'Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon'
Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: Nival Interactive
Release Date: June 8, 2004
Pre-order 'BLITZKRIEG: Burning Horizon': PC
When you sit back and look at games based on World War II you would almost come to two false conclusions. Firstly, only American soldiers fought in WW2, and secondly the only battles were the Normandy Invasion, and Pearl Harbor. Many games only stick to the major battles, or let you play as an Allied soldier/commander. This was one of the reasons Blitzkrieg was such a breath of fresh air and so much fun to play, rather than rehashing the same battles as every other game there we also smaller, lesser known operations. You could even play as either the Allies or *gasp* the Axis. Nival Interactive’s upcoming expansion for Blitzkrieg, entitled Burning Horizons, sticks to the same principles that made the first game great while adding new campaigns, tactics, and a new theatre of war into the mix.
Upon release Burning Horizons will contain 28 missions spread out over various theatres of war. The main draw is the nearly 20 missions devoted to following the campaign of General Erwin Rommel, the German Commander who earned the nickname “The Desert Fox” for his cunning and effective tactics used in the sandy lands of Northern Africa. Other single missions further flesh out other battles in other theatres of way, such as in Singapore. The expansion also adds new nations into the mix such as Australia, Finland, Italy, Japan, and Poland, although to exactly what extent that will play remains to be seen. In the Singapore single mission Japanese troops attack in swarms of various units, making the possibility of playable Japanese troops a strong possibility.
One thing that is immediately noticeable is that the enemy units are much smarter than they were before. In the original game a sniper could almost shoot at enemy troops at his leisure, picking off squads of infantry and gun crews alike. Now, after a few shots enemies may become aware of the snipers position and eliminate him, often before you can even try to react and save him. Enemies also use better tactics, rushing when they think that they can win or when necessary and holding back when they know the opposing force is too large to tackle.
The engine itself hasn’t detectably changed, so while there are no new pieces of eye-candy or effects it is also the same visuals, interfaces, and units that current Blitzkrieg fans are already used to. That’s not to say that Blitzkrieg is in need of a face-lift either, as the original engine is one of the best used for a RTS game. It’s 2D sure, both the viewpoint and the units, but the amount of detail is actually more than what you’ll find in other RTS games that boast 3D graphics and polygonal units. Despite the fact that they are 2D units look well animated and effects such as dust plumes from an explosion or a column of smoke from a destroyed tank look very realistic and pleasing to the eye. Sounds are in the same vein as the original game as well, they aren’t cutting edge or perfect quality but as far as the genre goes they more than get the point across and never sound like they are of low quality or get repetitive.
The gameplay of the expansion stays the same as it is in the original game. In each mission you start off with a certain amount of units, and that is pretty much what you will have to work with throughout the mission. With the exception of the occasional band of reinforcements in certain levels and at specific times what you have at the missions start must last you until the end, there is no resource gathering or unit production. Rather, the game is based on effectively using your unit’s strengths or defending against their weaknesses, such as not sending mortar troops rushing into entrenched enemy lines or sending snipers to fight against tanks.
At any rate, Burning Horizons looks like it may shape up to be the expansion that any fan of the original game should consider picking up. Many of the units are carried over from the original game, while others are brand new and offer new strategies and tactics to both utilize yourself as well as to defend against. The biggest draw is the Rommel campaign, but the additional single missions seem to be shaping up just as well and serve as a means to explore lesser campaigns or battles instead of merely increasing the number of maps for the sake of box art advertising. It may not have quite as much diversity in its content to warrant an immediate purchase by everyone who played and liked the original game but where it lacks in diversity it more than makes up for in quality, coupled with the same gameplay and engine that made the original game such a fun title to pick up and play.