Order of War PC
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Wargaming.net
Order of War isn't the most in-depth World War II RTS that I've played but it's certainly one of the more dramatic and accessible ones. The game's emphasis is very much on large scale battles involving large numbers of infantry, tanks, artillery and aircraft. The game tries to give you more of a sense of being in a Hollywood style war rather than becoming too bogged down with realism and there's a lot to like about the game's presentation. The game pretty much succeeds with what it tries to do but this isn't a game that's going to appeal to the grognards out there because it isn't attempting to be realistic. In some respects however, that's no bad thing.
There are two single-player campaigns on offer in Order of War. The American campaign concentrates on Operation Overlord and puts you in charge of the U.S. Army as they set about landing on the beaches of Northern France. The German campaign sees you having to deal with Operation Bagration. Controlling the German Army you'll have to fend off the advancing Russian forces who are determined to push the Germans out of Soviet territory. In total there are 18 missions to play through and quite a generous amount of play time is to be had over the course of the two campaigns. The campaigns, which both offer three difficulty levels, are fairly epic in nature and there's barely time to draw breath as the action is incessant. The game also has a skirmish mode offering six maps to play on and the option to play as the US, German or Russian forces. LAN and Internet play have also been catered for.
As we hinted at the beginning of the review, Order of War isn't a game that's attempting to be entrenched in realism. The emphasis is firmly on keeping the dramatic action flowing. There's no base building or advanced tactics to concern yourself with. You'll control various companies of units and your focus is simply on completing the objectives without having to worry about any other kind of micromanagement. Controlling companies rather than individual soldiers allows you to control a large number of units with a minimum of fuss. In some World War II RTS games you've had to tell you units what to do and how to go about things in a very precise manner. That's not possible here but it's not a problem because your units will use their own initiative in choosing their weapons and grenades etc. They don't always make the best job of things however. For instance you won't find your infantry making use of the available cover at all times and that can be a little frustrating.
There's still work to be done in Order of War and it's up to come up with effective strategies taking terrain, visibility, cover and other such things into account when you're giving orders to your units. You can place infantry inside fortifications, distribute fire between multiple targets and tell your tanks to attack ground rather than specific enemies as well as other things besides which can all help to give your forces an edge during battle. It's essential to flank enemies where possible and timing your attacks can be crucial in the more difficult missions. During a mission you can capture control points and these enable you to earn resource points. Resource points allow you to purchase reinforcements, with these being sent to a zone that you control. Resource points also allow you to purchase artillery and air strikes which can deal some serious damage to your enemies. This type of support is expensive however, so it's not something you could overuse which is a good thing. Your performance during a mission will earn you points that can be used to upgrade your infantry, artillery, tanks & SPGs. You can improve various things such as firing range, hand grenade range and carry out tactical training.
Order of War is an enjoyable RTS but some aspects of the game could have been better. When you're being given your objectives it can feel as though you're having your strategy given to you on a plate. Whilst this is understandable in the first mission (after all first missions generally are meant to ease you into the game), it can feel like the game is trying to hold your hand when it's still doing it several missions into the campaign. Another issue is the visibility of your troops which, when they are not selected and zoomed out, is rather poor (when they are selected you'll see the light blue outline that shows their firing range) and it can be quite difficult to select them by simply clicking on them. Yes you can click on the icons for your troops and tanks etc., that are displayed on the HUD but it would still be preferable at times to be able to able to easily pick out your units. Sadly there is no map editor so the possibility of playing on user created maps at this point is nonexistent.
If you have the hardware, Order of War is a fine looking RTS. The developers recommend you have a GeForce 9800 or ATI HD 4850 with 512MB of RAM in order to ensure smooth performance. Sadly the graphics card that was used in reviewing the game was a GeForce 8800GT with only 256MB of RAM. Whilst the game ran generally fine with most of the options set to a medium setting, there were times when the frame rate got a little bogged down, although it was never anything too problematic. The large scale battles certainly look impressive, particularly with the ability to get up close to the action with the game's cinematic camera which puts you in the thick of the action. It's not something you'll use a lot but during an intense firefight it can be fun to use for a few moments before going back to a traditional RTS view. The presentation of the game as a whole is excellent and it really does enhance the experience. I really like the way the game's cutscenes blend film footage and in-game graphics with Haynes manual style technical drawings for a wonderfully stylish effect.
Deaf gamers won't have too many problems with Order of War although there are a few disappointments. The cutscenes that introduce each of the missions, which are essentially mission briefings, are sadly not subtitled. Comments given by your units when you issue orders to them are also not subtitled. In every other respect the game is OK however. All mission objectives are given in text and can be recalled at any time so you'll be aware of what needs to be done. In fact a short description of your objectives are shown on the left side of the screen so you can see them at a glance at any time. Tutorials are subtitled enabling you to be up and running with the game in no time, even if you haven't played an RTS before.
Order of War is an enjoyable RTS that could even manage to appeal to those who don't normally care for the genre. In fact it's more likely to not appeal to those who have been into the genre for many years and insist on their World War II RTS games being as in depth and as challenging as possible. However, it does offer a campaign that allows you to control the German forces, a feature which is not included in most World War II RTS games. If you're the kind of RTS gamer that insists on being able to base build you'll probably find that Order of War is not for you. That said, I like the way the game doesn't try to be punishing and doesn't over complicate things. Managing large scale battles seems easier than in any other RTS that I've played before and that has to be a good thing. The game's presentation is excellent and quite different from what you'd usually find in a game of this nature. Whilst it's not perfect then, Order of War certainly has its moments and it's certainly one of the more accessible World War II RTS games to date.