It’s always a little strange when you have a Japanese parent company looking after a British based developer that work out of Belarus creating a Second World War RTS game where you can choose to play the Germans against Stalin on the Eastern front. Confused? Yeah. Me too.
In order to clear things up, I went to a little event in the Cabinet War Rooms in London to see if I could make any sense of what was going on.
It’s common knowledge that Square Enix has been trying to get its way into the European market for the last few years, and its recent acquisition of Eidos has helped the Japanese publisher concentrate on expanding its global empire. What better way to do it then, than with an RTS game based in WWII? Now before I go slating the game choice I think it’s important to put the game into context.
Wargaming.net, the guys developing the game have a long and established history in turn-based and RTS titles. They did all the Assault games – Massive Assault and Galactic Assault – so are well-versed in the art of strategy gaming.
Now with Square trying to break the western market, it would only be fitting to start its adventures with a game setting which western audiences can’t seem to get enough of, and that’s the war.
With this in mind, and knowing the developers are keen historians, it seems like a gamble which shouldn’t go wrong – not only does the the game sport an intuitive UI, the AI seems equally solid. Your troops respond quickly to your orders and, even when left to their own devices, they’re smart enough to fire at the enemy with appropriate weapons. The visual side of things is also impressive, with nice animations and more camera angles than a Kino Eye film. And this is exactly what Square Enix and Wargaming.net want. A fluid strategy game which captures the essence of war, while serving up real battles from real locations.
The game is based in 1944, and concentrates solely on the battles that determined the outcome of the war. Don’t worry, however hard you might try to convince yourself that this is just another RTS title, you’d be wrong. For a start there is no real resource management (although you can request reinforcements once you’ve earned enough points), there is no production line, you simply need to concentrate on your military tactics. And you’ll need to perfect them because the campaigns are gritty and unnerving. You’re not expected to waltz on to the battlefield, troop heavy, and swarm a map. Instead here is a more tactical game where your objectives vary as you progress through the mission.
An example; as I played through one of the two missions on offer (the other wouldn’t load), my primary objective was to capture villages and towns along the Seine to secure the road to Paris. Instead of storming the map I had to play each section through separately, first by countering an ambush, then by destroying anti-air guns on top of a hill that were knocking the hell out of my air support, then calling in said air support to take out enemies behind the line only to defend your hilltop position from an overwhelming counterstrike. Although it’s one massive mission, each section is preceded by a cut-scene, adding a nice cinematic element to the gameplay.
But as you progress through the mission, you start generating resources for more troops, tanks or whatever it is you need. I ended up blowing all my budget on tanks and it helped, although I was playing through the easiest difficulty, and in that mode your general keeps delivering reinforcements making it difficult to lose without employing some truly moronic tactics. So far, Square Enix’s first WWII game is looking promising. The impressive visuals are backed up bywhich ensure that the game will run at a reasonable pace for most PC gamers. While the genre is not exactly crying out for another WWII-based title, that’s not to say there isn’t space for a solid RTS which gets the essentials right and Order of War may just be that game.
Order of War will be released later this year on PC, and watch out for our video interview with CEO of Wargaming.net, Victor Kislyi, early next week.