by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
You alone make decisions
It is hard to imagine what life must have been like for the men leading troops into battle during World War II. The media of literature and film have made attempts at portraying the ever present doubt and the constant questioning of one’s own actions that were parts of everyday life for these men. In my mind, both media have failed to accomplish that task as they cannot successfully simulate the confusion, the amount of information to consider, the lack of important information, and the feeling of loneliness that came with holding a position above the troops on the ground. This is something that well-made Real-Time Strategy games do well. You alone are responsible for the lives of the men on the ground. You alone have to make decisions that could mean the end of their lives. You alone have to choose who to sacrifice for the sake of the squad. You alone; you are alone.
Improved unit and squad icons
The Men of War series is among the most in-depth RTS games around and the options available to you are designed to make the action as realistic as possible while still making the game fun to play. Unlike many other RTS titles, the Men of War series features limited ammo per unit, very realistic ballistics and damage models, a unit specific inventory system, and the ability to loot equipment of fallen soldiers and stranded vehicles. By introducing these systems most commonly seen in Role-Playing Games, each unit becomes an individual, rather than just a damage dealing sprite that is completely replaceable. We got a look at Digitalmindsoft’s latest addition to the series at this year’s Gamescom and, truth be told, Men of War: Assault Squad 2 looks to rectify many of the community’s complaints about the series; starting with its difficult learning curve.
Many players were in doubt as to how to see what unit types made up a squad in past outings. This time around, unit and squad icons have been improved and now show you what unit types are hidden within the squad. You will no longer have to select the squad and look among its ranks to see if you have someone fit to take out a tank; it’ll be displayed in the squad icon. The icon is dynamic, so when adding a unit type to a squad, or removing the last unit of that type from it, the icon will change to display the correct make up of that squad. A unit will also tell you if it runs out of ammo; something that was missing in previous games where a machine gunner would simply stop firing without warning if he ran out of rounds. This time around, a disclaimer will appear above the unit’s head, indicating that he’s out of ammo. These neat additions will undoubtedly help the player find his way within the game’s interface and help identify problems as soon as they arise.
The ammo auto-share feature has been highlighted and now clearly shows how many rounds each unit gets when looting a vehicle or a fallen soldier. The system was in place before, but due to a lack of notification, many players assumed that the unit doing the picking would get everything. It would then create a rather annoying clusterfuck when that unit inexplicably ran out of ammo while others who had no use for it were running around with their inventories full. If that happens in Men of War: Assault Squad 2, you will only have yourself to blame.
The amount of single player missions and the level of choice within them has been increased and the player will be able to tackle his objective, be it to eliminate key units on the map or all of them, in his own way. The game has also received full Steam integration, so you will no longer have to go through the outdated and virtually useless Gamespy client. This also means that any mods you make can be monetized using Steam’s Workshop, or distributed freely to your fellow players. The most dramatic changes regarding multiplayer are focused on making the matchmaking system faster and easier to use and improving the user interface; both of which, to be honest, were in dire need of an overhaul.
Realistic, reliable and less erratic
The AI has also received an overhaul and should make your soldiers’ behaviour more reliable and less erratic. In previous games, for example, if a unit was knocked out by an explosion and the force of it sent his rifle flying into enemy territory, the unit would automatically start looking for it when he came to. That meant that he would get up and run unarmed into enemy terrain and, in most cases, be reduced to a meaty slab of Swiss cheese. This time around, the unit will not lose its weapon when knocked out, but will still lose it if it dies.
Men of War have always had impressively realistic ballistics, damage models, and cover mechanics and this rings true for Men of War: Assault Squad 2 as well. Angling your tank towards an enemy will give you a better chance of survival as, if the angle of the bullet hitting your tank is low enough, it will simply ricochet off the armour plating and into whoever is unlucky enough to be standing behind it. Each part of the tank is accurately modelled and hitting it in specific places will cause specific results. Damaging the turret will make it unable to fire, but it can still drive. Damaging the engine will cause it to stop in its tracks, but it can still fire back at you.
Hit among hardcore fans
The sheer amount of information that needs to be considered when engaging in combat during a match in Men of War is staggering and it is easy to understand why the game has become such a hit among the more hardcore RTS players. Although they have obviously taken great strides in making the game more accessible to newcomers, whether they manage to do so without pissing off their most dedicated fans remains to be seen.