Order of War Preview (PC)

It’s natural for any business to want to expand, either by building on what they already have, or by venturing into new territory. Square Enix’s decision to compete more seriously in the western markets therefore, even into the strategy genre, is not unexpected. Order of War, a WW2 tactical strategy game will be their first foray on our own turf, and typically the company promises an “epic” and “cinematic” experience that would be worthy of any Final Fantasy. Bravado aside, you would generally expect something decent from one of the more famous videogame developers of our time.

The reality however falls rather short of expectations. It’s not that Order of War is going to be a bad game; it’s just not looking that good either. Despite having some of the tick-boxes any strategy game needs to have, you can’t help feel that something is missing, although it’s hard to say anything definitive as this stage. Given that this is early preview code, there was no chance to test out online functionality, and only a handful of the campaign missions were available to play.

Calling Airstrikes adds a certain ‘uncertainty’ to gameplay, which is good.
Being able to shoot down said airstrike however, is better.

It’s strange, because when you load up the game it certainly looks like there might be something to it. A well crafted intro movie, blending real footage with game footage, as well as computer generated graphics giving the game a very ‘slick’ look, although such is the power of this technology. Going into a game, you see that the graphics are decent enough, and the game world has been put together quite well. When it comes to these kinds of strategy games, there are generally only two options: Grand Strategy that involves the ‘big picture’, and more up close and personal Tactical Strategy. Like the name, the game feels a lot like 1C’s Men of War, but on a slightly larger scale more akin to Theatre of War II, which was reviewed a few months ago.

And there’s its first problem. Square have touted this game as being a truly ‘cinematic’ experience, and on the one hand that’s true because you can activate a special mode a la Empire at War, that makes the whole thing look very movie-like. The only problem is that the game seems to lack the ‘personality’ a movie has to make you A/ care about what’s happening or B/ the people you’re commanding. Theatre of War II had similar problems, but at least in Men of War you had the two friends, no matter how badly voice acted they were.

Like Men of War, there is a whole range of units and types for you to wield. I’m a bit of an artillery freak myself.
Fortifications like these are unfortunately tied to the campaign maps they feature in.

The campaign mode’s biggest weakness so far is that the levels seem to be made up of nothing but several smaller ‘set pieces’, where you focus on one objective, then the next, then the next, and then you’re done. This wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t so short, and the format actually throws the majority of your tactical thinking out the window, because so far all you need to do is to make sure you have enough of whatever’s available to overcome whatever the enemy throws at you. Each objective is also interspersed with a short in-game cut scene detailing what’s happening, why, and what you need to do about it. Again, the fact that you don’t really care makes this rather useless, but it also has an added affect of making the action very stop-start, which ruins the flow of the game.

The setting as well is hardly original. Whilst many critics complain that World War II in general is becoming stale, developer’s fascination for all things post-Normandy is probably becoming staler. The war had been going on for a whole 4-5 years before that time you know.

The skirmish mode seems to be one of the game’s plus points. Not being tied to a linear story, you have more control over the battle and what happens with it. It’s in this mode that the comparison with Men of War is at its strongest, although that’s probably due to the general ‘style’ of the game as opposed to any conscious copying effort on the part of the developers. Whilst it’s unconfirmed whether or not they’ll be different ‘modes’ to play, the one available for testing revolved around control points which you have to capture. The more you control, the faster you can call in reinforcements, and if you control them all, you win. Assuming then that the online mode will follow similar lines, the game’s probably not going to be a total flop.

Towns and Cities are recreated almost to scale, which is another plus.
The game tries to capture the essence of large-scale battles, but doesn’t quite succeed.

You can’t help but feel sorry for, as it must have been quite a shock for a relatively unknown developer to find themselves spearheading a famous eastern publisher’s market expansion. Whilst the developers have experience in the strategy field, you can’t help but wonder if they lacked mainstream experience to make this work. The game itself doesn’t really do anything new, and as mentioned earlier is really just a combination of Men of War and Theatre of War II.

Perhaps Square’s name alone will carry the title, or perhaps things really will improve between now and release. So far, it’s not looking good. With a Men of War expansion on its way, as well several other strategy titles both old and new still dominating this sector of the market, it’s hard to imagine this doing well without something brand spanking new. Even its relatively simplified handling may not be enough. Still, we’ve been wrong before.

Order of War is due out for release later in the Autumn for PC.

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By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Aug 17, 2009
I've played the Demo, which was surprisingly tasty given that it is a E3 demo after all. I am looking forward to this. WiC in WWII...gotta love it, guys. See you on the battlefield.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Aug 17, 2009
Bah, each to their own. I played the very same demo, and I was honestly very uninspired.

There was no depth to it, just set pieces and grand standing. With Men of War, you can really be connected with the action, care about it, even care about the two protagonists in the Russian Campaign, even if they've got terrible voice actors.
By fredyzg (SI Core) on Aug 17, 2009
another boring Rts!
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Aug 17, 2009
You party-poopers. Of course the demo was was meant to be simple and fast, so the E3 crowds could jump on and off quickly. As for MoW...I have it and I loathe it. BooooooRING! There is an EP coming for it soon, which I definitely won't be getting.
By gungsta (SI Newbie) on Aug 18, 2009
Well the demo was decent though not perfect and rather short. The author found many details making OoW a promising game but then figured out that it is not good enough (MoW is better cause u have friends there and care much about their fat). This made me lol, though the preview was still of great use, thanks.
By Lighthouse (I just got here) on Aug 19, 2009
Just tried the game at GamesCom. The game is really awesome. I can't remember GAMES having hundreds of units present on the battlefield. The maps in Order of War are waaay bigger than in WiC, CoH or MoW What I mean is that OoW has really nice graphics for the scale of action it provides. I'm probably looking for some new WWII RTS experience and do hope that this game goona be great.
By Hunter_Raj (SI Member) on Aug 20, 2009
You party-poopers. Of course the demo was was meant to be simple and fast, so the E3 crowds could jump on and off quickly. As for MoW...I have it and I loathe it. BooooooRING! There is an EP coming for it soon, which I definitely won't be getti
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Aug 21, 2009
Echo, echo, echo?
By wackywizard (I just got here) on Sep 23, 2009
I'd be surprised if the reviewer actually played the game. You can in no way mass anything and win even a basic skirmish. I just got the game and after several hours of play was deeply impressed with the level of strategy involved. where you place your units, when you place them and their facing is critical. feinting to draw out the enemy. making sure you have the time to set up artillery. the game has a pause button you will need to think out your next moves. like a chess game if you try to bash through willy nilly at speed you will get wrecked. your resources have a finite limit as well so once you use all your resources game over. This is by far the best WW II game of it's class. if you like WW II games this game is 100% for you. if your a laser brain who gets bored of one the most exciting times in history like the reviewer skip this game. WW II will continue to be a discussed and social explored topics for as long as were all still reading, going to school, watching the history channeling and playing video games. I for one can never have to many WWII games =P. and again this game is great, like WW II chess with eye candy graphics