Blitzkrieg 2 - game review

Date: 2005-11-04 12:54:00
The review was based on the PC version.

I don't remember anymore what day it was, whether it was beautiful and serene or foggy and rainy. Anyway, I was lying quietly on my crib (behind the wall next to me some frustrated "grandfather" was tormenting "cats"), counting the days left to break out of this mess. I was already at 364 when suddenly a roar shook the walls as if someone had driven a tank inside. He is the boss of the company, an unstoppable and despotic person with a scary sounding and scary nickname among the young military, "Shuck". Menacingly, pissing off the flamethrower he never parted with, he walked over and handed me a written order. There was no alternative - either a review and a guide to Blitzkrieg II , or a week of peeling potatoes for the entire battalion and digging anti-tank ditches with a teaspoon. Hmm, maybe it was completely different, in brighter colors ... A voice deep inside tells me that I wanted to ...

In Blitzkrieg II , 3 campaigns (American, Soviet and German) are at the player's disposal. Each of them consists of four chapters-operations, and these, in turn, have 5-6 missions, sometimes 7. In total, it gives about 70 (!) Scenarios - I was delighted! I will also let my head be cut off that there are some bonus, hidden missions in the game (I found it after burial in the game - I even managed to load one of such mysterious missions from the console). All those who are looking for a game for at least a few autumn weeks should feel satisfied. Not only that, the authors did not stop at creating a really large number of missions, but followed a very pleasant blow and added a powerful mission editor to the game along with an extensive manual in PDF.

All this makes the Blitzkrieg II a really long life. Multiply these 70 missions by the four difficulty levels you can play, add all those scenarios that are likely to be made by fans using the editor, and ask the question - how long will I be playing this? The answer is probably - at least a few months ... In my opinion, the playability of the scenarios is worse. Yes, there were fun and addictive ones (e.g. racing with another commander who would take a critical intersection first, securing the evacuation of allied troops or escorting a convoy of vehicles), but there were also missions that simply bored me. For example, the first two chapters of the Soviet campaign are mostly missions where you defend yourself, and how long can you shoot hordes of attacking enemies before we get bored of that?

Besides, I would prefer if each chapter of the campaign was related to a different period of fights and took place in a different region of the world, on a different theater, e.g. the American campaign is the struggle in the Pacific, fights in Africa, Operation Husky, Overlord, Ardennes, etc. In the German campaign, we are dealing with a similar spread (we start with the pogrom of the French, then we jump to Africa, we continue our fight in Russia, and finally we move to the Ardennes), as an American we spend most of the game in the jungle fighting with the Japanese, and in the last chapter we are moving, neither from coarse nor from hell, to Germany. The authors' inconsistency surprised me a bit to the downside.

We have access to the battles of a given chapter through its map. However, it is very simplified, we do not move any units on it, such as on the operation maps in Close Combat , thus we do not specify the type of units that will take part in the battle. They are imposed on us from above, by the computer (read: mission designer). We play the scenarios of a given chapter in any order (the game suggests its own), but to start the main (last) battle of the operation, we only need to complete 2-3-4 missions. However, each of these side missions gives us certain types of units (or upgrades those already available) that we can then use in a decisive fight, and without which this final victory is often difficult to achieve. In addition, units fighting in side battles gain experience (if they have an officer whom we assign to them in advance), which translates into acquiring new skills useful in further combat. This is a laudable solution because it motivates the player to play these seemingly unnecessary battles. On the other hand, some of the acquired skills are of questionable usefulness. A horse with a row, who will explain to me why who needs the ability to aim at the caterpillars of tanks, since you cannot take over the immobilized ones anyway? However, most of the gained bonuses can be useful ... The commanders themselves, without whom the units cannot "develop", apart from the name and face, unfortunately, do not bring any additional and characteristic factors (e.g. higher morale, etc.) "radiating" to their subordinates them units.

A new and undoubtedly praiseworthy idea is certainly (already during the battle) the possibility for the player to summon reserves (in any order and time) via the reinforcement panel. As a result, we do not have to pray to the computer that it will cast us the necessary reinforcements in the hot moment of the battle, we are not dependent only on its grace or disgrace. This gives us new tactical possibilities, for example, we can drop paratroopers on some key location on the board. Or is it better to summon tanks or bombers? There is a choice, there is an option, there is an alternative. Of course, such a system can give rise to some abuses, but on the other hand, we cannot call for meals an unlimited number of times, or one after another without interruptions. In fact, if the weather is bad, we won't call in bombers or drop paratroopers. In addition, frequent use of them in a side battle means a smaller number of them in further fights, including the main one (they are subtracted from the total pool for a given operation), as well as our slower promotion.

I was also a bit disappointed in the way battles were conducted. I would prefer the Close Combat solution, where one board was used several times and we were fighting "in installments", winning it piece by piece. In the meantime, we moved on to another match, and then we went back to the previous battle starting from the positions we had won previously. Here we either win the battle and move on to the next one, or we replay the mission from the beginning if we have given the bodies.

