Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Release Date: TBA
Panzers: Cold War isn't the first real-time strategy game to take place in a fictional setting based on the Cold War, but it does do a pretty good job of presenting an authentic take on a war that could have been. While stopping short of becoming a war simulation, the title does put a lot of emphasis on tactics, and it rewards players who effectively command their units and avoid unnecessary casualties. The fact that the proprietary engine delivers consistently great visuals doesn't hurt the game's chances of being one of the more interesting upcoming RTS titles, either.
The preview build we received was mum on the details and plot, but we were able to easily glean that the game is set in the Cold War era. In this alternate reality, the Russian army has become decidedly hostile toward NATO forces and has begun to aggressively use its military might to mount offensives across Europe. This, of course, leads to NATO gearing up and fighting back, setting the stage for the nuclear conflict that was the era's biggest fear.
An interesting facet of Panzers: Cold War's gameplay is that whatever units survive to the end of the mission can be deployed in future missions at no resource cost. Units gain experience as they fight and survive, making them more powerful over the course of the game. A skilled player may be able to keep an infantry squad alive from the very first campaign mission all the way through to the end. At the same time, though, it can be almost painful to lose that unit in combat.
Just as units carry over between missions, any of their upgrades carry over as well. If a player has a high-ranking tank that is fully upgraded, the little beast will always have them for the rest of its combat life, which puts an even greater emphasis on keeping your units alive and repairing or healing them. Of course, units can always be purchased, but they always start off with no experience and no upgrades, and they're never as effective as battle-hardened units.
With the exception of the first mission, a player can select starting units at the outset of each mission from the pool of surviving units or purchase new units with resource points. Each unit has an associated deployment cost, and each mission has a deployment limit, so players must make tactical decisions about which units to deploy instead of just putting every available unit on the battlefield.
Under some circumstances, players have the ability to change the weaponry that a unit is carrying. In other games, players may need to create and maintain rifleman and bazooka squads separately, but in Panzers: Cold War, there is just the basic infantry squad. A player can create a squad in the second mission and equips it with SMGs at the deployment screen before the mission. If the unit survives, it can easily be deployed for the third mission equipped with a bazooka, and the player can field them while retaining any experience that the unit had previously gained. It is unknown to what level units can be altered in this way, or if the infantry squad itself will unlock additional weapons over the course of the game. Either way, the unexpected and welcome feature lends a lot of flexibility to the unit palette, as players can maintain a set of units and configure it toward the task at hand without having to needlessly purchase more.
The gameplay is fairly standard and follows many of the basic real-time strategy features to which modern fans of the genre are accustomed. Units are easily commanded, and though they have some advanced functions, like the infantry ability to throw grenades, much of the gameplay is more like Command & Conquer than Company of Heroes. Tactical concerns, such as how tanks have weaker armor to the rear and how they only have a limited number of shells for the main cannon, make appearances here and there, but as a whole, Panzers: Cold War is more centered on unit balance than of strict tactical maneuvering. The title does appear to have a cover mechanic for infantry units, but in the preview build, it wasn't apparent on how to get player-controlled units to benefit from it in the same way as the computer-controlled units.
Panzers: Cold War delivers solid visuals despite its status as a preview build. Explosion effects are gorgeous, thanks to the bright and billowing fireballs and the momentary distortion effect caused by the shockwave as it ripples out from a particularly large blast. The units themselves are well-detailed in and of themselves, but the level of detail is mostly in the graphics effects, such as when buildings collapse under gunfire or when units rappelling from a helicopter are viewed via their reflections in a pool of water on the ground. The game often makes use of instances that really show off these effects, such as a helicopter that is scripted to crash into a building or of a crane that topples into the housing below.
While much of the game remains unfinished and many features, such as multiplayer support, were locked in the preview build, Panzers: Cold War seems to be on a solid path. The gameplay is relatively simple and isn't quite as deep as a simulation title, but it allows for a fair amount of tactical choices to be made in unit deployment at the beginning of missions and keeping units alive so that they may fight another day. At this point in its development cycle, Panzers: Cold War stands well on its solid and approachable gameplay, and fans of the game's take on the Cold War should keep their eyes peeled for future news on this title.
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