Vietnam ’65 handed me a decisive defeat in my first campaign in about 20 turns, when my Political Score reached 0 and 2 Green Beret units were killed by North Vietnamese troops less than two minutes apart.

I persevered, but my second attempt at pacification of the South Vietnamese villages ended when I failed to secure some jungle areas.

My Hearts and Minds score dipped under 50 with ten turns to go, and I was never able to bring it up.

I then explored the manual for Vietnam ’65 in depth and took in all the offered tutorials, and I managed to win a game on my fifth attempt.

The result was achieved by employing a mix of ARVN troops and regular infantry to secure all the villages I needed to win.

Story

Vietnam ’65 is an interesting take on the period and the conflict because it does not try to be very historically accurate and the year mentioned in the title does not indicate the content that’s included.

Every Single Soldier is ready to take people to Vietnam but this might not necessarily be the war that they remember from movies and from books (only a small number of video games have used it as a setting).

The entire experience eschews the strategic  level and creates a single operation for the player to deal with, which is inspired by not completely modeled on real world events.

Vietnam ’65 drops gamers in a random generated scenario and asks them to patrol a territory and to make sure that they keep the Hearts and Minds level of the various villages in the area above 50.

Vietnam ’65 complexity

Vietnam '65 complexity

The game has a lot of elements that define the Vietnam War: Vietcong forces, North Vietnamese units, Huey patrolling the skies, Green Berets taking enemies out in the jungle, political points slowly draining as the conflict fails to go according to plans and more.

There’s not a clear pre-defined narrative to the game created by Every Single Soldier but this is the kind of experience that creates stories, both for smaller time frames and for the entire 45 turns that make a campaign.

The biggest problem with the story side of the game is that it’s often hard to convey the events, exciting as they might be, to someone who has not played Vietnam ’65.

The big positive is that no other computer game has managed to model the pacifications strategy of the United States during the real world conflict so well.

Gameplay

Vietnam ’65 is a turn-based video game that focuses on tactics and logistics and gives players control over a varied array of units, each of them with a clear set of uses and abilities.

Each map is randomly generated and will always contain 10 Vietnamese villages and one United States base of operations, which initially is filled with three units of infantry, one Green Beret, three choppers, one artillery and a unit of engineers.

Gamers need to keep an eye on a Hearts and Minds  level, which shows how effective their efforts are, and on Political Support, which determines the assets that they can deploy, and only victories replenish it.

In order to get info on the enemy, which pops up from hidden locations, gamers need to move infantry units into the villages, which also makes them more friendly in the long-term.

But the basic grunts are slow and carry limited supplies, which means Huey helicopters are necessary in order to ferry them around and to keep the supplied (a unit that no longer has provisions dies, which is a major tragedy).

The Green Berets are the units that can spot enemies that the villages did not reveal, and players can then employ artillery fire to take out NVA and Vietcong at range.

Armored assets are also available, but their use is hindered by the jungle, which means engineers are needed to clear forests and to build the needed roads.

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All the time the enemy Vietnamese forces will pop up at the worst moments in order to attack infantry and to launch RPGs at choppers, undermining the careful and complex work of the gamer.

Vietnam ’65 is about intel and logistics more about actual combat, and a winning strategy needs to make the Huey fleet the star of the game.

Choppers can be expensive and fragile, but gamers need to use them and well-placed fire bases to make sure that their troops are always supplied and move quickly between points of interest.

Vietnam ’65 could use a few more explanations in the tutorial area, but the gameplay is both thematic and challenging.

Graphics and audio

Vietnam ’65 is played from a top-down perspective and uses relatively simple and informative graphics to show the progress of the game and the way the player’s units perform.

Gamers can zoom in to take a closer look at the models, which lack details but never cross the threshold to ugliness, but most of the time it’s a good idea to take in as much of the battle space as possible.

Every Single Soldier has created an easy to use interface, which makes it simple to issue orders and to keep track of how the United States forces are performing.

I would have liked to see more details on terrain and unit action areas shown on the map, and a little more attention to detail would have been welcomed.

On the other hand, Vietnam ’65 looks good enough give then kind of experience it is aiming to offer.

The sound design is also limited but effective, although some classical music might suit the theme better.

Multiplayer

Vietnam ’65 does not have a multiplayer mode and only allows the player to play against the Artificial Intelligence, which is surprisingly capable when using the Veteran mode.

It would be interesting to turn the entire experience into a two player title but it seems that the resources required are so high that the development team might choose to focus on expanding the single player experience for the moment.


The Good

  • Solid re-creation of Vietnam situations
  • Logistic focus

The Bad

  • Can be hard to learn
  • Limited graphics

Conclusion

Vietnam ’65 is an interesting video game but it is unlikely that it will manage to gain a huge audience in its current form, because it is working with a setting that’s not particularly attractive and because it makes logistics more important than actual combat.

The game is trapped in an area where grognards will avoid it because it is not historically accurate and where mainstream players will be scared by the mechanics.

That would be a shame because Every Single Soldier has created an engaging scenario that will challenge even the smartest strategy lovers even on Normal difficulty.

It will also ask them to learn a little more about a conflict that’s not often in the public eye.

The development team at Every Single Soldier is aiming to introduce a major patch relatively soon in order to make some tweaks to both the core mechanics and the user interface and to add a few new features.

Vietnam ’65 is offered on the PC but also for the iPad and its campaign length make the title a very good fit for a wargame fan who spend a lot of time on the move.

Every strategy lover should try the title for at least three of four full 45 turn campaigns in order to see what it has to offer and I suspect those who do will stay in love with it for quite a few more playthroughs.

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