Thursday, December 1, 2011

Unity of Command Review

The kind of gamer who will enjoy Unity of Command will likely need to enjoy hardcore strategy games, games that punish you and reward you for being patient and familiar with all aspects of the game. I am one those gamers and Unity of Command is right up my alley, constantly pulling me to play it even after multiple close defeats.
*For an in-depth overview of the basic concepts of the game check out my lengthy impressions on Unity of Command from two weeks ago. 

This video should give you a decent idea of what the game is about
The presentation for Unity of Command is impressive, it works well, it runs well and it doesn't feel old, but that doesn't mean I don't feel its lacking a few things. With regards to Unit Cards, they are very informative generally, but there it isn't easy to determine all of the factors that could be affecting a unit. That complaint is barely a complaint, but for a newcomer it is hard to become quickly aware of what everything means on a units card. Once you get used to it you can see that it does tell you pretty much everything you might want to know about a units determiners, check out how the unit cards look.

My other negative had to with the games settings. For a PC game it has very options and no graphical settings other than resolution. The settings in general are pretty bare, but some basic options would be a welcome addition. The manual for this game is huge and comes with every copy, it is incredibly useful if you need to figure out anything about the game. Lastly I need to say that is very easy to see all of the different tactical elements of a map, like terrain/weather.

It's hard to say anything negative about Unity of Commands graphics. They work very well for a turn based WWII strategy game and they are certainly more pleasing to look at then say Hearts of Iron or Sengoku, yet at the same time they are pretty basic and you could want more out of them, but it is seems harsh to hold that against a small indie developer. Check out an example of a small battle below.

Here is how the campaign map looks, that is the Axis one at least. With this map you can see how a scenario can branch off into other scenarios, all of which is determined by how well you do on any scenario.

There is quite a lot about the gameplay that I need to explain, especially if you haven't read my impressions article and don't understand the general gist of the game. Let's start with Prestige, it is something you earn throughout the campaign and you use it purchase new units, reinforcements or attachments (you can attach specialist units onto most units and it gives them bonuses). Prestige is earned based on how well you in any given scenario, simple enough. Some campaign routes require you to get a perfect victory in order to unlock all possible options, but it is something to strive for and keep you trying to doing your best. There is a lot about the gameplay that makes you want to be very careful about everything you do and that is generally welcome in turn based strategy game.

Supply is very important in every single scenario

When you want to replay a scenario it erases every scenario after that, it makes perfect sense considering how prestige works, but it also takes away that feeling of achievement if you go all the way back to some campaign branch in order to try to unlock another path. I personally don't mind it but I can easily see how it would annoy people. One of the ways that the game is hardcore is that you cannot save during a battle or manually during a campaign, it autosaves and only allows you to have one campaign running at a time. I don't see any reason why two campaigns running at the same time would be a problem or conflict with the ideals of the game, so that's why I disliked that.

Let me say this about gameplay in general, it is great. The few qualms I have are rarely on my mind when I'm playing the game. The game is often frustratingly challenging but much like how Dark Souls is challenging, you hate the game when you lose, but when you win it feels fantastic. Several of the negatives are moot for gamers who are used to hardcore games, but can be very harsh on those who are used to easier games. One last note, multiplayer only has one specific multiplayer scenario (presumably the most balanced pvp option), but you can play any scenario player versus player it just might not be balanced. Multiplayer also plays out exactly like singleplayer, which is certainly not a bad thing.

Likes and Dislikes
+Fresh, useful, attractive and easy to use UI
+Terrain, weather, supply, territories and hexes
+Devoid of bugs
+Colorful graphical style that clearly shows useful information
+Addictive gameplay in a "just one more turn" way
+Battles are frustratingly difficult but equally satisfying when are doing well
+Dealing with supply lines adds to the strategical depth
+Multiplayer is very easy to set up and get right into
+History mode allows you to re-watch an entire scenario
+Deep strategical gameplay +Intelligent and challenging AI
-You cannot redo a unit's action, if you make a mistake that's it (explanation below)  
-Beating a campaign doesn't feel significant enough
-Few menu settings in regards to graphics, controls and sound

Last Comments
As a gamer and a reviewer I am appreciative of this game. During a time when we have sequels flying out left and right, and generic uninspired games, Unity of Command stands out. It brings a tactical strategy to the WWII setting that is commonly seen in turn based strategy games, but not with this level of polish or quality. While I continuously refer to UoC as a hardcore strategy game it is significantly more user friendly than many other well known turn based strategy games. It feels like a fantastic mix of Advanced Wars and Hearts of Iron, seemingly taking strong points from each game and creating something fresh. If you consider yourself a casual strategy gamer, if those exist, then I do warn you against the high difficult and lack of hand holding. This game does have a few negatives and it is not for everyone but for those strong enough to face down it's challenges it is a pleasure. I implore strategy gamers to give Unity of Command a chance, we may see nothing like it for a very long time. For $30 you are supporting a great indie developer as well as getting a great product. 

Violent Score: 9 (out of 10)

Basic Details
Main Website:
Developer: 2x2 Games
Genre: WWII Turn Based Strategy Game
Platform: PC 
Price: $30 
Available From: Gamersgate, UoC Website, Matrix Games
Additional Info: Downloadable Only and PC Indie Developer

Thanks for reading and thank you 2x2 Games for providing me with a review copy of UoC. 
-Written by Sean Cargle


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