Do you happen to remember a video game called Six Days in Fallujah? It was a third-person shooter in development by Atomic Games, best known for the Close Combat series of strategy games that had been running since 1996, with the backing of Konami as its publisher. The game was to be set in the real-world 2004 Battle of Fallujah, part of America’s offensive against Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Just over 100 American, Iraqi, and British troops died in that battle, but the game chronicling their story would cease development in 2009 after controversy flared up and scared Konami into withdrawing its support. Despite being far in development, the game would be abandoned and never see the light of day.
I am confident in saying that the people who got angry at Atomic Games probably never played Falklands ’82. A 1985 computer strategy game that had the gall to release just 3 years after 250 Brits and over 600 Argentinians lost their lives battling for control of a tiny island.
Falklands ’82 casts players in the role of the British army. The populist government of Argentina has invaded the British-controlled Falkland Islands under the brazen assumption that it would be too far away for Britain to bother rescuing. Surprise, surprise, the UK came anyway and launched a counter-invasion of the island.
The game starts with a lengthy explanation of its mechanics and can be slow to pick up even for a PC strategy game of its era. Players must first manually assign a number of vessels to either defensive or offensive activities. Offensive ships allow you to fire on land troops and launch airstrikes, whereas defensive ships keep your hide safe, but the difference an extra ship in either category makes is difficult to perceive and only becomes harder when in gameplay they sink or suffer damage, with no way to get an overview again.
Once that is taken care of, players choose a landing place and begin their invasion. They have 30 turns to capture all the cities on the island and wipe out the defenders. While you have the benefit of more troops and a concentrated landing, the enemy starts in hiding and won’t be revealed unless you scout or they attack first. You also have to funnel your troops out of the landing zone and can get in some serious traffic jams if you aren’t careful.
Troops can either move or shoot in their turn, but barring the artillery and vehicle, every unit can only engage a foe right next to them on the grid map. Combat is RNG-based, taking into account the remaining offensive capability of your unit (also representing their general health) and the defense of the target, after adding modifiers for rough terrain, cover, or cities. This highlights an ongoing issue with Falklands ’82, in that the game lacks transparency. It’s difficult to gauge if you are doing damage or will do damage, making it easy to get in a situation where five units are all attacking a single target that just won’t die.
The enemy doesn’t vary up its tactics much and mostly relies on the aggressive RNG working against the player. You can be randomly attacked from the air, even if it’s your turn. Your boats can randomly be attacked and this has a random chance of outright sinking them. The combat RNG can work against you and kill your unit in your turn. Even your 1 supply of reinforcements can be randomly delayed or you may be randomly denied air support because of weather conditions.
Randomness in strategy can add some flavor, but here it seizes control of your entire game. Adding to this are the frustrating controls to confirm your actions. Once you have chosen to either move or shoot, there is no going back if you clicked the wrong button. Likewise, once you have to select your target, pressing anything other than Y will make the game cycle to other available units. Since few units can attack anything not right next to them, you have to keep pressing buttons until the game runs out of targets, after which it will just skip your turn instead of returning to the original enemy.
On a curious note, the scouting function seems broken. It’s listed as another option besides attacking and moving, but you can still do either after having scouted. In fact, you can scout a hundred times in a single turn and still do something else.
RNG and slight mistakes while selecting actions were the main source of challenge and frustration throughout my time with the game. There is some fun to be found in overrunning the island and wiping out the enemy units, but I’d eventually run into another enemy that would be unkillable or all my boats would sink, I’d accidentally press the wrong button and waste a chance to fire a shot that would save a unit or my artillery would get pounded by non-stop airstrikes.
I respect that developer PSS was so shameless as to adapt a senseless war that happened just 3 years prior, but the game is too vague and unreliable to make for a satisfying strategy experience.