When you think back to Dune 2, all those years ago, you really begin to realise how far the RTS genre has come since the early nineties. Gone are the days of frantic building and sending in legion upon legion of grunts on unrelenting suicide runs into the enemy camp. These days, an RTS gamer needs tactics, micromanagement, strategy and above all, patience. Heaps and heaps of patience.
Men of War: Assault Squad is a stand-alone expansion pack from the popular, and well received, Men of War titled series. Developed by DigitalMindSoft and 1C Company, Men of War: Assault Squad takes place during World War 2 in an assortment of different theatres.
The single player skirmish mode is based over a fifteen map battle-fest and anyone entering the fray should prepare to be killed. Lots. Men of War: Assault Squad is not the faint of heart, or a newcomer to the RTS genre. This game will tax you to the hilt, chew you up and spit you out if you’re not careful.
You have a limited pool of resources to dip into that will produce all manner of infantry types: Commandos, Special Forces, Medics, Snipers etc. Once you have your men ready, you can mass highlight and click to any number of spots on the map that will either provide cover or allow you to gain more ground. However, the enemy can also dip into their resource pool and just when you manage to take a strategic point, they come rolling over the hill with a couple of tanks and lay your men to waste.
Without proper planning and resource management you’ll soon find yourself losing ground and men, this is where the Men of War experience starts. Don’t rush into the killing ground, work your way around the perimeter, use your infantry in the roles for which they are designed. Special Forces and Snipers can hide amongst the undergrowth and take out loads of the enemy, Flame-thrower units are great against the enemies bunkers. It’s careful placement and patience that pays off in the end. I know it might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people online still charge into a situation without thinking it through first.
The skirmish maps are devised over different historical settings and battlegrounds split into five playable nations: USA, Germany, Japanese Empire, Soviet Union and the Commonwealth. The skirmish mode is fantastic and the maps generally have you starting from one end, fighting, defending and capturing your way through to the other end with each map taking nearly an hour to complete.
Each map is incredibly well made with destructible landscapes, plenty of cover and some of the most intense action I have seen from an RTS in a long time. The amount of strategies you can employ in each map is just mind-boggling, but much of that depends on the AI. Whilst it has been drastically overhauled from the previous Men of War games, you can find your squad getting a little confused from time to time. They can either sometimes find cover behind a wall and point their gun in the wrong direction or get trapped through the bush and emerge right in the middle of the enemy camp.
Although these are minute problems, when you’re controlling several squads at once things can be become a bit hairy. Luckily, you have the ability to take direct control of a unit by using the keyboard and mouse, a wonderful option which gives the player a better feel for the units. Be warned though, the enemy AI is very sneaky and will find cover and take pot shots at your guys whenever the opportunity arises.
However, where this game really takes off is the multiplayer. With over forty maps together with the skirmish maps available for co-op play over Internet or Lan, you can pick from Assault Zones, Combat, Skirmish or Frontlines with up to 8 vs. 8 players. My only problem, is the small player base at the moment. Perhaps that has something to do with the vast intricacies of Men of War, or maybe it’s just because the game is still relatively new. Either way, as soon as the playing population beefs up, the online multiplayer will shine.
The graphics are lovely, the scenery is beautifully drawn and the units are animated wonderfully. Explosions rock the area, sending anyone near flying through the air. Men run around engulfed in flame and screaming their heads off. The tanks roll up, the noise of their heavy diesel engines thundering amidst the rattling of machine gun fire. The overall effect is rather superb and although I spent most of my time playing ‘pushing up the daisies’, at least it looked and sounded great.
A fine RTS, one the best I have played in a long while. Whilst it has a steep learning curve, it won’t take you too long to get into the depth of play. The AI can be frustrating and you’ll have to keep a constant eye on everything going on, but the results are well worth it. Men of War: Assault Squad has been a great RTS experience with an excellent online option, I highly recommend it.
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