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Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich (PC) artwork

Blitzkrieg 2: Fall of the Reich (PC) review

"Unlike most of the other WWII RTS's that cry for attention inside the overcrowded genre, this seems to be the focus of Blitzkreig II: Fall of the Reich. The emphasis is no so much on the clever deployment of troops and armour as it is in gathering a sizeable collection of tanks and steamrollering over everything as quick as you can. "

Blitzkrieg II's name is more than just a passing reference to World War II, the period of time this particular RTS is set in, it's reflective of the style of gameplay. Literally translated, Blitzkrieg means 'lightning war', and is descriptive of Nazi Germany's tactic of using speed and surprise to overwhelm hostile forces before they had a chance to establish any form of defence. Using large numbers of speedily-deployed armour and infantry backed with long-range artillery bombardments, the Nazi forces managed to quickly overwhelm France and Denmark, both countries possessing an equal -- or better -- military standing than the recovering Germany. Said plan even worked wonders in the initial skirmishes within Soviet territory.

Unlike most of the other WWII RTS's that cry for attention inside the overcrowded genre, this seems to be the focus of Blitzkreig II: Fall of the Reich. The emphasis is not so much on the clever deployment of troops and armour as it is in gathering a sizeable collection of tanks and steamrollering over everything as quick as you can.

Other games of this ilk have tried similar settings, but never seemed to get the balance between how much the player can do quickly in response to the computer's input speed. I'm reminded of Z's rather clumsy efforts in forcing a player to utilise a comparable speed to the AI that they couldn't possibly match on later levels. Here, you have the option to slow down, and, indeed speed up, the in-game clock should the action get to hectic. And it's the most important option in the game.

The Fall of the Reich extension stays true to this, but takes away from the historically-challenged US armour-heavy prong featured in the main game and instead focuses on the latter half of the war. In the Spring of '45, Germany had been driven back into the Fatherland and were valiantly trying to starve off the allied forces that nibbled at their boundaries. The Red Army had more to do with this than any other force's, and it was between these two nations that some of the most vicious battles raged. Blitzkrieg II tries to capture this by featuring scenes from such battles as the Siege of Budapest, the attack on Fortress Kutland and the Bagration campaign that effectively opened up Eastern Europe for the Soviet advance.

These last major offences of Eastern Europe are played out with a very real sense of personality. The USSR forces surge forward into enemy territory hungrily, most of their missions hinging upon uprooting a defending Nazi force or taking an enemy stronghold by force of arms, while many of the German objectives are defensive. You need to protect supply line from enemy attacks or hold a defensive line against seemingly never-ending forces and in between an unceasing artillery battering. The action rarely lets up.

Take the first stage for the German forces: you start off with a small squadron already inside enemy territory. Starting out surrounded by the comforting presence of a friendly battalion of entrenched infantry, it's up to you to then seize key positions while keeping your starting spot clear of pesky Communists. While the foot troops can do a commendable job of warding off attacks, it soon becomes clear that the Soviets have troops to spare as wave after wave of infantry plus the odd tank rolls into range and blast away at them. But holding that position in safety so that more friendly troops can use it as an impromptu HQ isn't the only goal you need to worry about. You also have to eliminate the USSR forces from a nearby village and take that small stronghold as your own and liberate the barely-functioning railway station which is held under heavy guard. Your superiors need the station taken intact so they can transport several trucks full of injured infantry using the relative safety of the tracks. Even here, the happenstance of both sides are made clear; the Germans are on the backfoot while the Soviets are on the advance.

You can split your forces up to try to take achieve all your goals simultaneously, or you can lasso all your tanks into one damage-dealing super squad and blast anything dumb enough to get in your way with the pure oppressive firepower -- guess which is the more effective. There's something deeply satisfying about a mass exodus of tanks steamrollering over the hollow husks of burnt-out houses, trampling trees and spilling over telegraph poles as they surge into territory unknown and blast the crap out of anything they don't like the look of. However, Fall of the Riech seems to utilise their defending forces a little more cleverly; long range artillery hide behind the fog of war, snipping away at your forces from afar while enemy tanks can construct makeshift trenches to protect themselves from these sudden attacks. This isn't a problem pure numbers can't solve though!

Managing these forces never become a problem, either. You can assign hot-keys for all the micro-manament options (like hitching cannons up to trucks or having your infantry take root in a building) but for those without an ironclad memory like myself, there's also a handy little sub-menu with little pictures that describe these action for you. Making things this easy to recognise at a glance helps play into the whole speed-make-victory style of game and other good touches continue. After each sucsessful mission, you gain sub-commanders that you can assign over a particular type of squadron, be it medium tanks or fighter planes. These sub-commanders will gain experiance over time, allowing for the units under their command to learn new skills and make them all the more deadly on the battlefield. This welcome addition lets you utilise and upgrade the units you prefer to use, be that elite troops with heavy weapons or long-range rockets you can send soaring into your foe's ranks.

There's even an addictive online muliti-player option that I refuse to talk too much about as I keep getting destroyed there with embarrassing ease.

Blitzkrieg II: Fall of the Reich may not be the most historically accurate WWII RTS out there, but it gives you a slice of frantic warfare without bogging you down in overly-complex micro-managment that so many other examples of the genre tend to do. It's never going to convert people who already dislike the genre; the battles might offer differing objectives from time-to-time, but the steamrollering tactic never fails the warrior in a rush, but those who want a more active take on the genre, or those who enjoyed Blitzkrieg II and are looking for a more challenging extra should apply here.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (November 12, 2006)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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