Order of War is a game that takes place during later WW2 in the European theater that allows you to command the American, Russian and oddly enough the German forces .
Square Enix is known throughout the gaming community for churning out formulaic Japanese RPGs following adolescent protagonists out to save the world from some menacing super villain. So, it's refreshing to see a company breaking away from their bread and butter to try something new with western developers.
Another tour of duty.
Anyone who has ever played a RTS will find themselves at home with the controls in Order of War. It's features all the hallmarks of your typical RTS: Click and drag to select multiple units, control + a number key to assign hot keys to particular units or squads. If you're a "casual gamer", you'll have no problem as most of the time you'll be pointing and clicking your way around the map not having to worry about memorizing a litany (though the few that there are will help you considerably) of hot keys to really start kicking ass. The game literally has no learning curve and lets new comers to the genre hop right in and play without too much trouble. The game is so easy, that even your subordinates give you suggestions where to place certain units in order to really do some damage to Fritz. Is it just me, but I don't think NCO's should be telling a Colonel how to do his job. This game could really benefit with the option of having formations and setting up patrols and a series of way points as way to add more strategic aspects to liven things up a bit. The game plays a bit like an amalgamation of Company of Heroes and Supreme commander.
In OoW you're not spending your time canvassing the enormous maps in hopes of setting up base to harvest materials, which allows you to focus more on the strategy. Those that really like micromanaging won't find it here, which is not a problem for me and has been a complaint for a lot of gamers that want a RTS that doesn't have you constantly looking for gold or gathering lumber. The only "resource" you have is points. Points are collected by controlling certain.. well, control points anywhere on the map that are usually along the perimeter. The more control points under your command, the faster your points accumulate that you can spend on reinforcements, new units and access to air and off map artillery support. When you call down an air strike, a marker is placed with a countdown telling you how long before the strike occurs. What's maddening is that everyone on the map can see exactly where the marker has been placed provided they're looking at that are at the time which gives them a chance to move troops out of harm's way. On top of getting access to artillery each force has their own special units. Overall, every nations army is almost identical to one another opposed to some small differences. Germans of course have the toughest tanks and the Americans have access to paratroopers that can be placed anywhere on the map and can be highly effective if you know how to use the famed 101st Airborne. Paratroopers can capture unguarded points on the map almost instantaneously.
You can't amass one type of unit and expect to dominate in OoW. It's pretty hard to do a "rush" type of due to the fact there is no fog of war and various other tactical elements I'll get to later in the review. This allows you to periodically peek over to see what your opponent is doing in order for you to call in units accordingly. Units can be bought in the upper right corner of the screen and each unit has a small description informing you their strengths and weaknesses. For example, anti-tank cannons and are great for taking out enemy armor at a distance obviously but due to their slow rate of fire, this leaves them open to attack by infantry. Each unit will have a attack diameter or a cone telling you where your units can attack.
Terrain, as it should in any good strategy game is always taken into consideration. Get your infantry crammed on a bridge while the enemy is incoming expect them to be slaughtered. There are also trenches and houses scattered across the map where you can have infantry bunker down and get bonuses to their defense and attack rating . Elevation seems to also play a factor, but it just might be my imagination as other gamers have stated that elevation does not give you bonuses to attack. I found it much easier to defend on hill tops and it was considerably harder to attack a position up hill.
Once you've completed a mission you're given a ranking screen stating how well (or poorly) you did on the last level. You're awarded with medals that don't do anything but it's all for not as you're rewarded with something you can use: victory points. Victory points can be used to upgrade unit types such as infantry and armor. But when I've fully upgraded every unit, I didn't notice that much of a difference in their ability to blast Nazis.
World at War.
Once you get a feeling for the game or get tired of the camp again missions, you can test your mettle against other human players up to 2v2. There isn't a wide variety of maps at the moment so there are good chances you'll get bored of multiplayer unless there are updates that will add more maps and hopefully a 4v4 mode and different gameplay types. Multiplayer does offer rankings to keep you coming back provided you're the competitive type and as a gamer, chances are you are the competitive type.
See the world they said.
Visually speaking the graphics are solid. The explosions are nice, but it's funny when you put the game in cinematic mode to watch your troops get hit by tank rounds and just lay down opposed to having body parts gib up in a shower of blood. I didn't see anything out of place aside from the Nazis fight under the iron frigging cross. I recall the Germans in WW2 fighting under the swastika. So it's strange when you take a capture point as the Germans the flag just appears out of place. I take it this was an attempt to not to offend anyone and not have it banned in Germany, but why try to sugar coat history given the context and historical battles of the game? The cut scenes in between career levels are amazing. Provided the cut scenes do borrow a lot from Company of Heroes they use a lot of stock war footage edited together in an impressive manner.
The music is epic, but rather repetitive. I think there's a total of four tracks that remind you of an raging battle in a war movie. The voiceovers is this games Achilles sonic heel. The infantry couldn't sound less like they're about to go to war. They don't scream, curse, or yell. Instead you get "Yeah! We'll attack that hostile!".
Getting a little steamed.
As I have a retail copy of the game, you have to register this game on Steam. I know some people are against having one company having access to all their games or just not wanting to register an account on Steam. On top of mandatory registration, the game is wrought with bugs. If you like to play in full screen and need to alt-tab, I was experiencing some direct draw errors. There's also a serious memory leak where many people have been crashing having a message stating "out of memory" when there's more than enough RAM available to play the game.
Forgive me if I'm nit picking here but I feel like I need to expand on what would make this game go from good to great. After awhile it seems like infantry units are pretty worthless unless you happen to use them just right which inevitably leads to relying on armor to do all the leg work. I felt like the game could have benefited with some naval battles as it focuses mainly on land combat only. There are rivers in some maps and it would be helpful if you could blow up a bridge, or send ranger units in boats downstream in a pontoon boat or a raft for a quick attack. As there is little incentive to keep your troops alive, I would have liked to see a ranking system for your units. The more units they've killed, the harder they are to kill and more damage they can deal. But there's always hope for an expansion to add such features later, right?