World War II: Panzer Claws Review (PC)
Apart from the excellent ‘Commandos’ series, I had never really considered Eidos when looking for a new strategy game - they tend to get pigeonholed with Lara Croft & the like. Then I saw this game, was intrigued & then totally hooked - it rocks!
There are 3 ‘flavours’ to this: Single player: take command of Wehrmacht, Allied or Russian forces and follow the campaigns through. There is no micro-management involved, just careful planning & loads of action. Each campaign has 2 or 3 scenarios with ½ doz. levels in each, and every one will take you a while as you try to minimize your losses and keep enough units to actually complete the level.
Skirmish: hone your multiplayer skills by defeating the PC AI over a variety of different maps. Capture mines & factories to make money, build up bases & develop your forces. Some of the maps support up to 8 players but as yet I have found no way to ally with any of them. Even on the easy settings, playing against 2 opponents will tax your strategic skills to the limit as you frantically try to defend against pincer attacks.
Multiplayer: fight real people on line (apologies - not tried this yet - will update ASAP).
Much the same as any other of the genre. Your unit display is located at the bottom of the screen. This can be turned off to give you more viewing area but then you will lose the important information it contains (like how many shells your Tiger has left before it sits around completely defenseless). Units can be grouped together by holding down the left mouse button & dragging a box then using the standard ‘ctrl number’; they then show up in your unit display & can be selected either by clicking on the icon or just hitting the number key. An oddity here is that you cannot use the ‘shift’ key to multiple select units - you have to move all the units you want to an area where you can drag a box round them. Also, there are no hotkeys to select any particular type of unit. Having selected your units, a left click sends them on their way & they will automatically fire at any enemies within range - you have to click the target icon then select a target to manually intervene. As stated above, ammunition is not limitless & your units need to be resupplied with it when they get low. This generally happens automatically (as long as you have transports and an Ammunition dump) but you can ask for a resupply by clicking the appropriate button in the display box.
Camera control is intuitive & fluid, easily controlled by a combination of mouse buttons & scrolling, enabling you to view the action from a top down perspective or virtually a '1st person' type view. Zooming in & out helps out considerably when trying to locate errant units and is good for close up viewing of the destruction.
The big difference between campaign & skirmish is that with campaign mode you only have a finite no. of units - lose em & game over. Once you achieve each objective within the level, more reinforcements arrive to help out on the next one - but beware - they may well have to fight their way through to you. In Skirmish, as soon as you have the technology & money, you can crank out any units you like (but the ‘rush’ is still largely ineffective if up against a well sited defense). You start with just 1 production point but more are located all over the map - moving any unit to one of these locations will capture it. If you lose all of your production points, you can’t get new units so guard them well (& target the oppositions!).
I like this game a lot. It does present a challenge to play & it’s not a walkover even on the easy settings. The graphical effects set the mood perfectly and it’s nice to hear your troops speaking the correct language at times. The movement of the vehicles seems paced correctly although the infantry appear to be wearing rocket skates which does detract from the overall effect slightly. Unit selection could have been better but it’s not enough of a bugbear to worry about. The battle sounds are great as well, it may have been the booze but I’m sure that you can differentiate between the different factions machine guns just by the sound. The AI is remarkably good - try a skirmish on the hard setting and try & crush its defenses (took me nearly a whole bottle of vodka to manage that one). I can’t wait to try out the online game (my modem has gone to the great modem graveyard) and will eagerly await new skirmish maps to be made available.