by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
More Men of War
Men of War: Assault Squad 2 is the newest entry in what I discovered to be the vast Men of War franchise. I can’t tell you whether it offers a reinvention or a marked improvement on the previous entries in the canon because this is my first experience with Men of War. What I can tell you, however, is whether or not Assault Squad 2 is worth your time, be you a devoted player or a newcomer like me.
After having spent some time with the game, I can only say one word: Beware. Beware of the massive number of features that turn such a simple concept into something so full of depth and variety. Beware of Assault Squad 2’s ability to make you wanting to play more, even when you are struggling to win. And most importantly, beware of the incredibly sharp learning curve that awaits you from the moment you start, because this game will never, ever make things easy for you.
Difficult to Master
Assault Squad 2 is a real time tactics game set in World War 2. You play as one of the five major powers during the war as you reenact various battles throughout the war. There is no resource gathering, so you only have to command the units you have. That means that combat is the one and only focus of this deep strategy game. If that sounds easier than other games that require you to manage resources, trust me when I say that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In my first actual battle, I commanded a group of American soldiers preparing to assault several German positions. Two rifle squads, backed up by an armored vehicle with a machine gun. I moved my squads up into cover in a forest, and ordered them to start firing on a squad of Germans in some trenches. I selected one soldier to throw a grenade into the trenches, only to discover that there is a minimum range required in order to throw a grenade. So the poor soul ran out from cover and was promptly shot several times. Oops.
Not even a full minute later, a red symbol began appearing amongst my men, and they stopped firing at the enemy. Turns out that all units have a limited amount of ammo, and that ammo is burned through fast if you’re not careful. So both of my units were pinned down and began to be picked off one by one by the now counterattacking Germans. Never fear, my armored vehicle can rescue them, or so I thought. Instead, its engine was shot to hell, and the vehicle became easy pickings for a never before seen machine-gun nest.
And I didn’t even know that units had a limited amount of ammo. Or that certain parts of vehicles could be damaged. Or that each individual soldier had an inventory with their own weapons and items in it. Assault Squad 2 is a game full of surprises at the very least, one where you will have to learn everything on your own. Or you could cheap out and use the power of the Internet like I did, which does help a lot in the end.
Alongside the single-player component of skirmishes, there lies the equally large multiplayer component. The simplest match types are a 1v1, but the number of combatants can grow until there is a full 8v8 war being waged across the virtual battlegrounds of World War 2. I played several matches online, none of which I had the pleasure of winning, but the intensity and focus that is present in single-player was still around in the matches I played. Careful planning is required in order to win every single match, and I was constantly anxious as I wondered which of us would dare move from our positions first. I would then discover that having tanks and other armored vehicles as reinforcements allowed for one to easily swarm over whatever defenses you have prepared. I probably should have placed mines by the choke points in retrospect.
Despite all of these losses that I suffered (and I lost far more times than I ever won), I couldn’t help but keep playing Assault Squad 2. No matter what the game refused to tell me, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to discover how best to position my machine gun squads. I wanted to know when best to throw grenades at entrenched positions. I wanted to win dammit, and this game just made me want to keep playing more.
Prepare for the Long Haul
Now I wanted to conquer this game, and I haven’t quite gotten around to that yet, but Assault Squad 2 is not a game that I would recommend to newcomers. For a game to require so much learning through trial and error, it would have made sense to include some form of tutorial or help to assist in that. For veterans of the franchise, I imagine that Assault Squad 2 is another trip down into the deep, engaging pit that is the Men of War franchise. For everyone else, prepare to suffer a good, long time before you begin to master this complex game.
Deep, engaging gameplay, huge amount of features
Hostile to newcomers, doesn’t explain anything