Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: Nival Interactive
Release Date: June 13, 2004
Buy 'BLITZKRIEG: Burning Horizon': PC
Developers Nival Interactive and La Plata Studios have teamed up to bring this first of two expansion packs for the critically acclaimed real-time strategy game Blitzkrieg. You won’t need the 2003 original in order to play Burning Horizon as it is a stand-alone add-on title. As fans of Blitzkrieg are aware this series is set during the World War II era, but unlike a slew of other similarly-themed RTS titles Burning Horizon is unique in that its 18+-mission campaign focuses not on America’s participation in the war but rather the exploits of German General Erwin Rommel. Players will be able to relive such memorable battles as Normandy, Ardennes, and Tripoli just to name a few. Unfortunately, Burning Horizon just doesn’t offer enough newness in terms of gameplay to warrant excitement for anyone who wasn’t already fan of Blitzkrieg.
Of course if more of the same appeals to you, and there’s a good chance it does since Blitzkrieg’s solid tactical dynamics are still in the higher echelon of today’s RTS games, then Burning Horizon may be just what the General ordered. Unlike Blitzkrieg, which centered mainly on European territories and battles, you’ll fight on the side of Germany during WWII starting with the initial war in Belgium and eventually ending with the D-Day aftermath in Europe. Nival Interactive has even thrown in a half-dozen missions that take place in various territories including a few Pacific theater battles. While the technical foundation of the title hasn’t changed much, the actual content and WWII perspective has been turned on its head.
Bad news for fan’s of the original game’s multiplayer modes; Burning Horizon is strictly a single-player affair. So unless you own Blitzkrieg don’t plan on getting online with this expansion. Luckily, the single-player additions to the game are substantial and should provide players with plenty of hours of strategy-centric entertainment. Burning Horizon’s willingness to expand its geographic horizons has also given way to a slew of new units such as Japanese foot soldiers, the US Marines, and new vehicles like Kamikaze airplanes and newly introduced Panzer tanks. With this sizeable addition to the game’s already vast cast Burning Horizon features more units than there are Pokemon (nearly 350!).
As was the case with Blitzkrieg, Burning Horizon is very much a tactical strategy game that requires logical thinking and reasoning in the heat of battle in order to progress. At the start of each mission you’ll be given a certain amount of resources such as vehicles, artillery, and infantry – and from that point on it’ll be up to you to decide the best way to work with what you have to overcome the obstacles before you.
Learning how different units interact with each other is key to success. If you don’t know how units interact you’re going to spend a lot of time being frustrated. To effectively combat air-strikes you’ll need a line of antiaircraft units ready to intercept the low-flying enemies. Large artillery weaponry units pack a devastating payload but you’ll need to make sure you’ve got adequate reinforcements to safely transport the slow-moving units. It’s things like this that you’ll want to keep in mind as you play the game. Even if you’ve been around the block with Blitzkrieg you should be prepared to learn a few things with Burning Horizon; the enemy AI here is noticeably sharper and clever unit placement (bunkers, ambushes) will require more than brute force to overcome.
Burning Horizon is definitely not your casual RTS fan’s game. Progress is often very slow and moves on the map must be made with a Zen-like attention to detail and circumstance. The fact that the computer is so much smarter this time around won’t do much to win over science fiction fans, either. The enemy never seems to make a false move and when you actually manage to survive a skirmish the opponent will most likely have reinforcements already dispatched to take care of any of your units that survived and, moreover, salvage any artillery pieces left unmanned.
Being that this is a RTS that apparently prides itself on realistic odds and historically accurate confrontations there is generally not a whole lot of room for gung-ho mentality. Instead you’ll need to rely on strategic positioning and trial-and-error. Not my cup of tea but I can see how “fans of WWII” could easily get into this sort of thing.
As noted, not a lot has changed from Blitzkrieg in terms of technical additions. Burning Horizon looks no worse or better than its predecessor graphically. Luckily, Blitzkrieg’s detailed visuals and robust engine still holds up nicely to the competition. Environments are fully destructible, plenty of small special effects for the various units give the game an impressive level of realism, and said units are meticulously detailed. Still, it would have been nice to see a fresh paint of coat on the game. The audio too is right on par with the original, which means you’ll be treated to a grandiose musical score, heaping amounts of genuine sounding voice work from various nationalities, and sound effects that feel right at home in the war torn setting.
Overall, Burning Horizon does a great job in its single-player offerings and its low-price point is well worth the amount of game time you’ll get in return for your investment. The absence of any multiplayer component is disappointing, sure, but I’d much rather have the option of picking up Burning Horizon for a reduced price, deciding if I like the game, and purchasing the online enabled original if I do. If you’re a fan of Blitzkrieg or WWII era RTS games then Burning Horizon’s new spin on the legendary 20th century global infighting event is most certainly worth a look.