Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon
Publisher: Nival Interactive
Players: 1 + multiplayer
This is actually an expansion / sequel to the highly praised Blitzkrieg. A tight WWII Real Time Strategy that is praised for its authenticity and tight game play. This Burning Horizon expansion centers around the battles of German General Erwin Rommel, most famously known as “The Desert Fox”. These 18 missions are based around historically ‘accurate’ conflicts so the history buff might get some juice out of this. Where Blitzkrieg and this expansion set themselves apart from all the ‘click and move’ strategic war games glutting the market, is how the game has done away with resource building and extensive micro management.
Each scenario begins with a pre-determined amount of troops, artillery and vehicles. It’s up to the player to maximize the strengths of each unit while strategically making up for their weaknesses to ensure a victory.
Or maybe just have a damn good scout.
While a bit tedious, one good sniper can slowly decimate the whole map-making it easy for your troops to roll in later and clean up. Air support (both yours and the enemies) is a bit unbalanced (or maybe too real). A few well chosen air strikes can pretty much end some battles before they begin. But these are minor gripes as the game play holds all the charm of traditional RTS, but focuses so much more on fighting and strategy rather than trying to build up the big army that just runs over the enemy. A wide variety of troops, heavy infantry, Anti-Aircraft guns, tanks and aircraft lend to an array of options to accomplish goals. And with the ability to man enemy armaments after you’ve killed the soldiers you can increase (or replace) your own army. If the player can keep losses to a minimum, troops can are promoted to a higher rank, improving their abilities.
Although the interfaces are a bit small, there are a lot of adjustments that can be made to each unit. Fortifying their position, advancing defensively or storming an object all can affect the tide of a battle. The AI is fairly predictable and downright stupid against snipers. Again, a single scout can literally sit there and drop soldiers one by one as their companions stand around seemingly oblivious to the 6, now 7, now 8 dead comrades that keep dropping near them. But even with that advantage (scouts are only available on certain scenarios), I found I had to rethink / restart my attack strategy numerous times.
The game even keeps track of your efficiency, (including restarts) and awards you promotions and medals accordingly. The learning curve is a bit steep (even with the easy to follow tutorial) and after all, this is an expansion, so the developers are assuming the player has some experience with the RTS genre and control scheme. While the multiplayer mode was left off the expansion (?), this does come with a map editor for you closet map building geeks. So if you don’t like the missions presented, you can build you own. A feature becoming quite common in the RTS genre.
I had a great time with this, even though I didn’t play the original (which I guess is MUCH longer, but game play and graphics are very similar). Challenging maps, rich with some authentic historical facts to set up the battles and the lack of having to worrying about continually building and replacing troops made this a standout RTS title well worth the time.