Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: Nival Interactive
Release Date: February 20, 2007
The tides of war have now turned, and World War II has begun to wind down. The Germans now struggle to hold their ground as Russian soldiers push forward against the weakening German frontlines. Could superior numbers be the tool to end the war? Or, will the side that can best manage its remaining resources have the best chance for victory?
Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich is the latest add-on released for the popular Blitzkrieg franchise. This stand-alone expansion focuses on the final days of the European conflict on the Western Front. The two included campaigns allow players to experience both the German and Russian military engagements during the periods between the summer of 1944 and spring of 1945. Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich includes an integrated in-game encyclopedia which covers all of the weapons and war machines used in the Blitzkrieg 2 game series. The expansion also features a 71-page game manual and four in-game tutorials, which do an adequate job of explaining the basics, including the importance of re-supply and reinforcements.
The single-player game consists of campaigns where you are required to complete a logical progression of missions through chapters, with major battles serving as bookends. Capturing control points and dealing with pockets of aggressive enemies are the two most common mission types. Promotions and unlocking of additional weapons and improvements occur frequently throughout the campaigns; this feature helps to remove some of the repetitiveness that would otherwise exist in the game. When you are given the ability to promote your units, you can either manually assign the promotions, or you can have the computer automatically manage them for you. While playing the campaign, you can save your position at anytime, and you even have a quick-save/load ability to reduce the frustrations of being wiped out due to an ineffective plan of attack. A custom mission mode is also available to extend the action once the enjoyment of playing the two campaigns has waned. You can play any of six Russian and four German missions.
Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich is not your general gather/build variety of RTS. One of the most interesting aspects is the importance of managing your reinforcements. You are allocated a limited number of reinforcements during each chapter of the campaign, and if these resources are squandered, you have no way of continuing your fight. If you are lucky enough to have remaining reinforcement points after a mission, these valuable points are added back to your reinforcement pool. This system of resource management is an ingenious way of making you think twice about sacrificing even a single war asset during. Once your units are gone and you have run out of reinforcement points, it's all over.
I encountered only a couple of issues while playing that I felt needed to be addressed. It was often possible for A.I. units to both see and attack my units through obvious obstructions. For example, several times I had tanks destroyed by other tanks which were parked around a corner of a building. The A.I. didn't have an obvious clear line of sight, so the situation makes me wonder just how effective all of the buildings and trees are at providing cover.
The second issue I have with gameplay is that of the computer A.I., which was certainly challenging but never seemed too responsive. To clarify, there was very little adjustment to the A.I. movement and strategy to compensate for adjustments I would make on the battlefield. If I started pounding an area with artillery, the enemy would just stay put until they were all wiped out. Although I still gain a certain amount of satisfaction from this situation, it doesn't offer up too much of a challenge.
Only a limited amount of realism can be represented in a title like Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich since it simplifies many aspects of war gaming and focuses primarily on a small subset — the engagements. In general, most game units are decently represented, except for air support. In the case of the aircraft reinforcements, something went wrong. When called to duty, aircraft will swarm and fly around like gnats instead of airplanes, performing circus loops and impossible hairpin turns. The planes are still effective and do play a vital role in the game, their presentation is just a bit too comical in comparison the rest of the game.
Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich offers a fairly robust multiplayer gaming experience. You can compete with up to eight players in a variety of combat situations either via LAN or by establishing an account on nival.net. When playing on nival.net, you can choose to play either a custom or ranked game. Player statistics are tracked when playing ranked games and are applied to a ladder system on the Nival network. If you host your own game, you will choose which map you'd like to play, the tech level and the length of engagement. Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich has a fairly large online fan base which offers further game enhancements through the built-in modding capability. Everything from changes to the mobility of weapons and their strength to texturing has been explored through the modding system. Fan and mod sites can be found using your favorite search engine.
Controls are intuitive; using a combination of the mouse and keyboard, you can quickly issue commands and move units. Stacked commands are possible by holding down the Shift key when assigning orders. The environments are fairly detailed and highly destructible, and the interface is attractive, well designed and easy to use. The angled top-down perspective works well for the type of gameplay. Although you can rotate the map view a complete 360 degrees, you only have a limited zoom capability. Not having a greater zoom capability with these types of RTS titles can uncomfortably restrict your field of view and cause a lot of unnecessary side-scrolling. (I have been informed that there may be a mod available to enhance FotR's zoom capability.)
On the highest graphics settings, the 2D game graphics are highly detailed and crisp. Although map animations are limited, unit special effects, such as tank explosions and tree scattering, are excellent. Just about the entire map environment seems to be destructible, which adds a considerable amount of fun if you enjoy tearing up your game maps. The sound effects and music used in Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich are reasonable realistic for gameplay.
Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich is a challenging addition to the Blitzkrieg 2 franchise. The gameplay feels a bit outdated in comparison to newer RTS offerings such as Company of Heroes, but the game still utilizes some unique features, such as the reinforcement system, that make it quite challenging. If you can look past the line-of-sight issues (pun not intended) and occasionally lethargic enemy, I would certainly give Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich a try.
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