by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
World On Fire
Panzer Tactics HD is the re-imagining of the original Panzer Tactics that was available on the Nintendo DS. It was a game met with mixed feelings, and often considered to be one living in the shadow of the other turn-based strategy games available on that platform. The charm of it, however, was the WWII era setting which was something not that common on handheld platforms. How does this re-imagining of Panzer Tactics stack up to other turn-based titles now that it has found itself coming to PC? Allow me to tell you.
The Tools Of War
The game offers great unit variety, spread among three playable factions which each have their own campaign. Between the Axis, Soviets and Allies, players will never find themselves short of toys to play with. Though I did not personally experience all 150 units the game has to offer, what I did play around with left me satisfied as far as the variety is concerned. There are many strategy games of both the RTS and TBS genres where you will find yourself more focused on the normal infantry units than anything else, but the way Panzer Tactics HD is set up ensures that you will get a little of everything in most battles.
That being said, while the variety in units is great the way combat is handled has left me somewhat wanting. In all fairness, there is only so much you can do with the combat in a turn based strategy game but I suppose if there were actual animations for the fight I'd be more appreciative of what can essentially be called luck-of-the-roll mixed with terrain tactics.
The War Room
As mentioned before, there are three playable factions and each have their own campaign. The starting campaign will have you taking on the role of the Axis starting in 1939 during the early days of the invasion. If this aspect bothers you, don't worry as the developers took great care to distance themselves from the major atrocities of the time period and focus on the battles. They even opted for using a red, white, and black flag to represent the Axis rather than the Swastika which has become the universal symbol for hatred since the Hitler regime warped the original meaning of it. The other two campaigns pick up well into the war, with the Soviet campaign beginning during "The Great Patriotic War" in 1941, when Russia began to fight back against Nazi forces, while the campaign for the Allies begins in 1943, which peaks with the D-Day invasion about halfway through on June 6th, 1944.
While all three campaigns have very different overarching goals, the general breakdown for most of the missions remains the same; defeat the enemy. Certainly that is the goal for pretty much every strategy game ever, right? So, while I won't call it a negative I will say that I would have loved much more variety than what we are given in the objectives at hand, but I suppose that is also because this time period brought out some of the greatest stories of heroism known to man. It'd be nice to give the players a chance to feel that, rather than going through the motions.
What I found most appealing about the game was the map size. With each mission, players are granted a very sizable battlefield with so many different types of terrain you can find yourself trying to plan several moves ahead, which in turn helps to insure the overall longevity of the game. Many strategy games have suffered from having map sizes too small, but Panzer Tactics HD has done it just right. With the several different changes in location most of the mission maps feel fairly unique, although there are still a few that do indeed feel like they've been heavily recycled, which - to be fair - takes place in areas that are mostly plains and there is only so much variety you can get out of fields and grassy knolls right?
You will see a little bit of everything across the major battlefields that became notable moments in history through the entire European theatre of war, and that in and of itself is really awesome. The developers put a great amount of detail into the maps and while it may not be the most graphically appealing game ever, the style of it is certainly very nice.
Outside of the Campaigns, you have Scenarios and the Tutorials to pick from, the reason they were not mentioned earlier is... the tutorials are already accessible through the campaigns, and the scenarios are just missions from all the campaigns that you've already completed. The lack of multiplayer, and custom scenarios, also affects the longevity of the game.
While Panzer Tactics HD is not a badly made title, the limitations from bringing an HD update of a mobile game to the PC show through often. Compared to other games focusing on strategy in a World War II setting, it is now overshadowed in it's newest iteration as well. If you have already played all the other strategy games out there, then checking it out may be worth your time and money. But, if you're looking for the strategy game to hold your heart and mind for years to come, you're looking in the wrong place.
Great unit variety and map variety, good campaign lengths.
Lack of combat animations, lack of material to make for memorable moments, no real content outside of the Campaign.