Officers (PC) review
"Officers is a fun toy. Every map is like a sandbox in which you can rain destruction upon the Nazis. Its key feature, huge battles, is both the best part of gameplay and the worst."
Officers is a World War II real time strategy. It sports all the expected features of the genre, from selecting units by drawing a box around them to your troops gaining experience and learning new abilities as you go along. Coupled with each map being made up of 'resource bases' which you must capture to acquire new units, the whole experience feels a lot like Company of Heroes. Despite lacking the need to spend ten minutes building a base prior to fighting, most battles have a pretty slow pace. Cappable outposts litter maps, meaning that you can have complete dominance over 90% of the area, but still have to find and destroy the single enemy garage that continues to produce units. This is a problem that lots of RTSes encounter, but most find some way of counteracting it. Usually, this is done by giving the player some sort of omniscience late in the game to see where the opponent is hiding. Not Officers, which means the last portion of any battle is spent roaming around until you finally scout out the remainder of any hostiles, which is not helped by the huge scale of the maps.
Another negative of massive battlefields is the enemy's tendency to send assaults behind your front lines when you're trying to make progress. Its a clever piece of AI programming, but also proves to be severely annoying since you have to work at defending several resource points at once, while simultaneously attacking. Therefore momentum grinds to a halt and the whole experience turns into a micro-managing nightmare if you spread your forces too thinly.
However, these issues are not apparent when first beginning the campaign. The narrative supposedly follows an Allied general (the player) as he works to combat the Axis in the European war theatre. The game picks up just before Operation Overlord and the D-Day landings in 1944, meaning that the first few missions put the player on the offensive as their armies plough through France and into Germany. Therefore, holes in the gameplay (such as the aforementioned problems with large maps) only appear once the initial adrenaline wears off, which is hours after starting out. Usually, the story or character development keeps players invested at this point in the game, with other titles. However, aside from minute-long clips of footage from around the Western Front between battles, Officers offers no real story-rich motivation to keep playing. This is disappointing, as there's some real potential for a Saving Private Ryan-style epic to take place. The lack of story also limits the variation in scenarios, too. I recall that even generic-as-possible WWII RTS Blitzkrieg had missions where you could only control a limited number of units to accomplish unique objectives. A key example of this would be taking control of a sole, air-dropped sniper as he sabotages an occupied town in preparation for an Allied assault.
Officers has no such novelty, and is even confident enough to simply give the player unlimited units and special abilities (such as air strikes) from the go. This causes the player to have ridiculous amounts of fun initially, but after a while this simply wears off, leaving a very hollow and bland experience as the strategy for each map becomes a repeat of the last one.
While all of these attributes fail to lend themselves well to single player, the multiplayer works awesomely. Since everyone is exposed to all available methods of play right from the tutorial, beating human opponents comes down to ability alone – not the fact you've grown used to more of the game due to exposition in the campaign. At the time of writing, there isn't a huge amount of players online, but hopefully more will join when they realise how fun it can be. Although both sides play with identical units, matches work out differently every time. Its evident that the community base for this game are a smart lot and hopefully this standard will continue over time.
Aesthetically, the game isn't the most pleasing thing to look at. Titles like Company of Heroes and Universe At War (both of which are fairly old) are prettier and terrain is more than shades of brown and green. The lack of colour and detail in Officers may reflect the grim conditions of the war, but it also means that every scenario looks the same. Perhaps if the title had come with a more varied colour palette and an interesting score, it would be more tolerable to play for long periods.
Officers is a fun toy. Every map is like a sandbox in which you can rain destruction upon the Nazis. Its key feature, huge battles, is both the best part of gameplay and the worst. The massive scale makes for epic firefights, but if I wanted to chase after routed enemy forces for the best part of two hours, I'd like to do it in a better looking game.
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (June 08, 2009)
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