Videogame (1989). Maelstrom Games (MG). Designed by Mike Singleton. Platforms: AtariST (1989); Amiga, DOS (1990).
Midwinter is an unusual combination of real time Computer Role Playing Game and Computer Wargame, set on an isolated island in the aftermath of a devastating meteorite strike which has plunged Near Future Earth into a world wide winter (see Disaster). The design echoes that of Singleton's previous work, the Heroic Fantasy Lords of Midnight (1984) (see Computer Wargames), and its sequel Doomdark's Revenge (1985 Beyond, C64, Spectrum; 1986 Amstrad) designed by Mike Singleton. The player begins the game in control of a single individual, and must recruit a diverse group of characters with which to fight a guerrilla war against an invading army. Many potential soldiers can only be persuaded to fight by others who are their lovers or close friends, adding a surprising degree of strategic depth to the gameplay. Once recruited, individuals can perform many different actions, including spying, sabotage, first aid, sniping at the enemy and travelling across the automatically generated three-dimensional terrain using skis, snowmobiles, cable cars or hang gliders. Each character has specific skills which are useful in different circumstances; a skiing instructor might prove helpful for obtaining a vehicle from a distant village, but a mining engineer would be better suited to sabotaging an enemy installation. However, while the strategic aspects of the game are engaging, many players found the real-time combat and movement overly difficult to master, and on occasion monotonous. Ultimately, Midwinter is a more original but perhaps less enjoyable game than Lords of Midnight, its entirely turn-based predecessor.
Related works: The sequel, Flames of Freedom (1991 MG, Amiga, AtariST, DOS) designed by Mike Singleton, is set many years later, on a newly warming Post-Holocaust Earth. The Free Villages of Midwinter have become the Atlantic Federation, which is fighting a covert war with the Saharan Empire; the player character's mission is to promote revolution in the Saharan occupied islands which lie between the territories of the two adversaries. Flames of Freedom offers many more options than Midwinter but is, arguably, too complex; its design lacks the elegance shown in the first game. [NT]
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