The most important change affected the game in terms of graphics - the authors moved away from the two-dimensional to 3D. However, fans of the previous edition, even those with the most conservative views, should not be disappointed. Then we are dealing with the same little walkers and little tanks (you can be childish ;-), I really don't see any major differences. The attention to detail of the environment is amazing - cows or sheep grazing in the fields, scarecrows and haystacks standing on them, and even ... some laundry hanging on ropes next to country houses. The buildings themselves are also of many types (country and town houses, factories, warehouses, lighthouses, mills, etc.), and the graphic designers put a lot of work into the dedication of each of them. And it shows - the city looks like a city, the countryside looks like a village, the factory has its own characteristic details, the railway station has its own. The only thing that looks worse in all this is the water but, gosh, you neither drink it nor swim on it (with some exceptions).

Virtually everything in this game is destructible, from trees to buildings. Tanks do not bounce off trees or poles, but break them with a characteristic crackle. Changeable weather conditions have been implemented in the program. During larger battles, the weather changes (fog, rain or snowfall) and it affects the gameplay, e.g. you cannot use certain types of aviation (bombing and assault) or drop paratroopers. You must wait for the relief. Some clashes take place at night - vehicles then turn on headlights, lanterns are lit in the streets, searchlights scour the sky.

The activities will take place at several theaters and we will fight in the Filipino jungle, on the African sands, snowy Ardennes or in snow-covered Russia. All these environments look great in terms of graphics, you shouldn't have any problems determining where you are at the moment. :-)

At first, I was delighted with the animations of walkers, especially the animations of their deaths - the rotation of the body in a truly Hollywood style after being hit by bullets, stretching the hand for air by the dying, and finally bending the body into a "sternum" at the last moment of life. A bit exaggerated and treated with a pinch of salt, but that's what draws attention, funny. On the other hand, it is in the animations that one of the game's flaws is visible in the demo - sometimes when walkers change the type of movement (from walking or running to crawling or vice versa) or occupying trenches, it looks as if they were sliding on the ground pushed by a mysterious strength. This is best seen in p-arm sections (e.g. soldiers with bazookas). There are also some strange slowdowns in infantry movement from time to time after putting them into aggressive movement mode, you need to re-command everything back to normal.

Explosions look good, especially bomb blasts dropped by bombers look extremely effective. And the effect of bombing cities looks even better - buildings have several "stages of damage" ranging from small to complete ruins. You can stick to the appearance of craters after the explosions, they are ordinary flat spots on the ground. One could also find fault with one more detail, namely the disintegrating wrecks of vehicles into which we drive our own tanks. Personally, I didn't like the corpses of foot soldiers disappearing from the battlefield after a short time (here, however, the hardware requirements come into play) and the complete lack of gore. It's just a game and a little bit of sauce would not hurt, it would be better if it was pouring on the screen than in reality ... Besides, in fact, if you did not use bombers during the mission, and just before its end, you wrecked all the wrecks visible on the board in fact, the map would look as if no battle had ever been fought on it. It's a pity ... However, in general, graphics are a strong point of this production.

The authors boast that they placed over 250 different units in their product, including 60 types of infantry. They probably did not fight in the calculations, but it must be mentioned that there are also "extras" (Makaronirze and Angola) over whom we have no control (or negligible). Among the more interesting machines that sow destruction, I will mention armored trains, railroad cannons (mortars) and V-2 rockets. So there is what and what to shoot. However, I was a bit disappointed with the vessels, which I had heard a little about before the game came out. I was counting on some battleships or aircraft carriers and sea fights, but in a few scenarios we only get boats to play, and in addition they are ... actually boats, nothing special.

I will mention one more thing that I did not quite like. Namely, in several American missions our forces land on the beach and go straight under the barrels of the Japanese. However, the sequence of unloading the units to the beach has been completely omitted, the landing barges simply approach the shore, and after a while our troops appear on it. I don't understand how it was possible to waste an opportunity for such a shambles; -) ... I mean the shambles are, but not quite what I would like.

Graphically, the units look very good despite their nefarious size. Unless you are a modeller who remembers even the smallest details of armored cars from that period, you shouldn't shake your head in disappointment. You will easily recognize the silhouettes of the armored "monsters" of that time. The authors even took care of painting the armor in a camouflage characteristic for the conflict region (compare English toys from Africa to those fighting in Germany). The number of units can be a layman's headache, but even if you are not familiar with the war equipment of that period and you cannot distinguish between a tank and a tractor, the game includes an encyclopedia with a description of individual units, which will help you find your way around the multitude. And maybe you will finally stop sending hordes of bikers on those Tigers and Panthers ... ;-)

I must admit that I didn't pay much attention to the music in the game. Time was just running out, I also had to write a guide for Blitzkrieg II , and as I am a player whose music disturbs the gameplay, I turned it off quite quickly. However, I managed to catch a few orchestral notes and if someone likes marches, he should be pleased. As for the sounds coming from the battlefield, they sound good. The groans of the dying, the roar of engines, gunfire or explosions do not make the face grimace, although they are also not extraordinary. Oh, I would say - standard. It also seems to me that they sound much better than in the previous installment of the game, especially cannon shots. Soldiers or vehicle commanders pronounce lines in their native languages, sometimes even sounding quite pathetic - for example in the case of the Russians: that the party ordered that they were under Stalin, etc. It's cool, because there is nothing more annoying than, for example, Germans shouting in pure English.

