Aside from the likes of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, the RTS genre is growing ever so tiresome, and is slowly degrading into a genre where gamers are ashamed to call themselves RTS fans. You look at the days of Command and Conquer, Starcraft, Warcraft and Age of Empires and you’ve set yourself up for four of the best RTS franchises to date. However, over the last three years, much like the First-Person shooter genre, the RTS genre is getting far too crowded. With very little differences between games, spotty AI and a number of excellent ideas that are poorly executed are just but common occurrences these days, and unfortunately Blitzkrieg II is another of these ‘hit and a miss’ titles.
Gamers are able to choose from three major campaigns that take a different perspective of the war – America, Germany or Russia. There are 80 single and multiplayer missions, which are quite nice. Each level is often quite varied in objectives. For example, one mission can require gamers to eliminate all enemy forces, while another may focus on taking over hostile villagers or bombard beach turrets so you can successfully land your army on the shores. The levels are often quite large and the locations are varied in environment, from tropical jungles to icy steppes. The game blends in a bit of historical background on the World War timeline, and the current situation you’re fighting in, with units and historic figures being replicated for the game.
Blitzkrieg II is a little different than your typical RTS game. Rather than having any sort of resource gathering and building raising, the focus is more based on strategic and tactical decisions to crush your enemy. Without buildings to build new troops, the game relies on reinforcements. You’ll begin each scenario with X amount of troops, and depending on your rank, you’ll be able to call in a certain amount of reinforcements during the battle. This system works, for the most part, quite well, and makes gamers think carefully about what troops will benefit the current situation. If you call in all your reinforcements straight away it could backfire later when in dire need of tanks, or requesting a air strike to ‘soften’ up enemy locations. The only issue with this feature is that it can become overpowering in the earlier levels, where you can call in air strikes after one another, eliminating all enemies on the field just like that. The game does a decent job of balancing this out in the later levels however.
Another aspect of the game is the commander system, where you can promote unit types with a commander who gains experience every time you call in reinforcements of that unit type. Doing this will enable more abilities and options for the units to use in battle, allowing gamers to tailor their strategies much more.
The gameplay has a number of terrible flaws though. A lot of the units in the game can be overpowering in situations, resulting in easy than normal wins. Infantry troops are often unneeded in situations, since most units can wipe them with relative ease, having a large number of troops can unbalance situations, and I found that I could wipe out an entire map just off the use of four anti-tank cannons, all thanks to the terrible AI. It isn’t so much that the units are completely unbalanced, it just becomes evident when playing against a spotty AI opponent. Most of their long-ranged cannons sit idle while your anti-tank cannons come in range, enemy units usually stand still until you actually fire at them and the enemy decisions are usually questionable.
The game runs a lot slower than your typical RTS also. Most missions you’ll hit a stalemate between you and the enemy with them dishing out some tanks to destroy yours, and likewise for you. A lot of the advancing through levels requires gamers to send out several troops to scout ahead, and then have you picking off certain troops so you can send your bulk to enemy locations. Since if this isn't done, you can often fall into a number of surrounding long-ranged cannons that pick-off your troops one by one, making all advances up until then useless.
Multiplayer isn’t as bad as the single-player mode though. More than often you’ll go up against a decent opponent, where the tactics and strategic use of your units play a much larger effect in the final result. Although, the balancing issues with some of the units are still a massive problem during games and can often make multiplayer unbearable.
Graphically, Blitzkrieg II has its moments of excellence while on other occasions the game looks quite dated. The 3D graphics engine is well done and virtually anything in the game is destructible, and looks quite good when doing so (tanks running over destroyed tanks or cutting down entire forests). Seeing as though the game looks fairly dated, the game runs exceptionally well without any sort of hiccup along the way, which is probably also likely on older systems. The sound effects aren’t too bad, but the music is beyond terrible. Very corny tunes that fail to fit the context of the game, and low quality recording destroys the atmosphere entirely.
While obviously flawed, Blitzkrieg II is a fairly solid RTS game that requires a lot more thought in your tactics than other titles in the genre. The features that are presented – reinforcements and commander points – are excellent inclusions, but due to the lackluster AI, dated graphics, unbalanced units and the oh-so-unforgiving soundtrack, Blitzkrieg II isn’t the type of game you could recommend to RTS fans.