Friday, November 18, 2011

Unity of Command Impressions

Many people are well aware of my thirst for strategy games and putting a World War II turn based strategy game in my face is painfully enticing. Of course it doesn't help that Unity of Command is very enjoyable and challenging, with tons of depth, many scenarios and branching campaigns. 2x2 Games was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of Unity of Command (UoC) and I've been playing it for about eight hours so far. One of the most important points that I must point about UoC is it's high difficulty, something that hardcore strategy gamers yearn for, but casual gamers will shy away from. Although, I beg to question whether any casual strategy gamers exist?

Unity of Command offers a bright graphical style that makes it the game very easy on the eyes and at the same time makes it easy to view the intricacies of supply, weather, terrain and unit strengths. If you can tell from the screenshot above these maps can be huge with a a very large amount of movements and multiple objectives. Each army has supply routes that can be cut off or expanded.To make it more complicated the supply routes are affected by terrain and territory. If a unit is cut off supply for one turn they lose some movement points, but after two turns they can't fight anymore and have limited movement. You have to consider supply carefully as you battle your way through enemy territory. It is possible to blitz tanks or mechanized units across large areas thanks to special abilities (shown on the top left in the previous screenshot) that allow you to drop supplies to a unit, but it is very limited and it's very hard to do.

Very nice screenshot from the website showing units out of supply and objectives

The way objectives are handled in UoC also adds to the tactical complexities; maps can have many objectives, all of which are seem to be cities/towns/villages, and each objective has a turn counter on it. To earn the most points for a mission, something that isn't just for statistics, you have to take an objective by lets say turn five in order to earn the maximum points. Each turn you don't take an objective the points go down and each mission has a turn limit. With the scenario level it doesn't have long turn ramifications if you don't take objectives by the turn limit but during the campaign you need those points for prestige and campaign options. At several points during a campaign there will be missions that require you to get a certain victory, decisive or brilliant (which is determined by point brackets), in order to open up further mission options. If you don't it will merely tell you that the campaign is over. It wouldn't be so tough if the game let you replay any mission, which you technically can do but all missions after that mission you are replaying are wiped if you replay a mission.

I managed to get to the end of one branch of the German Campaign but there are two other paths that I hadn't managed to open up. In the very informative screenshot, from the main website, below you can see the route I had taken, the top right through Stalingrad to Astrakhan, but Case Blue and Stalingrad both had options to go other directions. Case Blue is definitely the hardest mission I've encountered on the German Campaign, I've had to replay it at least four times and at best just opened up one path. One last thing about missions, many are historically based, as is the campaign, and provide some historical context for those who want to actually read about it. The scenarios on the other hand are mostly "what if" scenarios, but I may be mistaken. Each mission, or scenario, can be shown in history mode that you can turn on during any mode but all that is merely a replaying of events that allows you to re-watch the mission/scenario.

Through the screenshot above you can also see Prestige. Prestige is accumulated from doing very well on missions and if you barely beat a mission you will get few or no prestige. You use prestige during missions to reinforce units, add specialist units and purchase new units altogether. Some missions are nice and give you free reinforcements at certain turns but for the most part you are generally left to use your prestige to complement your forces. You can also see in the above campaign map that each mission has abilities given to each army, in this screenshot the German army has air strikes, bridge demolition/repair, supplies and supply drops, while the Russian army has an ability that takes territory behind enemy lines. Every mission gives you different abilities to work with and they are integral to your success, especially ones relating to supplies. I have lost more battles because of supplies than anything else; having even one unit out of supply greatly disrupts a game when you are moving successfully towards capturing objectives by specific turns.

Shows all the units in the game and by the way, I hate the Italian, Hungarian and Romanian forces they are awful. They are like cannon fodder, but worse. 

There is more I could say about Unity of Command but let me just say this, this game has a lot going for it. This is one of those rare games that gets more enjoyable as you learn all the complexities of its strategy. It costs $30 straight from the developer at the UoC website, it has no DRM, it has pvp multiplayer (hotseat and online), two difficult and fairly long persistent campaigns plus a large number of extra scenarios. This isn't a review, not yet, but I do recommend this game to anyone who loves WWII strategy games and those who love complex, brutal and fairly unforgiving strategy games as well. There isn't a demo yet but I do believe they have in the works for sometime in the future. One last thing, the game comes with a 21 page essential manual that explains everything about the game and I'm going to show off some interesting parts of that below for those who want more specific information. Thanks for reading and have a great Friday night.
Main Website:

-Written by Sean Cargle


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