Unless this is your first dabble into the world of strategy gaming, there are no surprises on offer with what Order of War serves up. Just like every single other World War II strategy title ever made the game places you into the shiny boots of a commander leading the troops throughout the major battles of the European theatre of war. Though for all of its simplicity and accessibility to new players, there just isn't enough depth to Order of War to recommend it as a must buy title for RTS gamers.
The game comprises of two campaigns for you to play through - each of which comprises of nine missions - with one campaign featuring the American forces as you battle your way from the beaches of Omaha and through the French countryside in an effort to purge the Nazi forces from France. The second campaign will see you on the opposite side, as you band your German forces together to repel the Allied troops as they march toward Germany. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, even the most tragic strategy gamer will play through these campaigns quite quickly making value for money almost non-existant in this title.
While it treads over familiar territory, Order of War does make a commendable attempt to stand out from the crowd by engaging gamers in a large scale battle. While most other WWII based RTS titles focus more intently on infantry based combat, Order of War ups the ante by giving you control of a bevy of planes, tanks and other armoured units that blanket the screen - with the number of units in battle being in their hundreds. Whilst warfare on this scale is hardly a new concept to RTS titles (most notably occuring in the Total War series of games), it's very rare in its application to the WWII theatre of war.
Of course, by changing the scope of the battlefield, Order of War also changes the scope of play - which proves to be both good and bad, depending on the type of player you are. For those of you into the micromanagement side of things, there is little to love about Order of War. In lieu of controlling the actions of individual units or squads of units, Order of War will have you in control of entire companies of units where your main tactics will revolve around big-picture tactics such as utilising higher ground and battlefield positioning to force the enemy into choke points rather than focusing on controlling the small arms fire of your soldiers. That said, if you're a new player to the genre, this style of play makes the tactical aspect of the game a little bit easier to swallow. Seeing this large scale war taking place before your eyes is never boring, but for those players that yearn for a truly challenging strategic experience aren't going to find much to stretch their brain power. Order of War is more akin to an FPS title - focusing more on a 'see it and shoot it' mentality, which esentially defeats the purpose of playing a strategy title.
Order of War's multiplayer mode doesn't break any new ground, but it does provide gamers with a quick avenue for skirmish action. Multiplayer action is all about quality over quantity as the game only comes packaged with six multiplayer maps (each of which comes equipped with two and four-player variants) which focus on gamers capturing the map's control points to win the game. Each map proves to be very well designed, containing a number of choke-points and diverse terrain to navigate. As you are unable tobuild any static defenses, multiplayer matches tend to be fast-paced with the average one-on-one encounter lasting around thirty minutes.
In the presentation stakes Order of War proves to be quite an attractive title, particularly when viewed in cinematic camera mode - which sees the camera switch to provide dramatic action shots of your troops in action. Even without the cinematic camera enabled, Order of War contains views that clamour to be appreciated; from the striking country skylines to the cascade of explosions on the battlefield, the atmosphere of war is there to behold. Alongside the quality visuals, the game also contains a solid audio track. Most impressive are the authentic sound effects which include the rumbling diesel engines of armoured units to the thunderous sounds of artillery peppering the battlefield giving gamers a delightful soundscape to enjoy.
Order of War does little to justify a purchase above the likes of the truly great recent RTS efforts out there such as Company of Heroes or Dawn of War II, with its short campaign giving gamers a short distraction before they return to the triple-A titles of the genre for a fully-realised RTS experience. While it does have some redeeming qualities, this title just isn't worth the price of admission.