In ways that work for it and against it, Strategic Command 2: Blitzkrieg is a very predictable game. A turn-based wargame set in the European theater of World War 2 is naturally bound somewhat by the setting and genre. Missions, units, and advantages for each nation are all things that the developer can't really change. Where those games have room to innovate is in the overall presentation and combat modeling. Strategic Command 2 manages to capture the scope of the war but doesn't really bring anything new in the way of gameplay.
Strategic Command 2 rounds up the usual suspects of World War 2 operations. Players will have the chance to blitz through Poland, storm the beaches of Normandy, fight in the freezing forests around Bastogne or the scorching deserts of North Africa. Players can also opt to play through the battles between the Germans and Soviets in Operation Barbarossa. Some of the scenarios, like Market-Garden, are small enough to be completed in the space of an hour. Others, like the early German offenses, can occupy several hours. Players who aren't satisfied with the current offerings, can use the rather extensive editor to create their own scenarios.
The larger scenarios offer wide playing areas and tons of units of different types but even the smaller offerings have a satisfying variety and quantity of units. Armies, air forces and fleets will all have to cooperate in order to capture the objectives in each mission. Unfortunately, the objectives for a mission aren't always very clear but if you know anything about history, you can usually guess what you're supposed to do. Still a bit of help would have been most welcome.
While the combat seems fairly solid, the game doesn't go out of its way to let you know what sorts of factors are influencing your combats. While this might work in a small scale tactical game, games at the strategic level need to have much more transparency in terms of mechanics. We don't necessarily expect to see complex mathematical formulas for every single aspect of the game, but it would be nice to know a little bit more about why certain attacks work and others don't. Even a simple strength match-up before you initiate an attack would help. You can pull up a screen for each unit (once you discover the double right-clicking menu) that shows attack and defense values for a range of units but that's not really enough information for you to plan your attacks intelligently.
The AI is a little unpredictable at times. Though it sometimes guards its flanks very carefully, even when penetrating your lines, it just as often will leave itself completely overextended and at the mercy of your own units. Still, the way the scenarios are designed and the way the combats play out will provide you with a reasonable challenge.
While some of the smaller scenarios are just focused on more limited match ups between existing forces, the larger and longer scenarios introduce additional strategic concepts like resource collection, production and research. Players will gain resource points for owning certain squares on the map -- cities, ports, etc. Those points can be spent to buy new units that can enter the battle the following turn or by funding research. The research areas are far too broad. You'll simply invest in "infantry" or "bombers" to gain a small increase in their abilities.
There is a small range of diplomatic options here but all require the expenditure of the resource points you ought to be using to further your research and purchase new units. Since most of the relationships are set from the beginning, there's not much flexibility in the diplomatic model. Strangely, the option to declare war is completely missing from the diplomatic menus. Instead, you'll have to go to the theater-wide map to have that option.
Like most wargames, Strategic Command 2 fails to deliver in the graphics and audio department. In fact, Strategic Command 2 is actually a bit below the normally disappointing standards of the genre. The maps are flat and featureless and the unit sprites, though accurate in terms of appearance, are completely static and unexciting. The small explosions that accompany some attacks are the only real hint of life in the game's visual presentation and even they are a bit of a letdown.
Both grognards and wargamer wannabes will long for some sort of insight into the numbers behind combat but, unfortunately, the game keeps such information hidden, leaving you to figure out why some encounters are more dangerous than others. The rest of the interface seems very outdated, from the bland report and production windows to the game's menus.
The sound for the battles and moves is specific to the type of unit involved but still very generic. We appreciate the rumble of rolling tank treads and the stamp of boots, but the actual quality of the sounds is generic and not very interesting. The same is true of the weapons sounds and explosions resulting from each battle. There's some great martial music during the game's opening screen but there's no actual music during the game itself.
Strategic Command definitely delivers in terms of the vast quantity of compelling scenarios and the numbers of units. Gamers looking for a one-size-fits-all strategic game set in the European theater of World War 2 will definitely be happy with the options presented here. While the abstract approach to combat might appeal to some gamers, we found ourselves wanting a little more information about how the game resolved combats. Beyond that, the overall presentation is dry even by wargame standards with some notable shortcomings in terms of the interface and the visuals.
People who downloaded Strategic Command 2: Blitzkrieg have also downloaded:
Strategic Command: European Theater, Third Reich, Steel Panthers 2: Modern Battles, Sudden Strike, Steel Panthers 3: Brigade Command (1939-1999), Sudden Strike 2, Steel Panthers, Sudden Strike: Resource War
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