by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
Areas still requiring development
Despite its few shortcomings, I was actually enjoying playing the game. But that's because I like to win when I'm playing a game. The preview copy had two significant flaws that made it easier for me to win, once I was aware they were there. The first is that the AI is blindingly stupid. The shortcoming here is that a player can leave everything wide open, unguarded while he uses his entire force to push forward in a single area, and the AI doesn't take advantage of the wide opening. I seriously hope that this area is improved for the release, even if it meant that I'd lose a game occasionally.
The second shortcoming at this stage may not be quite as obvious to other than WW2 historians. The path of least resistance for Germany is to follow the historical path of attacking Poland, then the Low Countries and Denmark simultaneously, followed by the invasions of France. (Though in History, Norway happened a half-step ahead of the invasion of France.) There is no question whether France will "fight from the Colonies!" It will surrender once Paris is occupied and you can ignore everything else just to capture that one hex. The DAK in North Africa really can't accomplish much because of its lack of supplies. So don't even try to accomplish anything until Greece falls and it becomes possible to actually get supplies to Tobruk. And whatever you do, do NOT launch Operation Barbarossa. Don't attack the USSR and it won't attack you, which leaves you free to concentrate on destroying the Allies.
As another factor of the above shortcoming, the strict adherence to history threatens to nullify the entire diplomacy process. Instead of trying to persuade neutral nations to join your alliance, just wait for the right date/time and they will join of their own accord. For Germany, once you have conquered Poland, Denmark, the Low Countries, and have entered France proper, Italy joins the alliance. Finish off France and Norway, then Hungary and Romania join the Axis. That allows you to mass along the entire border of Yugoslavia. Conquer Yugoslavia and Bulgaria will join. After that, you really don't need anymore allies. Having the USA join on the 1 January 1942 turn (the next turn after Pearl Harbor happened on 7 December 1941) wasn't so daunting, because I already knew Operation Torch was coming. Having secured Gibraltar in advance of that date, the Allies access to the Mediterranean was thwarted.
"Those that do not learn the lessons of History..."
In this case, it seems that having learned the lessons of history is what threatens what mechanically (naval combat and diplomacy aside) could be a fine WW2 Strategy game. The research approach is brilliant when it comes right down to it. And though it initially bit me in the posterior, the supply rules are actually quite accurate and forced me to pay proper attention to logistics. As for the shackles of history, in the multiplayer version of the game - where everyone knows the WW2 chronology equally - I am sure this is an excellent game.
Personally, I hope that the developers will find a fix for the above-described shortcomings before the release, or at least release a patch soon afterward to take care of them. With all the other mechanics at the level they are Strategic War in Europe could turn out to be a wonderful strategy title for WW2 enthusiasts. And, even at this stage, it will certainly entertain those with interest in the multiplayer. Given the obvious talent and intelligence of the staff, this and future titles from this developer should be very much worth looking forward to.