PC Game Preview: Blitzkrieg II
Kyle Stegerwald takes his mediocre RTS skills to the Blitzkrieg II multiplayer beta and comes back with a black eye and this preview.
A traditional game of Blitzkrieg II multiplayer revolves around supply depots. Each map has several of these buildings scattered around the map, and in order to stand a chance of winning each player has to capture and hold as many of these as possible. Each supply depot the player possesses translates into a faster reinforcement time - meaning that the player can bring in a new platoon of tanks, a company of infantry or perhaps a battery of anti-aircraft cannons with more frequency. As important sound tactics are, they can’t do much against vastly superior numbers. Thus, in order to stay in the game, each player has to aggressively pursue these supply depots.
The reinforcements themselves are quite varied. Depending on the map settings, there can be ground-attack aircraft, anti-aircraft guns, artillery pieces, anti-tank guns, light, medium and heavy tanks, infantry, and even the occasional engineer to capture supply depots, build fortifications, and fix bunkers that are scattered in tactically significant positions about the maps.
Also, these reinforcements can be assigned to at any supply depot on the map - it is sometimes wise to keep a reinforcement or two waiting in the wings for an emergency, so that when a player is assaulted and is in danger of losing an outpost, he can simply call in a shiny new batch of medium tanks and tip the scales in his favor.
Reinforcements can also gain levels if they’re used (successfully) enough. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, all of a sudden, my medium tanks had the ability to fire twice as quickly as they could before. Some units can camouflage themselves exceptionally well, others gain the ability to fire quicker, and some simply get a more explosive shell or some new armor. It’s a nice enhancement that lends a bit of tension and strategy to battles - “I wonder if those are elite heavy tanks he’s got…”- and also gives the player more choice as to how he fleshes out his army and what branches of it he concentrates on.
The More Things Change…
The balance between armor, infantry, artillery, and aircraft that was present in the first game is largely the same in the second. Infantry will still be slaughtered if they make an unsupported attack against armor or entrenched infantry. But on the defensive, infantry can hold their own against light armor and sometimes even score a lucky knockout hit on a medium or heavy tank, if it gets too close.
Armor is still king of the battlefield; most of my attacks that I expected to run into resistance were led off with a batch of armor. On the offensive and even entrenched, armor is extremely useful. But aircraft, anti-tank artillery or entrenched infantry can smoke armor in no time if the player is not careful.
Artillery was my favorite weapon to use because of its sheer power and reach. I would send a spotting unit towards an enemy base and then have artillery open up on it from a half-dozen different locations. Artillery is devastating against infantry, armor, buildings, and also enemy artillery. The “spotting circles” still appear on the mini-map whenever artillery is fired, which makes it easy to launch a counter-battery attack or call in an air strike. Also, in a pinch, I found that artillery can serve as extremely effective anti-tank weapons at close range. Imagine my opponent’s surprise when he rushed one of my bases only to find an idle battery of heavy artillery with 150mm barrels pointed straight at his tanks!
Aircraft can easily be king of the battlefield if players don’t plan carefully. Bombers decimate everything in a wide area when used, and can easily wipe out an entire base in a single pass. To protect against this, players can deploy antiaircraft guns and also fighters to kill the approaching bombers or dive-bombing aircraft. Aircraft can make short work of vehicles, infantry, and artillery, but obviously fall prey to flak.
The name of the game is preparedness and variety, just like it was with the original Blitzkrieg.