Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Steel Armor: Basra 86

Finally I got an opening in my time to install and play some of the newest Steel Armor's DLC Basra 86.

The DLC comes with a new map (a portion of the Shatt al-Arab river) with a campaign to go tanking as Iraq or Iran.

Steel Armor is a high fidelity simulation of armor showcasing the Soviet T-62 and the US M60A1, from shell penetration, ballistics, the (sometimes feeble) morale of the crew members all the way down to the pressure of the tank over muddy terrain. Every position in the crew is playable, including the driver who has to deal with gears and the stress of being hit in the teeth by a SABOT round. Highly immersive as other Graviteam offerings in the WWII theater of operations.

There is a fair amount of night combat, so those infrared searchlights come in handy for your mean. And for the enemy, who can see your tank's high intensity beam.

The interiors are very detailed. Note the hand of the crewmember trying to move the range of the ballistic computer (I think).
Prodigious amounts of dirt and smoke will demand some steel nerves when the commander goes blind.

Look at those illumination flares slowly falling from the pitch dark sky. Somebody has troops down there ...

Iranian obstacles everywhere. Where is my infantry?

Moving towards the assembly point for a night time attack. Those headlights will go off soon ...
You may think that the desert is flat in this part of the world. However, there are plenty of ditches which can bog you tank down.

The tactical map and the orders interface.
Graviteam has come a long way from its previous releases. Documentation is better now and the interface, although it may take some time for the newbies, is functional. Just make sure to read the manual, please.

Do you have what it takes to be a loader? 


Brad Koziey said...

First I wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog, you put a lot of effort into it and I always look forward to your updates.

I've done some Steel Beats before and liked it because it wasn't arcade like but a sim. I know you're also a SB fan so I was wondering how Steel Armour compares to SB. I don't expect it to be as detailed a sim as SB. Does SA scratch the itch for some one looking for tank sim? Is it stable? What is the AI like?

Looking forward to your comments.

JC said...

Thanks, Brad for reading the blog.

SA is a sim too and it is as detailed as SB. One could argue that some aspects of SA are better than SB (the physics of the tracks are phenomenal).

Smaller maps (that's a Graviteam trademark) and a limited variety of them. Also, just two tanks available (T62 and M60A1).

I don't know what is your cup of tea regarding the scenarios. SA features Afghanistan 1979-1989, the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 and Angola 1975-ish. You can make your own scenarios with just a few clicks, but you are limited to a few maps.

Very stable with a capable AI (it better be, the game is single player only).

The most valuable thing in Graviteam games is how immersive they are. The confusion of battle is phenomenal.

SA suffers only in the documentation and interface department. But is not difficult to pick up. I am a veteran from the very early times of Graviteam and now it is second nature.


NW said...

The driving in SABoW is also more involved than in SB Pro PE; of course the latter is not intended as an AFV driving simulator.

XIII said...

The driving in Sabow is fun and challenging, do not take 90 degree turns at full speed, you will lose track, litterally.

You can compare Sabow to what the Ka-50 Blackshark sim was before DCS world, and that is a good thing. Especially playing the Tank commander role can be quite a challenge. And if that is not enough, you can manage multiple tanks (up to 4) in a platoon. I remember a scene from the movie "the beast of war" where the commander asks a crewmember to see how deep the water is in order to cross it with a tank, well... In Sabow, if your tank risks to be flooded while crossing a ditch with water, the driver will simply not cross it. Different terrain has an impact on the speed of your tank as well.

There are a few minor flaws but they are negligible. For example IIRC all voices are in Russian, so prepare to hear a lot of "Spiriot", na Ljeva and na Prava (forward, to the left and to the right) The good thing is... it will teach you some basic russian so what's wrong with that? If you have ever played the tank missions in RTS titles like Combat Mission Shock Force or Combat Mission Afganistan, this would be what you experience in a first person perspective.

For those who are familiar with the sim: a few tips when playing Sabow: Your CTRL and SHIFT keys might help you when traversing your guns or your sights (in regards to speed and aiming accuracy), and if playing as the commander be sure to press the "arcade joystick icon" on the bottom interface a number of times if your 'myopic' aiming sights are "stuck" facing in one direction.

If you're a simmer and you're into tanks get this you will not regret it, hell even if you're not into tanks, get it anyway. In terms of computing power you will not need high end rig, but it does help. The learning curve is steep, not as steep as flying the heavy modules in DCS, but it comes close. Don't expect to master this game in an afternoon. Like for all good things, like good books, this one takes time.

Colin Coulter said...

I bounced off SB when the AI repeatedly failed to manage to cross a bridge. What is the AI like in SA in terms of babysitting duties?

JC said...

Thanks for all your comments.

Colin, in SA the AI handles bridge crossings quite well. I noticed an improvement in SB as of the latest update. Did you upgrade?


Jayson Ng said...

Gunnery is obviously harder in Sabow than SB. This is because of lower tech (no laser range finders). That said, gameplay is more involved than SB's point and shoot. The AI crews are better in SABOW as they can do nifty things like commander measuring range for you when you are the gunner, driver automatically going in hull down mode while loading and popping out when ready to fire.

UI is better in my opinion because yu have lots of buttons on the screen (with hot key equivalent displayed in tooltip). No need to memorize hot keys.

Skip the manual. The tutorial missions are good and fairly detailed.

Jayson Ng said...

Some additional points:

AI Crew can be ordered to switch positons to replace the dead.

You can order them to dismount and fix a broken track (but maybe not practical in battle).

Not to mention a dynamic campaign that is badly needed in SB.

Jayson Ng said...
This comment has been removed by the author.