by Robert Thomas
reviewed on PC
From Board Game to Video Game
Heroes of Normandie's title is the first in a series of clever puns that the game will throw at you. A tactical war game, Heroes of Normandie takes you through their own humorous interpretation of World War II. As it's based on a board game, it has certain gameplay and visual aesthetics that are translated to the world of video games. Some of these board game ideas work really well. In some other areas, they don’t work that well.
Heroes of Normandie has a lot of content, with the main chunk of it being the six campaigns. In those campaigns, you can play two of each as England, the United States or Germany. The first campaign for each country takes you through the strategies and tactics that the country's army is best at. Germany's play style, for instance, is more aggressive than England's. The second campaign is far more challenging, stacking the odds against the player a bit more.
Each turn takes three different phases: an order phase, an activation phase and a supply phase. The order phase has you pick the units that will attack and prepare them to fire on enemy soldiers. Units will make the actual attack in the activation phase. The explosions and gunshots during this phase are incredibly satisfying, especially when an opponent's tank has been destroying your units throughout the game. Lastly, the supply phase is where you can move all of the units that didn't attack. Despite these phases, the turns themselves move along very quickly.
The campaign is very tactics-focused, with some puzzle elements. Each mission has a primary and secondary objective, but the player only has limited number of turns to achieve these. This means that the player must make plans with the next three or so turns in mind. Limited turns combined with multiple goals requires tactical thinking, giving Heroes of Normandie's gameplay a little more difficulty.
Outside of the main six campaigns, there are two other campaigns that take the difficulty level way up, making the game a bit more 'rogue-like'. There's also skirmish mode, which is a free-play mode that allows the player to create their own scenarios. Heroes of Normandie also has an online multiplayer mode, though it doesn't work as well as I'd hope. It offers a good deal of strategy, but there's no timer for matches, meaning players can come and go as they please. To compensate for that, you can have multiple matches going on simultaneously though there weren't too many active players when I was looking for matches. It's fun, but the games will drag out for far too long.
Goofy Take on World War II
As you play through the campaign, the game will have some very funny banter between the field commander, who represents the player, and the General. As well as those two, there's a slew of references to tons of World War II movies, and many other famous characters and actors. These humorous caricatures breathe some life into the game. Many of the jokes could be hit-or-miss, but I enjoyed the cheesiness of having a Clint Eastwood character make some tongue-in-cheek remarks.
The Feel of a Board Game
The board game aesthetic of Heroes of Normandie is very unique and serves the game very well. The art for the characters is particularly charming. Unfortunately, the board game pieces are very small, so I had to zoom in a few times in order see the stats for each unit. The maps have a very surprising amount of variety to them, but can blend in together. The battle soundtrack is passable, with some good tracks, but far too few. The music got tiring incredibly quickly. I really would've liked some voice acting for the campaign characters, as it could've create some really funny delivery of some lines.
As is the case with most strategy games, Heroes of Normandie relies on dice rolls to decide damage. Unfortunately, in this game, it seems the dice rolls can really stack up against you, causing you to go through a few turns before you even land an attack. The developer, Cat Rabbit, released a patch a few weeks ago that addressed this problem, but I still had some issues. When these bad rolls occur early on, it’s nearly impossible to mount a comeback in the limited turns, so all I could do was restart the mission.
Nothing that Stands Out
My biggest problem with Heroes of Normandie is that it's not very unique. There's no shortage of strategy games involving World War II, with many stronger choices out there. The writing is very funny, but it's not enough to convince me that this game is really worth it. Heroes of Normandie doesn't have enough to set it apart from the rest; it lacks a real selling point. All the parts for a good strategy game are there, but they just don't come together in an interesting way.
Heroes of Normandie makes a difficult transition from board game to video game, and because of this it looks and plays a lot like a board game. The visual aspects work very well, while the writing gives the game some needed flavor. Other than those two parts, the game doesn't really draw me in. The gameplay is very solid, but is not a standout in the genre. I enjoyed my time with Heroes of Normandie, but there were a lot of areas where I'd like to have seen something more interesting and more unique.
Charming dialogue. A good amount of content. Neat aesthetics.
Tiring music. Occasionally unfair dice rolls.