Midwinter (video game)
Atari ST cover art
|Release date(s)||1989 (Atari St, PC)
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing game, simulation game, strategy game|
Midwinter is a first-person action role-playing game with strategy elements for the Atari ST, Amiga and PC. It was designed by Mike Singleton and was released in 1989 by Microplay Software. The game was successful enough to spawn a sequel, Midwinter II: Flames of Freedom. The Amiga version was re-released by Kixx XL in 1993.
The game is set on the 160,000-square-mile (410,000 km2) isle of Midwinter, in 2099 when the entire world is covered in snow and ice in a post-apocalyptic scenario. The game package included a quite lengthy manual narrating the game's backstory in a short novel.
The game's accompanying manual describes a cataclysmic meteorite strike in Burma around 2040 which caused impact winter. The ensuing diamond dust covering the Earth caused a global cooling and consequently major economical, political and military tumult. Populace of the northern areas died of glaciation and famine whereas the more temperate zones became overcrowded because of migration. As the glaciers advance, the sea level lowered, providing more habitable space.
Midwinter island has been formed following massive volcanic activity in the Azores island group; Pico Island, Sao Jorge Island and Terceira Island became its mountains. The manual describes how the island was settled between 2060 and 2081 by waves of survivors and refugees from the mainland, and the formation of the local militia called Free Villages Police Force (FVPF). At the start of the game, despotic General Masters is attempting to take over the island by force.
The player has control of Captain John Stark, the commander of FVPF. The player takes control as Stark is ambushed by one of General Masters' units of missile-armed snowmobiles. Stark, initially armed only with a handful of grenades, a sniper rifle and a pair of skis, must initially make his escape and alert the rest of islanders, and resist the invasion. This is done by travelling around Midwinter, recruiting civilians and other members of FVPF available, and mounting a guerrilla warfare campaign to stem the tide of Masters' troops and ultimately stop him by destroying his headquarters in Shining Hollow, in the extreme south-east of the island, before his forces capture all of the major settlements on the island.
The game uses a timer system to simulate the simultaneous operation of the recruits. The player has two hours of game-time to play as each of his characters, and once that recruit's timer runs out, the player starts controlling the next one in line. Only after the player has spent the two hours with all of his characters does the game's clock move forward, and a new series of turns begins.
Midwinter is covered in snow, and has some nigh-impassable mountainous regions as well as some flat rolling plains. There were many different variables to take into account (characters' skills, terrain, etc.) when deciding how to move around. The entire island was rendered with shaded 3D polygons.
Characters can move around in several ways. Skiing is always available provided the character isn't badly injured, but is the slowest method of travel. Characters can find or salvage snowmobiles which are substantially quicker and usually armed, but have trouble with rough terrain and are lost when wrecked. Cable cars provide fixed transport routes into mountainous regions, where hang gliders can be found allowing characters to fly limited distances.
Each of the 32 recruits has a history of their own, which decides their allegiances and various skills. This history provides clues on whether or not the current player character will be able to recruit any other given recruit. For example, Stark can recruit Nurse Maddocks, as they are engaged; however, Stark cannot recruit Grazzini, as he is jealous of Stark's relationship with Maddocks. Some of the more useful recruits are only recruitable by a couple of other characters, and a successful strategy involves recruiting these people as swiftly as possible. For example, Prof Kristiansen (an excellent saboteur and the only character with the special ability to break through the enemy's radio jamming) can only be recruited by his grandson, Davy Hart, or Adams, Hart's girlfriend, who in turn, are only recruitable by a handful of other characters. Some characters are held prisoner by the enemy, and must be freed by destroying the building they're in with explosives.
During the game, recruits can pick up injuries (but not be killed). Injuries can be either slight or severe, and can be sustained on different body areas. Injuries heal over time (accelerated by first aid and sleep), but different injuries affect a character in different ways; for example, an injured arm reduces sniping accuracy, whereas an injured leg reduces skiing top speed, stamina and increases the likelihood of a crash. Head and torso injuries affect all activities. If a character is severely injured they will not be able to perform activities such as skiing and driving, in which case they will be immobilized and must use a distress flare, whereupon they will be rescued and transported to the nearest building (which may be enemy controlled, in which case the character is captured).
Enemy forces consist of a variety of missile-armed snowbuggies and unarmed supply vehicles. The average unit consists of around 50 vehicles, and four units make up one squadron. Individual vehicles can be destroyed by rifle fire, grenades or missiles. Units can be eliminated by killing the unit/squadron commander, or by destroying a certain proportion of the unit's vehicles, effectively routing the unit. The difficulty level of the game is modified by enabling the enemy to use mortars fire (guided by spotter planes) and/or attack aircraft.
Midwinter was very well received at the time of release. The game won many awards, including 97% / Zzap Gold Medal by Zzap 64 (Amiga version), 96% / CU Super Star by CU Amiga, 96% / Amiga Computing Supreme by Amiga Computing, 94% / Star Player by The Games Machine for both Amiga and Atari ST versions, 94% and Zero Hour by Zero (PC version), and 92% / Amiga Format Gold by Amiga Format.
Midwinter was covered by Eurogamer in a retrospective article, which praised the mix of genres the game contained, calling it "a unique creature; a priceless transitional specimen in the fossil record of gaming." In their 2009 retrospective article, Edge wrote: "Playing it felt like time travel – a sneak peak at the blueprint that showed how games were going to be. It was then, and is now, an enormous accomplishment." GameSpot featured Midwinter in its feature article "Unsung Heroes" about the 10 games most deserving "more recognition than they received" and should be "remembered for their contributions to their respective genres and to gaming as a whole."
- Zzap64 60 (April 1990)
- CU Amiga (May 1990)
- Amiga Computing Vol 3 No 3 (August 1990)
- The Games Machine 32 (July 1990)
- The Games Machine 30 (May 1990)
- Zero 5 (March 1990)
- Amiga Format 12 (July 1990)
- Whitehead, Dan (2010-12-19). "Retrospective: Midwinter Article - Retro - Page 1". Eurogamer.net. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
- "Time Extend: Midwinter". Next-gen.biz. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
- "Unsung Heroes: Ground Breaking Games". Web.archive.org. 2010-07-07. Retrieved 2013-11-16.