PC Game Preview: Unity of Command
Scott Parrino gets a glimpse into the upcoming World War II strategy game that is easy to pick up but a challenge to master the art of maneuver warfare.
Unity of Command
Developer: 2x2 Games
Strategy wargames are games that challenge the mind to think inside, outside, and possibly another side (if scientists can discover it) the box. It is a game of wits and guts, against opponents that seek to destroy you on the field of battle with cavalry, tanks, helicopters, elephants, spears, mortars, rocks and clubs. Of course there isn’t a wargame out there that will allow generals to send cavemen to bang on the hulls of tanks or let elephants try to take down helicopters with their trunks, so traditional historic and modern wargames are the norm. Primarily most strategy wargames are based on World War II usually focused either on the tactical or strategic aspect of the war itself. While both types of warfare take patience and intelligence, strategic wargames can induce panic and urgency as much as if not more than a tactical wargame. Knowing that you are directly responsible for a company, battalion or even an entire corps as it is surrounded and destroyed bit by bit can cast dread and stomach-churning uneasiness as your enemy reigns in victory over your supposed strategic brilliance. Unity of Command not only can give you the same feeling, but show it to you in a fashion that will make you shake your fist and curse yourself, much like falling for the pawn trap move in a game of chess.
Unity of Command, currently in beta, is a turning out to be a rather fun and unique wargame. While I mentioned above that it can make even the most experienced wargamer curse their very screen, in that regard is what will probably draw a lot of players in. To start, Unity of Command takes place on the Eastern Front of 1942/43, where the German Wehrmacht was engaged in a deadly and destructive campaign against the Russian Red Army. The large expanse of the Eastern Front allowed for large-scale battles in which could dwarf the battles the British and the United States would face in the Western Front. With such expanses maneuver warfare of encircling and cutting off the enemy from supply and support became the only and necessary way to victory. Unity of Command utilizes this theme brilliantly in a graphical fashion that is easy to see and understand, but can be a straight-up challenge to work to your favor. Most scenarios that I have done lasted until the very last turn, usually in all-or-nothing pushes to capture objectives that would either give me an embarrassing loss or a stunning victory. To this respect, I will start out by saying that Unity of Command’s AI is definitely a challenging one, their intelligence is almost criminal in the way that it knows where your weak point is and when to surround your units that you need for an offensive.
Scenarios are simple enough to start and get into. Each scenario has a pre-defined side that the human player takes, either the German or Russian side, along with the maximum number of turns given. The briefing is usually a brief affair and from there you are thrust out onto the battlefield interface. This is where you will be seeing the majority of your action, where you will either sink or swim in the eyes of your superiors. The graphical layout is fairly standard for most wargamers, most information is off at the edges to allow a clear view of the units on the field. Speaking of the field, the graphics are pretty well done, with units and their quality or type represented rather clearly in the form of veteran-looking soldiers or properly modeled and animated tanks (when they move). Players will be able to clearly see the indication of the “front line”, which shows the territory the enemy controls, which can cut into your supply lines (very important). While at first glance it may seem easy to just select a unit and have it move to capture more ground or to attack at will, Unity of Command is ready to punish those that attack without rhyme or reason. It is very easy to send a unit off to take on a seemingly weaker unit within enemy lines, only to see other enemy units surround and snare your unit within enemy lines, totally and completely cut off from supply, and then make you feel helpless as it cannot fight back without any supply as it is decimated systematically. Unity of Command is all about maneuver and proper planning, and wargamers that take their time and conduct a well-thought plan will be rewarded with the feeling of dominance of the battlefield.
Typical of strategy games is that each unit has ratings for attack, defense, experience and so forth. Players can utilize prestige points to add “specialist steps” to units, such as AT or engineers. There are also “theater assets” that can either benefit their army or perhaps bring an air strike on an enemy unit. I noticed that the partisan asset is a bit of a pain to deal with as it can nearly appear anywhere on the battlefield map, causing supply issues. Then again, this can be attributed to how it might have been like back in the war, with partisans rising up behind German lines to cause trouble. This is a Soviet-only asset, and the only side-specific one at that. It would be nice to see an asset for the Germans only, but then again only some assets are available at certain scenarios, not all the time.
Combat is of the standard affair, with the manual going into great detail in a table-based damage and probabilities in attacks and defenses. There are also additional combat effects that are interesting to see added, such as “panzer fright”, when green defenders are attacked by armor, or defending units that have the “no retreat” specialist step that allows them to hold their position at the cost of higher loses. While there is some randomization in some attacks, there isn’t anything that most wargamers wouldn’t see that is out of step or out of mind for a strategy game.
Unity of Command is shaping up well as a game for players that are looking for World War II strategy game that isn’t too hard in terms of complication but isn’t a simple point-and-click mindless hexagon wargame. Sitting in the sweet spot that is sure to grab the attention of even beginner and experience wargamer, Unity of Command could be a must-get.
[Editor's note: 2x2 Games announced a release date of November 15th, 2011, news post linked here.]
Preview written by: Scott Parrino. Editor in Chief