Tank Operations: European Campaign Review (PC)

Tank Operations: European Campaign, developed by Linked Dimensions, offers players yet another opportunity to recreate the pivotal European battles of World War II. A turn based strategy title, Tank Operations requires a militaristic, managerial mind set to command a vast range of planes, trucks, infantry men and yes, even tanks, across desserts, grasslands and snow in order to take Berlin and end the war once and for all.

Each mission in Tank Operations recreates a specific WWII-era conflict, each with its own objectives that range from occupying and controlling a major city, destroying German fuel and ammo dumps, and systematically removing shoreline bunkers. This is, of course, achieved through the strategic use of different military units which can attack enemy forces, occupy cities and transport supplies across the battlefield.

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Every individual type of unit has particular attributes such as movement and attack distance, weapon effectiveness, and fuel and ammo supply that needs to be taken into account before each move. However, it's often difficult to find the information needed to mount an effective attack or counter attack i.e. the type of enemy a particular unit is effective against, which is further confounded by the large number of similar looking units available for purchase.

The previously mentioned ammo and fuel supplies for each unit goes some way to set Tank Operations apart from similar games as almost all units need to be resupplied with fuel and ammo via supply trucks or by returning to a base. Bases can also be used to repair damaged units – a task that can be carried out by mobile repair trucks later in the game. This adds an interesting dimension to strategy as even the most powerful tank can be rendered inoperable by infantrymen obstructing an enemy supply route, and a seemingly crippled tank can be restored through well thought out supply unit convoys.

Tank Operations also features expensive saboteurs whose special abilities allow them to nip into battles and sabotage a mechanical unit, destroy bridges or even take over an enemy base. Almost all units have these special skills, for example, artillery units can become invisible through camouflage, certain aircraft can increase their accuracy by dive bombing and particular tanks can increase their firing range through reconnaissance. These special abilities increases a unit's usefulness and flexibility in battle, but can only be used once every 4-5 turns.

The game's AI is well developed and puts up a unpredictable, yet well thought out fight and changes its strategy appropriately in response to major battlefield events. The AI will quite often retreat in the nick of time, sneakily occupy unwatched cities and mount counter attacks using extremely effective unit combinations. There's the odd moments when the AI commits a brain fart, such as when lightly armoured enemy tanks are sent hurtling towards the player's base only to be completely obliterated, but for the most part Tank Operations' AI is a genuinely challenging, yet fair, opponent.

It should be noted that Tank Operations is a strategy game with historical elements, not the other way around. All playable Allied units are exclusively American while all Axis forces are German, even in battles where other nations were known to be fighting. But the game is hardly realistic anyway, with new units being purchased on-site with cash, tanks that can shoot through mountains, ships that cannot move and foreign cities that, when occupied, generate money.

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Historical fallacy aside, Tank Operations is a solid strategy romp that's perfect in one-two hour bursts. This is also, roughly speaking, the time it takes to beat each of the game's 12 missions, offering a decent 25+ hours of gameplay in a single play through. Unfortunately, Tank Operations gives players little reason to go back and replay missions – there's no multiplayer, be that local or online, no additional difficulty settings or modifiers, no optional mission objectives, and, most disappointingly, no option to replay missions as the Nazis forces.

The abundance of missed opportunities isn't totally shocking considering Tank Operations' general lack of originality. Upon starting a mission, the hexagonal grid overlaying the map will bring forth memories of the Panzer General series for many players, and has similarities with many popular table-top strategy games. That's not to say that Tank Operations is “copying” any such games, but the now-overdone World War II setting makes comparisons far too easy – with the game's archaic graphics only further highlighting similarities.

Tank Operations: European Campaign has relatively low system specs which increase accessibility, however the choice to use completely non-animated art assets – save for explosions and smoke – results in the game looking prematurely dated. Additionally, the low system specs don't amount to much once Tank Operations begins to inexplicably slow down after roughly 30 minutes of gameplay – a peculiar phenomenon that requires the game to be restarted in order for smoothness to be restored.

There's definitely fun to be had in Tank Operations: European Campaign and the game is accessible enough and deep enough to be enjoyed by both armchair generals and strategy newcomers alike. However, the aforementioned absence of basic features puts the game's worth in question.

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Again, the inability to play as German forces is a grand oversight by developer Linked Dimensions. Considering that most German troops are unique to the opposition, and that these units' statistics and abilities are present in-game, it's nothing short of mind-boggling that the option to play as Axis forces is not available.

Perhaps the aforementioned issues with “missing” features will be addressed in future updates, but in its current form, Tank Operations: European Campaign is a robust, yet mediocre strategy title that fails to excel in any aspect whatsoever. As such, Tank Operations cannot be recommended over other modern strategy titles of varying scales, or even retro titles – such as the previously mentioned Panzer General series – which are easily available through the likes of Good Old Games.

Top Game Moment: Waiting for unsuspecting enemy units to wander too close to your camouflaged, city-occupying artillery units. Wait for it... Wait for it...! BOOM!

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