Order Of War Preview: Almost Everything Is In Order

Please forgive the author as her headline-writing guy seems to be out of the office at the moment, along with the chick who comes up with puns.

Order of War is a World War II strategy game for PC with a slightly different angle than all the other WWII strategy games out there: it's not really for strategy gamers, it's for history buffs. There is strategy involved, of course, and nothing bar other types of gamer from getting in on Order of War's action (except maybe the ESRB rating). However, the real thrill of the game is supposed to come not from executing a classic pincer or sweeping the map's control points the fastest – but from knowing exactly which unit to send against the Panzerfausts and exactly when to select the cinema camera view.

What Is It?
Order of War is a PC strategy game that recreates the Operation Overlord period of World War II (everything after D-Day pretty much). Players can control either the American or the German forces for nine missions each in singleplayer or go online where the Soviet forces are also available.

What We Saw
I played as the US forces in one of the multiplayer maps that will be available in a GameSpy-sponsored demo that goes live September 15.

How Far Along Is It?
Final – the game ships September 22.

What Needs Improvement?
Is It Germans or Nazis? Order of War was handled by the London branch of developer Wargaming.net and one of their big markets is Germany. Understandably, attitudes toward Nazi history are more complex for them than they are for the US – where it's so vogue to hate on Nazis – and it looks like the developer made some sacrifices in the historical accuracy department (which they're trying to appeal to) so as not to upset a potential market. This is why I didn't see a single swastika in the game – not on insignia, not on loading screens and definitely not in flag form when you capture a base playing as German soldiers.

Maybe a Little Too Simple For Some: There's not much resource management in the game and no tech trees to build out. It's a very simple capture-the-flag setup where having more flags nets you more resources and allows you to call in reinforcements from better positions on the map. It's historically accurate, sure, but could be pretty boring for hardcore strategy gamers.

What Should Stay The Same?
Accessible: The game isn't too complex or too heavy-handed in its portrayals of the various armies to drive away a gamer who'd never heard of WWII. The user interface doesn't clutter up the screen, there isn't too much text to read and it's generally easy to comprehend the buttons that put infantry into trucks and deploy them back out when you're moving units around. The game even eliminates a common noob strategy gamer mistake: instead of requiring you to deploy reinforcements at the base camp and then send them out on the map with a rally point, you can just click where on the map you'd like reinforcements to go and the game will automatically deploy them from the nearest flag you've captured and send them toward that point — instead of leaving them standing around at the home base to get bombed.

Pretty: The main camera options for the battlefield are pretty typical: you can pull all the way back for a top-down view or zoom pretty far in for a third-person view (though not close enough to make out individual soldiers' faces). However, there's also a cinema camera option that will automatically go to where there's fighting on the map and do its own cutting to craft a very pretty movie of the fight as it unwinds. It's so captivating you might not even realize you're the one getting blown up.

There's As Much Strategy As You Bring To the Board: Order of War may be "accessible" (or "simplistic"), but it's not "easy." The game won't give you everything you need to beat the other player unless you work for it, and that other player will be working for it, too. Instead of relying on the setup where the guy with the most resource points or the highest-level base wins as so many real-time strategy games do, Order of War really comes down to who is smarter on the battlefield – or at least down to who still has units left on the field to capture a flag after everyone else got blown up.

The Music: The music swells to a dramatic crescendo at some points during the combat, but for the most part it adds to the experience instead of distracting from it. I'm told it's done by the guy who did Neverwinter Nights.

Final Thoughts
Order of War is for the history buffs, but it does appeal to a wider audience of gamer on an emotional level. I say that not because the game makes me want to beat the beejesus out of Nazis or Germans, or whatever they call them in the game. I say it because the music and the cinematic mode coupled with the simplicity of gameplay create an experience that's engaging, but not challenging to any preconceptions I have about WWII or strategy games. I'm not looking at swastikas and thinking "Hate! Kill!" and I'm not shopping for upgrades that will whore resource points faster. I'm just looking at a battle unfold that may well look like something that took place 65 years ago through a lens that makes everything look like a war movie – but just the exploding battle parts of it.