Order of War Review (PC)

Whether it signals the desperation of a declining Japanese game industry or not, Order of War is somewhat of a success as the first fully-westernised development for RPG behemoth Square Enix. The blend of RTS features, cinematic visuals and approachable tactics will win over many fans, but without the depth and longevity of many PC-based rivals, ultimately itís a title that comes up short of being a classic.

From the opening cinematic, youíd be hard pushed to notice this as a title developed anywhere but Europe. Colourful arrows reminiscent of those in classic British comedy Dadís Army are strewn on top of grainy footage of a wartime map, accompanied by the usual bombastic overture and a large dash of mood-lightening eccentricity in the barrage of propaganda that follows. This isnít a game that takes its subject matter overly seriously, but it isnít completely without reverence either Ė a fact that makes the occurrence of a playable German campaign all the more surprising.

The engine scales particularly well for an RTS.
A cinematic camera allows you to get up close and personal with each encounter.

Each of the main single-player modes revolves around real-life historical battles, with the allied section predictably covering the Normandy landing all the way through to the final push in Berlin. The German chapters however, revolve around Operation Bagration, which pitted the might of the Soviet Army against the Nazi forces in a crucial turning point during 1944. It's a fresh and interesting setting for a WWII RTS, and in practice it easily outshines the more conventional subject material in the other half.

Controlling squadrons rather than individual units, commandeering your army is as traditional as it gets. Right click to select, right click to move, drag for formation options, and shift-select for multiple unit types. These are the staples of any RTS, and Order of War sticks to them rigidly. With that said, the battle can be paused at any moment and commands issued without restarting the action - allowing the rare luxury of being able to formulate plans and set sequences in motion without having to worry about encroaching forces.

And time management quickly becomes a necessity. The sprawling maps often require capturing multiple points of interest to secure victory, so you may be faced with an easy route to one target, but a potentially grander risk in sending your squad to a heavily-fortified camp further away. The risk/reward comes by way of increased manpower regeneration from garrisoned locations, with the more difficult spots proving lucrative in the long run. Itís a formula that works pretty well, and the between-levels XP upgrade system adds an additional layer of strategy, in line with genre stalwart Company of Heroes.

Given the subject matter, unit types will be familiar to everybody.
Fortified objective locations prove key.

Those simplistic qualities also translate pretty well to the multiplayer arena, which draws the best out of the tactical engine to provide some chaotic and interesting real-time battles. Performance from net code and the robust if unspectacular graphical engine is certainly above average, with no significant problems to report during our play time. Player population is healthy.

With all that said, Order of War does little to justify a purchase above the likes of CoH or Dawn of War II. The campaign modes are light on depth, and most seasoned players will breeze through before heading back to the heavy-hitters. This isnít a game aimed at the die-hard RTS crowd, but you have to wonder if anybody else will notice. On that level it may yet prove a failure, but if Square Enix manages to rope in that mythical audience waiting on the edge of the hardcore arena, more power to them. They wonít be disappointed.

Top Game moment: Advancing through a war-torn town with the cinematic camera framing the action.

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By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Oct 02, 2009
Thanks for the review mate. I was looking forward to this one, and while not up to CoH's standard, I will get it when it drops in price...which it will.
By ironmike71 (SI Veteran Newbie) on Oct 02, 2009
nice landscape and camera movement. but the sound effects and explosions are terrible. and those big thick rings around the selected units? awful.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Oct 03, 2009
I think I'll stick to World in Conflict (which this sounds a rip-off of anyway).
By gungsta (SI Newbie) on Oct 05, 2009
There's an MP demo available on FilePlanet - you can check it out before making your choice.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Oct 05, 2009
I was dissapointed with the game when I reviewed it. Just seemed a bit generic and soulless. The Campaign missions are just set pieces after set pieces, and its only really in multiplayer and the skirmish mode where the real fun is.

I'd stick to Men of War to be honest. Basically the same game just on a slightly smaller scale, and rendered better.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Dec 13, 2009
Well after trying to play this non-optimised, unsupported mish-mash of RTT and RTS for a couple of months now, I would rate it in it's current form as 2 out 10. A patch has been promised for 3 months now, and still no word.