However, if you are not a polyglot, it can sometimes be difficult for you to understand what these screaming soldiers are all about at the moment. In my pop-up, Russian forced into it in elementary school did not catch on very well, I hated learning mechanically sounding German, so personally, I think that it would be nice to be able to turn on signatures in the game. Or maybe Russians and Germans speaking English with a characteristic accent? Besides, in one or two missions it happened to me that the soldiers shouted stupid things - while heating the p-flight to the enemy's infantry from the cannon, they yelled that they had noticed ... the plane.

The game interface has not changed much since its predecessor, it is still very simple and intuitive to use. A few mouse clicks, a few keystrokes and our army is divided according to our preferences and throws itself into the fight, allowing the player to easily control it. And yet these commands for units are not enough. Although maybe people sitting in the Blitzkrieg for a long time will have a small problem at the beginning, because, as far as I remember, orders were confirmed with the right mouse button in number one, and here it is right and left. However, you can get used to this small change quite quickly, especially if you have already played the demo of 2 before. Moving around the board also doesn't cause much trouble - to perform most of the activities (zooming in / out, rotating the camera, changing the viewing angle, etc.) you only need a mouse and its wheel. I am delighted with the ease of use, but this one was already known.

The artificial intelligence of the computer opponent is doing well. Things are worse in the case of entities under our control. Sometimes a juicy bunch will come out of your mouth when you see your units lost in the battlefield, unable to find the right way to the point where you told them to go. Or when you tell your tanks to retreat, when they hit too many opponents (e.g. anti-tank cannons), and instead of spraying backwards, they turn their backs to the enemy (the command "reverse enable" would be very useful). On the other hand, our own tanks can also surprise us pleasantly when, when encountering an opponent that they cannot bite from the front, they try to approach him from the side. Irritation can also be caused by the occasional chase of our units after a single enemy or his survivors, which may consequently lead to the collision of larger enemy forces (with which we did not want to fight yet) and the loss of our valuable army.

You could also stick to a few smaller flaws that I found in the game (apart from the ones mentioned above), such as tanks driving into buildings (broken collisions with objects). However, all these shortcomings are rare and do not cause the player too much irritation. Besides, some of them will certainly be improved or completely eliminated in patches (it seems that the first one has improved the wayfinding), so I wouldn't care too much about them.

What can be said about the realism of the game? Well, there is some ... definitely simplified, but quite sufficient for this type of production. Honestly, I was expecting something worse. We have some basics here (armor of different thickness depending on the side of the tank), we also have irritating omissions - e.g. a complete lack of morale in the infantry, he fights to the last. However, if we are able to approach the game (as I did) with the assumption that it is to provide us with unfettered entertainment, then Blitzkrieg II should not disappoint us.

Playability. Exactly, here's the dog buried. On the one hand, the game is very fast and dynamic, so you will definitely not be bored and sit idly by, on the other ... until you can get nystagmus. I personally missed the opportunity to see all the activities we undertook the most. I fired two or three brilliant actions simultaneously, which even Rommel would not be ashamed of, and I could only observe the course of one of them. It would be nice to be able to "undo the movie" and watch the action that you couldn't admire before, known from the unmatched Combat Mission. The dynamism of the game also means that you do not feel a great emotional connection ;-) with our subordinate units - you just lose one, you take the other and without much thought you throw it into the fight without too much bothering with its fate. If she died / was destroyed, you don't cry about it, but if she does heroic deeds, then ... you probably won't even notice it. The speed of the game results in ... no memories. And these are what I appreciate the most after contact with the game, they make me return or not to a given title sooner or later. In Combat Mission, you remember many actions even a few months after the end of the game. So if after the game you say: "Stalingrad? Yes, I was there, but ... I have amnesia ", something is wrong with either your memory or the game ...

To sum up, Blitzkrieg II is a product that should not disappoint fans of the first game. They will find here a large portion (number of missions) of well-known fun served on a nicer plate (graphics) plus some new, interesting solutions (meal panel). New to the subject, as long as they aren't scared of the speed of the game, they shouldn't have to complain about either. However, I recommend the Combat Mission series (I had to write it ;-) to all those who are just starting to swim in the lake of strategies related to the Second World War. If, like me, you are a loser who prefers less dynamic fun and appreciates more gray cell gymnastics and memories left over from the game, then ... play too, for a change you will practice your index finger and roll your eyes ;-P. I will definitely play it a bit more and I will probably come back from time to time when new missions / campaigns or mods appear. "Nine" for RTS fans (especially Blitzkrieg fans), "eight" for the rest. March off!

Paweł "Pazur76" Surowiec