by Chris Scott
reviewed on PC
“Can’t miss” opportunity
The general purpose of a review is for you, the reader, to get an understanding of one particular individual’s experience with a game and based on their words decide if the game may be right for you. Let me make this really easy for you, Stalin vs. Martians is a terrible game. If you were to think of the thing you like to do least in the entire universe, Stalin vs. Martians is worse than that.
I am pretty sure that developer Black Wing set out to make a tongue-in-cheek game that would be both funny and engaging because after all the concept of the game is genuinely interesting. During World War II, Stalin is forced to engage in a second threat to the Soviet Union, this time from invading aliens in Siberia. It honestly should have been a “can’t miss” opportunity to create something fun, if not entirely original in execution. Unfortunately what they created is quite possibly the worst example of real time strategy to be released, ever.
For starters there is no strategy. While most real time strategy boil down to a the simple game of rock / paper / scissors, Stalin vs. Martians always gives you scissors and the computer A.I. is always paper. Almost every mission can be won by purchasing large amounts of the most expensive tank available to you and advancing on the enemy. The missions that can not be won this way are missions where you are forced to use infantry because they are the only option on the unit menu.
If that doesn’t seem ridiculous enough for you, keep in mind that the enemy A.I. is single minded. Each enemy unit is programmed to do one thing and one thing only and that is to either advance on your position or to hold its ground. More than once I decimated a Martian battalion because they advanced on my position with their units in single file formation. Of course all this results in a very easy game, which Stalin vs. Martians is. Well, it is when your troops follow your orders.
I suppose Black Wing needed a way to balance out the combat engagements and the only way they could think of upping the difficulty level was if they handicapped the players with shoddy controls, unresponsive commands and terrible path-finding. Although to be fair this is an issue that hampers both the player and the enemy A.I.. On more than one occasion I would select my units and send them into battle, only to see some of them refusing to move and others heading in the wrong direction entirely. To be fair though, poor path-finding is something that many games of this nature have and while that does not make it any more acceptable it is something that is generally accepted.
What most RTS games do not suffer from though is commands that do absolutely nothing, like the “attack on the move” command which does not enable your troops to attack on the move but is just a secondary move command. Your troops will very often advance past an enemy outpost and get fired upon, not returning fire until you give the explicit command to do so. Something else most RTS games do not suffer from are numerous bugs that will effectively leave you with no way of actually completing the mission, forcing you to restart the game at the last save point.
To be honest I was not expecting much out of the gameplay for the game and somehow it managed to come in even below those low expectations. What I was expecting was a game that would provide me with some solid laughs. Sadly the game also failed on this front. Sure it has a few chuckle worthy moments here and there, including a dancing Stalin and a couple of the mission briefings, but most of the jokes miss in the comedy department leaving Stalin vs. Martians with nothing to draw people in except the graphics and music and honestly they are not that good.
Graphically the game looks like it was crafted in 1997 by some computer animation students who had played one too many rounds of Command & Conquer as well as watched one too many ‘50s alien invasion films. By today’s standards the graphics are serviceable but weak. If the game has any shining star it is the music which is a strange mix of Euro-techno and Russian Death Metal, which generally features lyrics referring to Stalin or Mother Russia. It is actually the most humorous part of the game and even is featured in a trio of intermission movies, which are really just music videos. Sadly as good as the music is the rest of the sound effects are an atrocity to the ears, with explosions that sound like car tires popping and repetitive troop sayings. While hearing “I’m like a Bolshevik on a bicycle” and “My name is Ivan. I like you” are funny the first few times you hear them by the second mission you may want to jab sharp objects into your ears.
Do not buy
I hope that developer Black Wing learns from this experience and understands that to make a good game they need more than just a cool concept because even with its budget pricing the game is a sad mess. It is ugly. It is frustrating. And aside from the music, it sounds bad. It has no replay value because there is only the single player campaign, although why you would want to play more of this game is beyond me. And worst of all it is broken in parts. It is rare that I ever say this but do not buy this game.
No Pros and Cons at this time