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Civil War - A Nation Divided [Xbox 360]


History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided (Hard Mode Difficulty)

The First Industrial Revolution on Planet Earth fueled the human species with insatiable ambitions. In the United State of America, new technologies shaped a destructive mindset of an entire people: a united Manifest Destiny to conquer an entire continent from sea to shining sea…


One outcome of this social phenomenon was the Mexican-American War, in which Mexico lost a third of its territory to the United States in 1848. Under the banner of the Manifest Destiny, soldiers honed the art of war and incredible military leaders emerged. A decade later, these same warriors turned that art against each other in the American Civil War with new technologically advanced weaponry.


This tumultuous time period is succinctly highlighted on the back of the cover art: Experience the INTENSITY, CARNAGE and CHAOS of the war that divided a nation.


The Challenge? Complete all Battles on Hard Difficulty in the Civil War - A Nation Divided.


Is this a worthy Challenge? Let's find out.


History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided (Hard Difficulty)
 

Gameplay


Ancient historians tell that the History Channel once presented historical documentaries. During the waning years of the 20th century A.D., humans could learn about the past on Cathode–ray tube television sets in their households. Moreover, briefly before this innovation stopped, the History Channel produced a few video games allowing humans to emulate participation in important historical events.

In the Civil War: A Nation Divided, twelve battles are brought to life from the textbook showcasing different battlefield perspectives from the Confederate States of America and the United States of America.


History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided (Hard Mode Difficulty)

The battles aren't provided in chronological order and the game is instead designed to be played as either the North or South one at a time. For a game developed by the History Channel, it is an odd development choice. In comparison, for alternative history games like Red Alert 2 on Hard Mode, timelines aren't necessary. Alas, the nuisances of fictions versus non-fiction.

To best understand the turmoil of human history, Lord Rigor is more interested in why civilizations clash rather than how. In turn, He recommends the battles in Civil War: A Nation Divided to be fought according to the following chronological timeline:


July 21, 1861 (Confederate Battle I: Bull Run)

April 6-7, 1862 (Confederate Battle II: Shiloh)

September 17, 1862 (Confederate Battle III: Antietam)

December 11-15, 1862 (Union Battle I: Fredericksburg)

April 30 - May 6, 1863 (Confederate Battle IV: Chancellorsville)

July 1-3, 1863 (Union Battle II: Gettysburg)

September 18-20, 1863 (Confederate Battle V: Chickamauga)

November 23-25, 1863 (Union Battle III: Chattanooga)

May 31 - June 12, 1864 (Confederate Battle VI: Cold Harbor)

January 15, 1865 (Union Battle IV: Fort Fisher)

April 2, 1865 (Union Battle V: Selma)

April 3, 1865 (Union Battle VI: Petersburg)


At the start of each battle, significant historical content is offered including narrated army movements, an imitated journal entry from a participant, and battle instructions from an anonymous leader. Often, an inspiring speech from an officer sets the player off into the battle.

History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided (Hard Mode Difficulty)

Similar to Lord Rigor's heavenly guidance of the Reverend in the Call of Juarez on Very Hard Difficulty, Lord Rigor leads a brief bible service to bless the army's march towards greatness. To begin, the Confederate perspective from the First Battle of Bull Run is presented. This battle is significantly more Difficult than the first Union battle and symbolizes the hardship that the South would face throughout the course of the American Civil War.


This is, however, an enjoyable initial experience because the player feels like a standard soldier within the larger Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Thrust into the heat of battle, death feels imminent from the outset.


History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided (Hard Mode Difficulty)

Although the Civil War: A Nation Divided was produced by the History Channel when the program was at it's prime, players cannot realistically expect comprehensive historical accuracy. In short, increased enjoyment derives from low expectations. And, for the historically inclined, an opportunity to verify any presented facts and self-educate.

An immediate example is the fact that soldiers generally below the rank of Sergeant didn't wield swords during this time period; unless taken from enemy corpses, of course. Naturally, no His Earthly rank, Lord Rigor insisted on charging across open fields shouting "Follow me to glory!"



This profound energy bears resemblance to the below lyrics from Immortal's song "Beyond the North Waves" on the album Sons of Northern Darkness:


Immortal, Beyond the North Waves, Sons of Northern Darkness

This mantra personifies a Union officer's noble perspective, despite the lyrics being in reference to Viking warfare. No matter the set or setting throughout history, relation can always be found between different human conflicts. Yes, Civil War heroes shall be eternally enshrined within the catacombs of human video games.


In reality, only officers and NCOs (non-commissioned officers) wielded swords into battle because it allowed the average solider to recognize leadership during chaotic fights. However, in the Civil War: A Nation Divided, the player is offered sporadic utilization of the sword across both Union and Confederate battles despite often being a lowly private.


It is a known fact that the Union had more men and resources than the Confederates during the American Civil War. Like their forebears that fought in the American Revolutionary War against the British, the South fought against a stronger enemy for four long years.


History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided (Hard Mode Difficulty)

Firearms are portrayed relatively accurately. Leading up to the American Civil War, gunpowder rifles were primarily fired with single rounds which included the Springfield musket and the Sharps rifle of the North and South respectively. Early in the player's gameplay experience, reload times may seem frustrating especially for the Springfield rifle. However, it is a mistake to underestimate the accuracy of these tried-and-true weapons.


