Working in conjunction with Games of History (i.e. myself), we previously brought you a story about Shadows of War: The Spanish Civil War. The game focused on the 1936-1939 Spanish Civil War. This conflict pitted the government loyalist Republicans against the Nazi Germany backed fascist Nationals. Lacking additional information we believed the game either hadn’t been released, or had been lost somehow. Thanks to a comment on our last video from Dr. Quijano, we were able to uncover new information.
It turns out the game was released by Legend Studio in 2007 as intended, but only in Spain. Because of this, it was only ever officially recognized by its Spanish name, Sombras de Guerra: La Guerra Civil Espanola. This made finding information about it using its English name impossible.
Why wasn’t the game ever released outside of Spain? The fact that it was a low-budget indie game didn’t help. However, it’s most likely due to the negative reception it received in Spain. Some backlash clearly came from the controversial decision to let gamers play as the Nazi backed Nationalists in the campaign. However, Shadows of War had another, more pressing problem. It was terrible.
What They Said
Several Spanish websites wrote reviews and other articles discussing the game. One, from Meristation, who gave the game a 3 out of 10 wrote:
“Shadows of War could be an excellent game, but it’s not. As a digital documentary, the game is – to some extent – coherent and accurate, although it does, of course, take some historical licenses. Still, as an RTS from 2007, Shadows of War is, simply, a poor recreation of the 1936 conflict.”
Another from 3DJuegos writes:
“Because of the way that troop order was implemented, it was nearly impossible for us to get the troops to form as we wanted – and there are only three formations available. […] Taking, for example, six soldiers on a trek can be an epic side quest, as maybe half of them will follow orders, two will go through some alternate route and become lost, and one will just stand there, probably praying to not get shot and to be saved from the incompetence of his colleagues.”
The list goes on and on. Basically, the general sentiment from every review I found was that the game was garbage. Looking at gameplay footage, you can see why nobody was really a fan. Remember, this game came out in 2007 looking like this.
When Good Intentions Go Awry
Lead developer Francisco Perez, has stated that Sombras de Guerra was intended to spark conversation in Spain about the war. “As well as being entertaining, it could serve to remind people that they need to be conscious of past events to make sure they are not repeated.”
Despite his intentions, the game was poorly executed. Both in its historical accuracy and its gameplay. As a result, conversation shifted from the war and its resulting fascist Franco regime. Instead the focus became how the game managed to butcher historical events. This, in turn, lead to the typical debates about whether video games can tackle serious subjects and if they’re too violent.
In an article on El Pais, Santiago Macias, the vice president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, stated:
“By putting both sides in an equal playing field,” he says, “the game gives a wrong impression. A video game about the Civil War should have an educational component and explain that it’s about a military uprising against a constitutional and legal government. In Second World War games this is no longer needed, but the Civil War is a relatively new conflict to come into mass consciousness and does require this didactic labor.”
By not doing justice to the history and standing in their own way, both Perez and Shadows of War failed to accomplish what they set out to do. For more information about the game and why it failed so miserably, be sure to check out our Games of History video above.