Upside Down”, played by Cornwallis' troops as they passed their surrender to Washington after the battle of Yorktown in 1781.

For Liberty! contains three single player campaigns for the American half of the game each representing different phases of the war as well as an additional “grand campaign” representing the entire War of Independence. “American half of the game” you say? Well there's more to For Liberty! than the American side of things. The Hungarian developers have also created a second game covering the campaigns of the Hungarian uprising led by Rákóczi between 1703 and 1711. Players have the options of playing both sides in either the Hungarian or American campaigns.

Multiplayer is available through direct hosting, play-by-email or hotseat. Battlefront maintains a sizable opponent finder section of their forums to help players find one another.

The only great weaknesses I can see in For Liberty! are the lack of an editor to create custom scenarios maps and some small problems with the interface. There is no ability to plot unit movement paths over several turns like in Civilization IV forcing players to return to every unit every time. If I wanted to march a unit from Boston to Savannah I would have to give a march order every turn until something happened or the unit arrived. There also isn't an ability to adjust auto-battle speed on the fly; you're stuck with the speed you select.

For Liberty! costs the princely sum of $35.00 for delivery of a CD or for a direct download. There's a lot of game to be had here- two full games with several campaigns each with very strong multiplayer support. It's very easy to learn, I picked up the details of the game in a few minutes with the help of the excellent, if basic, tutorial scenario. The manual is very well put together and quite readable. In all this is one of the best games for the dollar that I've reviewed and I heartily endorse it.

For more screenshots check out our gallery.

Developer: Hussar Games
Publisher: Battlefront
Price: $35.00 for direct download or for a physical copy as of this writing. $45.00 for both.
Availability: Direct download or through mail order.
Minimum System Requirements: Win 2000/XP, 500 Mhz CPU, 256 MB RAM, 32 MB Video Card (1024x768 or higher resolution), Soundcard.
Recommended System Requirements: Win 2000/XP, 1 Ghz CPU, 512 Mb RAM, 64 MB Video Card, Soundcard