by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
Shackled by History
When I was first asked to look at this game, my attention was immediately captured by the name of the Polish developer: Wastelands Interactive. My first thought, being that I am a gamer from about the Dawn of Time was that it must be connected to the 1988 Interplay game Wasteland. I was wondering how it got attached to a company that seems to specialize in WW2 games: Air Aces: Pacific, Storm Over The Pacific, World War II: Time of Wrath. When asked, Leszek Lisowski, the man in charge at WI, said: "My game development adventure started when I was modding Hearts of Iron 2, and with [a] couple of folks we ... decided to create a Fallout-themed mod for that game. So [that] is where the Wastelands Interactive name [was] born." So I guess I was about half-right, given the post-Apocalypse connection (And the fact that Fallout was a derivative of Wasteland.)
The tactical control and the user-interface
The reference to Hearts of Iron was quite evident as that is the game that Strategic War in Europe most reminds me of. There are, of course, significant differences, most particularly in that the game map is VERY limited in comparison: From the Eastern edge of the USA and Canada to about the Urals in the USSR, and South just enough to see the northern end of the Red Sea. Each turn in Strategic War in Europe is equal to one month. A full game starting on 1 September 1939 to war's end is 70 turns. The scale of the units is Corps and Armies for Land-based units, and Air units are always 125 aircraft at full-stength. The Navy gets more attention in that units can be as few as ONE submarine up to an aircraft carrier (CV) with its escort of five destroyers. Everything between submarine and cruisers is not represented, as I guess they are assumed to be attached to capital ships in support roles. Things like Troop Transports, Landing Craft, and lond-distance Transport units of any kind are abstracted to just numerical representations.
The User Interface is straightforward, logical, and generally familiar. There is the traditional mini-map in the upper left corner. Across the top is the standard resources bar showing Production Points (PPs, this game's "money"), Strategic Movement Points (SMPs, fast Transportation for large military units), Sea Transport Points (STPs, troop Transports as well as Supply ships), Diplomacy Points (DPs), Amphibious Invasion Points (AIPs, essentially landing craft), and Nuclear Weapons (NWs). Under the resources bar and set to the right are four buttons that allow you to quickly set the cursor to open info panels for Hex info, Battle results, Unit info or Diplomacy. In the upper right corner is a flag representation of the nation whose turn is currently being played. Down the right side of the map is a column of buttons that perform off-map functions. From top to bottom they are: End turn, hide Game Buttons Panel, unit organization and at-a-glance unit-finder, Convoy management, unit purchasing, Research resource investment, reports and statistics, Main menu, and hotkey assignments.
Strategic War in Europe's strong suit is in the depth of information that goes into each moveable unit. For the most part, these are the traditional computerized "cardboard counter" with an iconic drawing showing what it is. But click on a counter and off in the lower left corner an info panel pops up showing everything that you would ever need to know about that unit down to detailed stuff like how many soldiers an Infantry unit contains, as well as the number of Tanks, Artillery and AFVs. This last info is interesting because when battle results are reported, they will inform you just how many soldiers, tanks, artillery, and AFVs were lost. But my favorite element is the WW2 historical photo to serve as a representation of what the iconic element of that unit would be (an Infantry soldier for a regular unit, a troop truck for Motorized Infantry etc.). The neat thing about the photos is that they update each time the unit's Level is upgraded.
When a unit is selected, another button bar appears along the bottom of the screen for the Unit Action Buttons. These buttons also serve as a visual reminder that tells at a glance if the unit can be upgraded or is in need of replacements, is in a location where it can used specialized movement like Sea Transport or Strategic Movement, etc.
All in all, the game offers a tidy and logical layout for the player to process game functions.