Friday, February 19, 2010

"Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943", Tactical Combat Delivered in Manageable Chunks

The demo of "Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943" was released this week.

I'll spare you the generic and repetitive babble that you can read about this game in the mainstream media: a tactical World War II game  ... it has an "strategic" layer (that "strategic" bit always makes me chuckle) ... the battles play in real time ... it looks really pretty ... blah, blah, blah.

The question that I had when I loaded the demo: is there anything for incorrigible old farts like me who are beyond eye candy?

I suspected something good when I saw the screenshots elsewhere: sweet face of Moses, the game uses  authentic Russian tactical symbols!

When I opened the game manual I read in the title: "A Company-Level Tactical Simulation". What? You saying that this game will not be a "save the whole eastern front with your band of 100 3D soldiers"?

After installation I opened the only campaign available and got into the so-called "strategic" map.

Each square in the map above is 1 sqKm. I'm commanding a Russian battle group of approximately 2 infantry companies, some AT guns and a platoon of tanks. Our sector is just about right in size. I still have to get a good grasp of the mechanics so I let the Germans to attack me. In the map above, a platoon (?) of panzer grenadiers is attacking in the square that has a red flame icon. Once I clicked on the icon, I got transported to a 3D battlefield to deploy my troops and command them in real time.

It was a cakewalk for the enemy. I had only infantry to face the Germans and I spread them so badly ...

After this short time with the demo, "Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943" (APK43) has bullseyed on two targets:
  1. Scale. The connection between the large, turn-based "strategic" 2-D map and the smaller, real time 3-D battlefield is something to stare at. Other games have done something similar before (do you remember Close Combat?), or tried to do it (the now defunct Combat Mission Campaigns). However, in APK43 the whole area of operations is a seamless, alive entity, with the 2D map being just an instrument to deliver manageable chunks of tactical decision making to the player. When you are playing a real time battle and focused in the 1x1 Km square where you deployed, you can still see the guys in the other squares (you can't command them, though). Even when you are struggling in the current 1x1 Km square, you keep watching for the neighboring ones, because that's where your next struggle will be.
  2. Atmosphere. During one real time battle I zoomed in until I could see the faces of my Russian troops. Seeing them there, at 0530 of a bitter cold morning, with the almost certainty of a violent death, the sun barely rising on a gloomy sky ... I couldn't avoid thinking about the real deal and the sacrifices both Germans and Russians have made. In other occasion, I zoomed into an almost extinct Russian infantry squad and I see that the leader has grabbed the squad's light machine gun. He was lying down on tall grass, the sound of approaching German halftracks on the near distance. This though m**********r wasn't willing to die without a fight. Huge endorphine peak.

The release date of this game is February 25, 2010.



Mike said...

How is the combat? Realistic? Vehicle selection?

Throw us a bone!


JC said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your comment.

I'm working on either a detailed first impressions or review of the full game. But my lips are sealed until release date. :)