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World War II RTS Games List
For some reason this conflict generates more than its fair share of titles, both in strategy circles and First Person Shooters. Nearly all of them are tactical in nature, with little or economic elements of any kind (other than logistics), and they all tend to look alike. Most WWII games, especially the Anglo-speaking ones, simply rehash Hollywood movies and regurgitate official military propaganda on the subject. A lot seem to start on Omaha Beach and wind up in Berlin, with a nod towards the Brits in North Africa or the Russians on the Eastern Front. The devil is in the details, though.

Here's something for you WWII game junkies to go through: source an early Seventies doco series called World At War. Its covers the entire conflict, through all its theatres and all the squalid details that most of the historically challenged titles that pop out today completely miss. Its something like a massive 26 episodes long (back when TV hours were 48 minutes) and it goes through pretty much everything. They made it based on old war footage and actual eyewitness accounts back when they were still young. It'll help put a lot of this period in context, and its not too shabby as English speaking docos on the subject go.

Axis & Allies: RTS (2004)

This is a port from the World War II board game of the same name, developed by Timegate Studios and published by Atari. You get to play one of five major players in the conflict, the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, Germany, and Japan, across three of the major theatres of action: the Pacific, Europe and Africa. Historical battles and campaigns are staged for you to bend history with, using a pretty standard gaming RTS engine.

All units are controlled as single Regiments, even the tanks and vehicles. Regiments are organised into groups called Divisions and each Division requires a Divisional HQ to produce and maintain them. For example, an Infantry Division HQ lets you build six infantry regiments, while an Armoured Division can only produce three Tank Regiments. You can adjust the role of your Divisions depending of what kind of Regiments you opt for.

There's an economy of sorts and a few researchable techs, but Axis & Allies' cash system is all about logistics. If you want to field a large army on the field, then you must provide the logistics to feed it. there's no resource gathering of any kind anywhere, but you must establish a chain of supply camps in order to sustain your campaign. Establishing and moving forward bases and building up working supply lines is an essential and welcome addition to proceedings. Restocking can help smaller forces out siege larger ones. That is, strategy counts for an awful lot and for once, there are actual supply lines in an RTS game. Gromits used to rushing or swarming may well charge headlong to their doom, or find their monstrous force cut off at the knees by a single Regiment cutting their supply chain from behind. Your buildings are just camps that can be packed into the back of a truck and moved around, so you can adapt to the changing conditions as required. The more supply depots, ammo dumps and fuel dumps you scatter around, the more you'll be able to preserve your strength militarily. The Home Front presumably has a bottomless treasury and endless supplies of volunteers. Any Regiments that sit within your supply line's operating radii (shown as a green line on the map) are magically healed up and have fresh reinforcements teleported into the field. Those that get cut off will slowly starve, eventually running out of health, ammo and fuel.

The screengrabs look nicely detailed and fairly orthographic, and you can destroy everything on the map, just like every other WWII game out there. While the alternate history angle is hyped up a bit, and the game goes on about realism, this still boils down to being just easy-on-the-eye game, with silly game logic and sensibilities spiced up with some extra features. For a title in a genre soggy with WWII titles, this is a bit better than most. The campaign uses a turn based "Risk" style campaign map and then reverts to RTS to resolve the actual battle. It's not too shabby: sitting somewhere between a arcadey title for the kids and something a little more serious.Back

Battlefield Command

See Wartime Command.Back

Close Combat Series

Close Combat is a tactical wargame series set in the Second World War, developed by Atomic, a developer specialising in accurate war simulations, and published by Microsoft. It predates the PC game world's current post- Saving Private Ryan obsession with WWII - and is really quite old. It does away with the usual RTS economy and fantasy world to strive to reproduce as historically accurate and realistic combat simulation in every detail. Weapons, maps, scenarios, units and conditions are modeled accurately for an strictly 2D game. All your soldiers have names, behave moreorless realistically (within the context of an RTS, that is) and are affected by stress, psychology, leadership and of course, the enemy. It makes for a difficult game: you have to think hard on this one, and an disparities between the sides are accurately reproduced. Close Combat was extremely well received when it first appeared, and spawned an entire line of sequels. Its widely regarded as the benchmark for military simulations.

Close Combat (1996)

Close Combat II: A Bridge Too Far (1997)

Close Combat III: The Russian Front (1998)

Close Combat IV: Battle of the Bulge (1999)

Close Combat V: Invasion Normandy (2000)

This series is about to be resurrected into contemporary times. Atomic has been developing training software for the US Marines, and their next two projects: Close Combat: First to Fight (yet another team based 3D shooter set in - surprise! - a "modern mid-eastern urban battleground"), and Close Combat: Red Phoenix (an RTS based on North Korea invading South Korea) involve more close cooperation with the Marines. It'll be interesting to see where these titles go, given Atomic's close attention to accurate, historical detail. Well they've gone for the whole gung-ho Marine thing, lock stock and barrel. The First to Fight 3D shooter versions of these games are (to be) official USMC training tools, built and blessed by the guys in the ground themselves, which is fine... except its impossible to peruse these things without having to wade through the usual prostelysing, dogma and recruiting drive to go with it. They must be desperate, these days.Back

