By Cosmo

     Recreating battlefield war in game form is a tricky proposition. The game developer must make a game that allows the player to see enough of the battlefield without reducing the soldiers, tanks, and trucks to unrecognizably small sprites. The enemy AI has to seem realistic and not predictable. The player's own units must employ some amount of resolve to handle the battle while the player is directing other units (but not so proficiently that the player is not needed).  Strategy games come as turn-based and real-time; both have their plus and minuses. It's a tall order and getting more right than wrong is daunting. I've played a lot of war games that end up boring or frustrating me. I'm reporting here that Blitzkrieg not only achieves most of what a wargamer hopes for, it does it with an entertaining style that should satisfy grognards and dazzle newcomers to the genre.

     Six informative tutorial missions guide you through the interface, tactics, and general theme of the game. The interface is logical, makes intelligent use of the keyboard, and comes with pop-up tool tips that I found very useful. If you are familiar with Age of Empires or Starcraft then the Blitzkrieg interface will be easy. The only weakness is selecting/deselecting units; frequently it would take more than a single mouse-click to deselect and select another unit; other times I would have to click very far from a unit to force the mouse to "let go". When the action is thick, this can be a problem. After a while you adapt but occasionally I would order the wrong unit into battle. There is a good 70-page manual that gets you started and covers core concepts of gameplay and related history.

     After 20 minutes of training, you are ready to attack one of the three layered, historically-based campaigns: Allied, Soviet, and German. The level of research and historical authenticity is striking. Blitzkrieg provides a lot of information on the different phases of the war and how your current missions fits in the larger picture. You make decisions on upgrading your equipment and success adds experience and rank--all very vital to success in subsequent, more difficult missions. The missions are varied and interesting--convoy, panzer thrusts, defensive stands, and just about anything you ever saw in a movie. You can set the difficulty to EASY, NORMAL, and HARD (there is suicide but I stayed away from that!). The degree of difficulty is very apparent. I started with EASY and found it a pretty simple matter to throw units at the enemy without regard to cover, tactics, and formation. Starting a new campaign in NORMAL and I was whipped right away. Blitzkrieg compels you to safeguard your units, to use cover and movement intelligently, and to resupply and repair units.

     Once you graduate to Normal level, you will appreciate the multitude of tactical options Blitzkrieg allows you to employ. Troops can march quickly but with greater vulnerability to ambush; or they can crawl slowly, making good use of cover. Tanks have individual armor ratings for their sides, front and rear and can be entrenched for greater protection. As with all RTS games, you can only see the territory and units within your circle of vision, the rest is shaded out.. A scout comes in handy for spying out hidden dangers and spotting for artillery. Speaking of Arty, his role in Blitzkrieg is a dominant one. Good use of artillery will allow you to get your infantry and armor in without heavy losses. In fair weather you can call in air support and it takes good timing and logic to determine the kind of support you should use. Has the enemy launched a recon plane to pinpoint your position for his artillery? Better send in fighters to take it out. Are you being held down by a large tank brigade? Send in bombers to level them! Of course, the enemy may set up flak guns that will knock your bombers out before they can deliver their payload to those threatening tanks. Then you will need to sneak a scout and commando team past enemy lines to take them out, clearing the way for your bombers, which will remove the blocking tanks.... Blitzkrieg's gameplay and missions are well-modeled and to succeed, you must use your combination of arms wisely.



     Right away I was impressed with the graphics, sound and music. The level of visual detail is as good as 2D graphics get.  Tanks creak and leave tread tracks, diesel smoke billowing from the exhaust. Trees explode into a flurry of falling leaves when struck; fences, shrubs and houses can all be razed and driven over by armor. Craters appears where ordinance impacts the earth. Engineers can be directed to dig trenches which dramatically reduce damage to your troops. Troops answer your command with military phrases; select a unit, you are answered with "I'm on it", "More crawlin'?", and "Da?".The three languages are professionally done. Also, the game has a nice soundtrack that adds to the pleasure of playing.

    The AI is smart, determined, and usually unpredictable. Enemy units usually hold their ground but under some conditions they will launch attacks. Very seldom do units play dumb when your troops are around. Expect a good fight. One area that needs a bit of work is the pathfinding logic and routines--select five or six units especially of different types, and it takes them forever and lots of backing and maneuvering to get going. This forces the player to manage his movements very deliberately. Blitzkrieg rounds out this assembly with good multiplayer and a great map/scenario editor. In addition to the campaigns and dynamic missions, this game should have legs to keep you entertained for many months.

     Blitzkrieg is an enjoyable step up from turn-based and hex map war games. Once can almost imagine being a general watching the battle unfold on the side of a hill, directing units into the carnage and subduing the enemy with superior tactics and firepower. I'm sure wargamers will have a place for Blitzkrieg on their hard drive for a long time.

Rating:  81

Realism Historical Accuracy Graphics Sound/
Game play Repeat Play Stability
Inter-face Multi- play Mission Editor
12/20 9/10 8/10 9/10 16/20 9/10 5/5 4/5 4/5 5/5


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System Requirements: Operating System: Windows® 98/Me/2000/XP; Processor: Pentium® II 366 MHz; Memory: 64 MB RAM; Hard Disk Space: 2 GB Free Disk Space; Video: 8 MB video card; DirectX® version 8.1 (included) or higher

Developer: Nival Interactive
Publisher: CDV

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