Making a game about the war in Afghanistan is a difficult task, one that must be a careful blend of respect and entertainment. To which, the developers at Every Single Soldier have done successfully. While Afghanistan ’11 is a follow-up to Vietnam ’65, containing the same type of gameplay but a whole new world and whole new era that separates the two games greatly. Afghanistan ’11 takes you through a different kind of war, one that requires forward thinking and spinning a record number of plates to keep everyone in the game happy, those local and those abroad.
Afghanistan ’11 has 4 tutorial missions to get you up to speed on how to play the game, and 18 campaign mission that feel like 36. I say that in an endearing way because it reflects war in a way that makes sense. Everything feels longer than it actually takes. Your role in this game is as a Commander with a U.S. HQ. You must perform Counter-Insurgency (COIN) on all fronts. And based on this methodology, the game plays beyond your normal turn-based strategy and movement type of games. You must think about the people and what’s best for them, while ensuring the safety of your own men and women.
There are elements of wargaming in Afghanistan ’11, such as supply lines and forward operating bases (FOB), but that’s really the extent of it. The FOBs have a module based system that let you improve on them as you progress through the game, making you see growth and change. Every mission wants your hearts & minds level to be over 50. And by turn 50, you hand over control to the Afghanistan National Army (ANA). It is at that point they have to hold out until turn 60. If you’ve set ANA up for success, then you win the mission. These missions are exhausting in all the right ways it should be.
Afghanistan ’11 doesn’t have large-scale battles, but rather guerrilla type fighting and smaller engagements as you move about the map. There’s more to Afghanistan ’11 though, it is more about patrolling safe areas, and winning the hearts and minds of the people by bringing humanitarian aid and watching out for IEDs. You also must manage your fuel, rations, and ammo and resupply as necessary, but not too often that becomes a chore.
This is a game where it’s about working with the people who are non-hostile to win. Late-game elements such as elections come into play, which can make things harder or easier depending on your actions previously. You’ll be earning Political Points (PP), which can be used to sway if it seems it won’t go your way – but this is a disingenuous action that can have repercussions.
Afghanistan ’11 isn’t a visual powerhouse, but it looks good for a game that isn’t trying to be more than what it is. It was a bit buggy that patches have resolved, but the UI could use some work specific to playing on a PC, as it’s clear that the game will be ported to mobile devices and tablets at some point. They never said war was fun, but the game lacks motivation to do what you’re doing. Though I will say that Afghanistan ’11 is a tough game, making you think smarter not harder. The way you play the game is very unique, as was Vietnam ’65. As such, Afghanistan ’11 may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an interesting and compelling game nonetheless.
A Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes