American Heritage History of the Civil War
The American Heritage History of the Civil War (beta), a new two-disc extravaganza from Byron Preiss Multimedia/ Simon & Schuster Interactive, explores that war through a variety of sections that include People, Culture, Campaigns, Themes (such as Slavery, Government, and the Home Front), Timeline, Rank and Regalia, and more. There’s even a Strategy Game, where the goal “is not to win strategic military victories … but rather to inflict damage until the opposing side becomes weary of war and surrenders,” much like the real war itself. The carnage and idealistic passion evoked by the conflict are well represented here, at times with a bit more melodrama than others; meticulous, fascinating breakdowns of specific battles can be found alongside dramatized video statements from “young soldiers,” who more often than not have bloody bandages wrapped around their skulls as they act ferociously for the camera. These slice-of-life scenes from the battlefield are a bit overdone from an aesthetic point-of-view, but as a way of demonstrating the emotional costs of the dry statistics being discussed, they work. Everything else on the CD-ROM is pretty much beyond reproach (we had slight troubles with the music dropping out, but we assume it’s because the program we looked was a beta). Text passages on all subjects are bolstered with video interviews from experts, and there’s some multimedia you can really sink your teeth into, like the songs included in the “Music and Art” subdivision of Culture, which are presented in their entirety. The animated strategy maps that illustrate campaigns and battles are clear without being simplistic. History of the Civil War is a well-conceived and well-executed multimedia work.
– December 1995, History & Mythology