Pros: Didn't waste much life to beat it.
Cons: Boring, no strategy involved, waaaaaaaaaay too easy
I used to play PTO II (Pacific Theater of Operations) all the time on Super Nintendo, it was one of my favorite games. So when I saw the PTO 4 was about to come out I was pretty excited, and I went right out and bought it. Well, as you may of guessed from my title I am no regretting my decision.
Gameplay (or lack thereof)
PTO 4 gives you the choice to be one of four superpowers, Japan, US, Germany, or England (British). There are two campaign modes in which you can pick to be any one of these four powers. You are also able to change the alliances in any way that you chose. For instance you could play as Germany and the US vs. Japan and England, the US vs. everyone, or any combination you can think of. The only difference in campaign modes is one starts in 1939 and one starts in 1941, so really the only difference is the technology level you start at.
There are also a number of scenarios that I didn't bother to play so I couldn't tell you much about them.
Now on to the actual gameplay. Originally this game was about WW II, specifically the battle between Japan and the US. PTO 4 adds two more controllable powers, as I've mentioned earlier they are Germany and England. Regardless of which power you choose to control you will have control over a number of things.
Earlier PTO games had cities to take, and each city would provide you with some additional resources. PTO 4, however, has regions instead of these cities. A region apparently groups several cities together, for example Japan Used to have three or four cities I believe, but now it is just the region Japan. So in affect there are many less bases in this game than in previous versions.
Each region provides a set number of resources, controlling the regions of course gives you access to these resources. The resources are: steel, oil, aluminum, and funding. You get the set number added to your national reserve at the end of every turn, assuming the one of your enemies doesn't sink your transports with submarines.
So basic idea of the game is to take strategic locations to increase your reserves of oil, steel, etc, and be able to build bigger better ships.
The basic menu gives you control over your fleets, politics, construction, politics, deployment, and there are also some informative menus.
In the fleet menu you can assign ships to fleets from other fleets or from your shipyard. You may also assign commanders to these ships, assigning a commander increases the ships capabilities according to the ranking of the commander. For instance a commander with a high gun rating would allow the ship to fire faster. You can, of course, also move your ships to other regions. This is one of the game's major downfalls. Previous versions of PTO 4 have been real times, so you could see your fleets move across the map from base to base and they could be attacked in transit at any time. PTO 4, however, is turn based and when you pick a fleet to move from point A to point B that's what they do. They move directly from point A to point B and skip everything in between. You can only move from region to region, there will never ever be combat anywhere but in a base. What were the developers thinking? The other problem is you can't easily see where your fleets are by glancing at the map, which seems to be an important thing to know since that's what you take and defend regions with.
The build menu allows you to design your own ship class with just about everything you want to customize. You pick the gun size and number, armor ratings, anti air weapons, speed, etc. The only thing that limits you is the amount of steel you can use for that ship, and adding guns, armor etc, all increases the amount of steel used. So everything is a trade off, more speed or more anti-air ability, up to you. You can also build the ships you have designed or build actual historical ship classes. Ships avaible to be built and designed are battleships, aircraft carries, heavy and light cruisers, destroyers, and sumbarines. This menu also gives you the ability to build and design aircraft in a similar way.
There are 7 types of aircraft you can build, carrier bombers, carrier fighters, carrier attack planes, base bombers, base fighters, scouts, and air transports. As you may guess from the name carries bombers, fighters, and attack planes can only be used on carries. While base bombers and fighters can only be used on bases. Scouts can be used on a variety of platforms including bases, carries, and some other ships may carry them as well. Air transports are expensive to build, but they can transport resources without fail back to your home base (since subs can't attack planes and there is no way to attack anything that's between a region as I metioned before).
Deploy allows you to place planes on bases and carries as well as to distribute your transports.
The political menu allows you to provide aid to your allies in the form of any resource, oil, funding, etc. You may also place spies in enemy bases, blockaid enemy bases with subs, invest in technology, and research new weapons.
Combat occurs whenever and enemy fleet moves into one of your regions or whenever your fleet moves into an enemy region. As I have mentioned before there is never any combat in the open ocean, only at bases. Combat is real time, unlike the rest of the game, though you don't really have that much control over it.
If you are the attacker you may attack with up to three fleets and you control only these three fleets. The defender would also be allowed three fleets and would control these plus any airbases located in the region. The attacker wins if they destroy all the enemy fleets and airbases, or if they destroy the airbases and force the enemy fleets to flee. The defender wins if they destroy all of the attacking fleets, or force them to flee, or if the battle gets to the third day at midnight. On the third day at midnight the defender wins by default.
During combat you only control which fleets your fleets attack, where your fleets move and how they attack. Though picking which fleet you want yours to attack really only sends them moving that way and they will attack the closest thing to them anyways. There are 3 general attack options you can choose, use best judgement, attack with guns, full attack, or air attack. Use best judgement basically uses a random attack, full attack commands your fleet to move as close to the enemy as possible and attack with everything, attack with guns says stay as far away as possible and attack with large guns only, and air attack says move out of gun range and attack with aircraft.
Investing in technology allows the reasearch of new weapons, armor, engines, radar, and more. When your technology levels reach a certain level you may then research the new technolgy. After are done researching it you can then implement it into new ship designs.
My Final Thoughts
This game just does not work. There is really no strategy at all to playing this game. You're supposed to need to take bases that provide you with a lot of resources, but you'll never come remotely close to running out of anything. I beat this game the first day I had it, in about 5 hours. The only thing required to win is to take the enemies main bases. So really you only need to take about 10 or so regions total. You'll find a fair number of these bases have no defense, only a couple airfields which you can easily destroy within a couple minutes.
The game plays like someone spent about 5 minutes thinking about it and slapped it together. I played the campaign that starts in 1941 and I had beaten the game by 1942. There are no difficulty levels either, the only thing you can do is pick the country with the weakest navy (Germany) and ally everyone against you. But even then once you get a functional navy built you'll never lose a battle.