It's been a while since World War II games were much good. Been a long time since they were "the thing". In recent years only series like Il-2, Red Orchestra and Men at War have been keeping the Nazi-killing dream alive.
Yet it was with a little excitement I sat down with Unity of Command, an upcoming PC strategy game. Mostly because, growing up, I was hopelessly addicted to the Panzer General series, a franchise built on the idea of taking hex-based wargaming, normally a quite complex affair, and making it as streamlined and accessible as possible.
It was Advance Wars with Tiger Tanks, essentially.
Unity of Command does this, only with a little more flair and a little more realism.
At its heart, the game is a simple, turn-based strategy title. You take command of a side on the Eastern Front (so no British or American forces), you have a set number of turns to achieve your objectives, and combat is taken care of by simply clicking on the unit you want to attack (with helpful prediction counters aiding your decision-making).
So far, so Panzer General, but UoC has a few new tricks going for it. One, and this seems strange for a Second World War turn-based strategy game, is that it looks slick. There's a stylised appearance to your infantry, displayed as faceless little busts, and your armour and aircraft are likewise looking good.
The other thing that stands out is the game's use of supply. While UoC is determined to keep things simple, with an emphasis on pure strategy over mouse clicking, there's some complexity added to the game by the way the developers have applied logistics, something many games either don't bother with or which will bore a player to death.
In UoC, your supply lines are like veins running across the map. You've got to keep your units near them, otherwise you won't be able to attack. Go too far too fast and you'll over-shoot them, leaving your units vulnerable. Likewise, let the enemy cut across them and at best you'll only lose a few units. At worst you can lose your entire army. Though, hey, this also applies in reverse.
What this means in terms of how the game flows is that despite its stylish looks and easy-to-pick-up rules, Unity of Command feels real. You're not simply on a map slugging your way through units or racing for dots on a map, it's more of a dance, each side striking out not just at the bad guys, but the more-important roads and supply lines as well.
Unity of Command isn't out yet; it'll be shipping out on November 15. You can see more of the game in action at the official site, linked below.
Unity of Command [Official Site]