Grand-strategy wargames have never been the easiest for rookies to get into. Can Wastelands Interactive’s latest attempt change this, or will the genre forever be reserved for the arm-chair generals?
Strategic War In Europe is a turn based grand-strategy game set during the Second World War. In may ways it can be described as a more streamlined version of Wastelands Interactive’s earlier game, Time of Fury. Strategic War in Europe features a larger map, but at the same time makes you control less units, by condensing them into Corps and Armies. This, combined with the lower turn limit (Max of 70 down from 300) allows you to play a complete game from 1939 to 1945 in a matter of hours, and not the days it used to take. If you want an even shorter game, you can choose to start any year from 1939 to 1944. Due to each turn in the game being equal to one month, this allows you to play a game that is as short as 12 turns. Perfect for a lunch break or something to do before bed.
The game features both quick match and a custom match option that allows you to fine tune the settings for your coming game. The options for the custom games are rather deep, allowing you to change the difficulty for individual nations, as well as choosing what nations to control.This allows you to decide what nations you want to play as. Want to play as the Allies, but dislike Canada? Not a problem, just let the AI handle them. The system also lets you control all the nations, if you are the type of person that enjoys playing on his own, controlling all the outcomes. With the custom match feature, you can also you Play By Email to challenge your friends on the battlefield. Sadly the game lacks any form of online matchmaking, which will make it next to impossible for you to play online if you don’t know anyone that plays the game.
Strategic War In Europe’s graphics are a far from advanced, but this does not detract from the gaming experience, if anything it adds to it. The simple map and basic 2D sprites allow you quickly get a strategic overview and lets you entirely on the more important matters at hand. On top of this, you also have hand drawn style of the borders and unit attack arrows which fit the overall art style nicely. One of the things in the graphics department that make a return from “Time Of Fury” are the period photographs of the units, which add a bit of flavor to the action. The sound design in the game is, like most of the game, pretty basic. Is this drawback? No, I wouldn’t say so. The music solid and there are some decent sound effects during the battle. If anything, the simplicity of both the graphics and sound work in the game’s favor, as it helps keep it a focused affair.
As you fight for control over Europe, Russia and Northern Africa, you’ll be in control of combine forces of you nation/s of choice. This means that while your armored corps and mechanized armies fight for control of cities, you will have aircraft battling for air superiority and naval units attempting to dominate the high seas. Ground units use “Action Points” to move and attack, with the battles’ outcome being decided by various factors such as health of unit, supplies and weather. The effectiveness of the units can also be increased by adding a commander to your unit. Aerial units can provide reconnaissance, bomb targets, and engage other aircraft. In addition to this, they can also be relocated to different cities, to either stay near the front line or retreat from an enemy advance. Naval units can be used engage enemy fleets, as well as transport troops for amphibious invasions.
Armies, naval units and air forces are all purchased using production points, which are gained from owning cities throughout the map. These points can also be used to upgrade your units through research. Unfortunately, the research mechanic is not fleshed out. It simply consists of placing points into one of the different unit types to increase the rate at which you can upgrade them. The diplomatic system also feels dumbed down. In its essence, it simply boils down to placing a few points here and there, and allowing to to join alliances and hold elections.
Strategic War In Europe may not be the deepest grand-strategy experience out there, but that is not what is trying to be. Instead it aims to provide the player with a simplified, more streamlined game. In many ways, Strategic War In Europe may very well act as a stepping stone into the genre for many people. It allows new players to play a game with all the basic mechanics of grand-strategy in place, but without the over the top complexity that can make this genre daunting for beginners. Mixing this with the game’s $15 price tag, this game serves as a great starting point in your grand-strategy career. On the contrary, if you are already familiar with the genre, you may enjoy something more complex, like Hearts of Iron 3 or Time of Fury.