Codename: Panzers (2004)

And yet another World War II tactical RTS game, this time hailing from Germany and pitched at the mass market. Its very lush, easy to get into, and not shabby - unit mechanics and logic looks sound. First impressions is that it's pitched for the tourists, i.e. a good one to start on if you're not familiar with this sort of thing, but more to come as I try out the demo a bit more.Back

Company of Heroes (2006)

Relic Entertainment, developer of the Homeworld series and Dawn of War, branches out into the World War II RTS and gives it a substantial boost. Company of Heroes picks up where Dawn of War's brilliant squad detail and tactics left off. There's highly detailed and deep squad level combat and presents the player with an interactive, destructible environment and some decent game physics noticeably absent from Dawn of War. All kinds of surprises and emergent behaviour pops out of its physics engine. The company is hyping what it calls its Essence engine, an RTS orientated game engine does for real time strategy what Valve Entertainment's Source engine did for Half-Life 2 and first person shooters in general. It isn't just another WWII tactical game and its sure ain't a WarCraft clone. It's causing quite a stir amongst strategy gamers. Basically, this is the leading light in the next generation of RTS games, and is the blueprint of Relic's new games, especially Dawn of War 2.

It looks fantastic... but dammit, its another World War II game, albeit the best in its genre. Once again its the Americans single handedly prevailing against the Germans. Relic is also producing a very similar looking and sounding game for the XBox 360, called The Outfit. There's an expansion: Opposing Fronts (2007), featuring the British Army this time.Back

Soldiers: Heroes of World War II (2004)

Developed by xxx and distributed by CodeMasters, its another Allies versus the Germans WWII game. It uses a totally destructible environment with a lot in it, but you basically control a single set of guys using an RTS interface, or opt for directing them individually, driving them around individually as though you're in a first person shooter. There appears to be no base building or other management of any kind. You're simply using your troops to complete objectives. This is nowhere near as slick as Relic's Company of Heroes, though.Back

Sudden Strike (2001)

Reinforcements arrive by air
I was beset a while ago by a number of rather serious people wondering why RTSC had never bothered to mention Sudden Strike. So I downloaded the demo and had a quick squint. Jumpin' jipatties - it does seem to rock. So here it is - screengrab and all.

Sudden Strike is developed by FireGlow Games and produced by German developer cdv. Its very much the classic wargamer's game; made for armchair enthusiasts to play meticulous recreations of bits of World War II - minus the messy tragic bits. Its game elements are embellished in considerable detail and strategic depth - all sumptuously rendered and animated in plain old isometric 2D. It uses a thorough game engine that doesn't seem to miss any details: fully animated explosions, properly modeled craters, destructible buildings, terrain types, aircraft, tanks, artillery, the works. While to the unwary eye all those little sprites may look alike - they're not. Troop classes, weapons, vehicles and other minute details are significant, to be ignored at your peril. This is straight battle tactics: there's no economic model of any kind. You only get periodic reinforcements once you've begun achieving objectives. Enemy hardware, such as artillery, can be captured and quickly turned to your advantage. The demo map was a vast affair with towns, fortified bunkers, choke points, traps, and wide stretches of countryside - and I haven't even come close to cracking it yet! A word of warning - thinking caps are required! Unusually for an RTS, its far easier to defend than attack. Well worth a look. See also the Close Combat series.

There's a sequel: Sudden Strike 2 (2002).

And a second one on the way: Sudden Strike 3: Arms for Victory. This will be using a 3D game engine (like everyone these days) called the Sudden Strike Next 7 engine.Back

Theatre of War (in development)

Hm, I wonder. This looks remarkably like Wartime Command, except with a different name (see below).Back

Wartime Command (stillborn)

Formerly known as Battlefield Command. Another World War II game in a market completely soggy with WWII titles. Wartime Command is an upcoming tactical RTS from Rumanian developer 1C that boasts authenticity and nine different nationalities in every theatre of that huge conflict. These guys developed the WWII Russian air sim IL-2 Sturmovik, producing a startlingly crisp and clear looking production. Wartime Command looks promising, and if it lives up to its claims might prove to be an interesting game, especially for any Close Combat fans. (I've always felt Eastern European period war gaming was a little more "genuine" than its Western counterparts; they tend to be based on history and actual experience rather than relying on generations of recycled Hollywood clichés or simple mouthpieces for Marine propaganda...) Apart from the period details, it models infantry right down to individual AI's with morale and three dozen other character attributes and uses what sounds like the "persistent fleet" concept in games like Homeworld: the guys who survive one mission go on to the next, building up skills, experience and special skills as they go. Wartime Command was slated for a 2004 release. Its more than a little overdue. Actually, it seems to have surreptitiously slipped off the Net and I suspect it's been cancelled. Or just renamed.Back

World War II: Frontline Command (2003)

Not to be confused with Wartime Command, this is a Bitmap Brothers (famous for Z) tactical RTS. Its a simpler and more arcady version of Sudden Strike or Close Combat using a simply expressed but slick 3D environment.Back

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Last modified Sat, Dec 6 2008 by Lindsay Fleay