One can only sympathize with how a soldier in 1861 felt during this era of combat… Lord Rigor embraced this realism. Hunkering down and reloading behind trees or hay barrels offered blissful opportunities to observe natural surroundings near the Mason-Dixon line. Whether in the dandelion fields of Georgia, the dense oak forests of Virginia, or the Atlantic Ocean waterfront of North Carolina, many wondrous American lands were ravaged upon.




Hard Mode


Wars are Hard. When deciding to play a historical video game, effort should be taken to consider oneself in that time period. Certainly, in life, there is no mercy nor checkpoints, and Hard Mode is always the natural outcome. In the Civil War: A Nation Divided, this increased Difficulty is described in the manual as the following:

Hard Mode is for advanced users. Enemies cause more damage to your character and you cause less damage to the enemies. Accuracy and reaction time are also improved for your enemies.

In addition, the manual outlines an interesting range of suggested military tactics:


History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided (Hard Mode Difficulty)

Lord Rigor particularly appreciates the concept of the high ground which is accurately described as "one of the most important concepts in warfare." This is best represented in the Battle of Antietam in 1862 in which 500 Confederate men from Georgia held off 14,000 Union soldiers at Burnside Bridge. Indeed, the bridge's namesake is not a positive reflection of that particular Union general's leadership.



In the History Channel's adaptation of Antietam in Confederate Battle III, Confederate cannoneers took full advantage of the high ground overlooking Antietam Creek. Burnside Bridge is a ghastly funnel of death.


Whether attacking or defending, it is important to understand how to efficiently change weapons in the Civil War: A Nation Divided. Throughout the course of a single Battle, the player may inherit up to a half-dozen different rifles; each have a unique purpose if utilized wisely. Entering enemy engagements at full power is critical on Hard Mode. With bullets loaded in each barrel, the player may adapt to the changing chaos of battle without having to find cover and reload.


Practicing the nuances of weapon cycling will yield success. There isn't a heads-up display (HUD) and changing weapons is a sequential one-by-one process. When new weapons are acquired, take the time to reload each gun and memorize the order sequence. Death will find the Union or Confederate soldier that accidentally equips a low-range repeater rifle whilst intending to shoot an enemy across a field with a sniper rifle.


History Channel: Civil War - A Nation Divided (Hard Mode Difficulty)

Without checkpoints on Hard Mode, typical survival instincts include ammunition and health conservation. Each Battle offers sporadic replenishment, albeit some more than others. For example, Confederate Battle I of Bull Run is a Difficult introduction because of its prolonged length and lack of resources. In comparison, Union Battle IV at Fort Fisher has a plethora of med-kits that encourage an unstoppable momentum.


Momentum. A simple action that wins wars yet eludes many a military leader. In the American Civil War historical fiction novel, The Last Full Measure, Confederate General in Chief Robert E. Lee reflects on the importance of momentum as the war enters its third year:

Our defenses, our strong trenches... keep us from moving like we used to. We are slowed down by the only thing that can save us. He thought of Jackson, spoke to him: You would not have understood trenches. You would not sit still in the face of the enemy. You would press forward, mobile, fast. (Shaara p. 255)

The first two years of the war were drastically different than the last two. Early on, both the Union and Confederate armies made swift military decisions in an attempt to end the war as quickly as possible. Neither side could fathom losing over 500,000 combined dead countrymen by war's end. Union Brigadier General Chamberlain considers each armies differences during those final years:

That is the lesson. This war will be won by the men who move forward, who do not stop to question what they do or what the consequences will be. It is not cause or country or the fellow beside you. It is simple and direct. The rebels were winning this war when they had men like Jackson. Now we are winning this war because we have men like Sheridan. (Shaara p. 421)

Lord Rigor instills fear with His own form of momentum and many Battles followed a similar breakneck framework wholly focused on speed...


...in one example, Lord Rigor's officer sword waves and so begins the courageous charge towards the enemy trench. Single-fire repeater rifles rain hellfire whilst sprinting across the open field. Crude grenades are thrown to soften the enemy. No need to reload because Lord Rigor is already hurdling the dead and into the ugly face of His foes. Any remaining opponents are either retreating or now engaged in brutal hand-to-hand combat. The enemy is routed as those brave enough to stand and fight are pierced with knife, bayonet, or sword. A Hard Mode victory.




Conclusion


Is this a worthy Challenge? Yes.


Difficulty is straightforward in the Civil War: A Nation Divided, and an uncompromising momentum is necessary on Hard Mode. Never before had history witnessed a greater risk to the human cranium and foot speed became critical. In response to the invention of repeater rifles and machine guns, Planet Earth's crust was excavated and trench warfare was subsequently standardized. The stage was set for the next monumental conflict of World War I.


War breeds innovation and has fundamentally shaped all eras of human history. Of the many examples throughout the American Civil War, perfecting the operations of railroad supply lines were paramount for an effective 19th century army. Indeed, the final days of the war merely involved the Confederate army defending train depots in order to eat.

The Civil War: A Nation Divided succeeds in its historical vision. Charging the enemy in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains with a dozen other comrades is an incredible experience. Moreover, if only a few more human character models had been designed, the immersion could have been near absolute. Nevertheless, Hard Mode Challengers shall never forget those they fought or died alongside; even if most looked the same in this digital setting.




References


  1. Sharra, Jeff. The Last Full Measure. Ballantine Books (2000). jeffshaara.com/product/the-last-full-measure-hardcover

  2. Immortal. "Beyond the North Waves." Sons of Northern Darkness. Nuclear Blast (2002). immortal.bandcamp.com/album/sons-of-northern-darkness

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