WWII emulations are as old as the video game industry; with the recent slew of FPS titles dealing with the Great War, it is fun and a bit refreshing for me to play an RTS that required a little more strategy than fast mouse movements and knowing how to lob a grenade. Blitzkrieg 2, developed by Nival Interactive, throws three different campaigns at you, with four chapters and a slew of objectives apiece, totaling 60 single-player missions. You may choose to play as the U.S., right after the devastating Pearl Harbor attack, Russia, on the defensive as it tries to hold back the might of the Germans, or as the Germans, trying to bury Russia under their heels.
Blitzkrieg 2 takes on the 3-D realm of RTS games by allowing complete control over the camera angles and the level of zoom. I love the ability to view every aspect of the battlefield and its respective terrain advantages and disadvantages. Tanks are mighty beasts on the battlefield; however, if you get them rolling over the wrong surface they may break down and become immobilized. This is also true with other vehicles and adds greatly to the realism of the game. On the defensive side of things, troops and various vehicles are able to entrench themselves, which greatly adds to the defensive abilities of each unit. In total there are 250 different units that can grace the battlefield, with 60 unique ground troops. Another cool addition is the ability to control not only airplanes, but naval ships as well. You are able to use decisive air and navel ordnance to soften up the enemy as you play.
Blitzkrieg 2 will leave some of the building an empire type fans in the dust. In this game there are no buildings to be built or various resources to control and collect. This game is all about the way you use your units and reinforcements. Each mission allows you to choose what type of unit goes in, along with what units you get to reinforce your position. As your army and the game advances, your are awarded with a successful completion of a mission with promotion points that allow you to upgrade your troops, vehicles, and reinforcements. Also, as you advance through the missions that comprise a chapter within a campaign, you don't always have to do everything in order to win the scenario. The campaign is set up like a tree; you may play certain missions, but skip other ones entirely as you try to complete your overarching objective.
Unit AI and enemy AI is fairly good; however, like in just about every other RTS out there, the path finding of units is sometimes awkward and utterly useless at times. Also, the ability to control you're airborne units is a problem, the camera can only zoom out so far, so it's not able to take in the full swaths in which the planes are flying.
The 3D engine that Nival has employed in Blitzkrieg 2 has really allowed the graphics to shine. You are given the spectacle of realistic explosions, rag doll effects on the ground units, and destructive terrain (trees) and buildings. However, even with a 7800GTX the frames dropped into the mid 20s when all out battles were taking place. I found this to be a bit of a shock to what I expected to happen. Games like AOE3, with graphics that are clearly superior to Blitzkrieg 2's, don't have near the slow down that I experienced with this game.
While there is nothing incredibly new about WWII games and what they employ in terms of narrative, Blitzkrieg 2 utilizes incredible realism in the way units are designed, represented, and played. Not every strategy has the underlying feeling of a massive tank rush with artillery fire softening up the target. I thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of the missions and the way reinforcements were deployed without the thought of keeping a separate city protected and producing war machines.
The real challenge in Blitzkrieg 2 is completely familiarizing yourself with the vast number of units to choose from. On the easiest setting of this game, the enemy is really forgiving; however, the hardcore strategists out there will find that a lot more planning and thought must go into the battles on the hardest difficulty setting.
Blitzkrieg 2 is a definite play in my book of WWII RTS games. The lack of resource management and city defense makes Blitzkrieg 2 a nice change from the typical RTS, and the 3D engine makes for some great looking battlefield action.