Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943 PC
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Developed by: Paradox Interactive
Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943, as the title implies, takes place in Kharkov in the early part of 1943. It covers just a small portion of the Eastern Front action between Germany and the Soviet Union. The game offers six scenarios which cover the battles of Taranovka and Sokolovo. The shortest of these battles has only five turns whilst the longest contains fifteen. If World War II strategy games are your thing then there may be enough here to make the game an appealing option and the low asking price of just £14.99 is certainly inviting. However, there are a number of missteps that have been made which make the game not quite as impressive as it could have otherwise been.
A company-level tactical combat simulation, Achtung Panzer has two main modes. Operational mode, which is turn-based, is where you can move your forces on a grid-based map and arrange reinforcements and repair and refuel your vehicles. Tactical mode, which is played out in real-time, is where the action takes place and you get to engage the enemy in combat and it has to be said that the combat is quite enjoyable and fairly realistic. Both modes are interrelated as the results of the Tactical mode determine what you can do in the Operational mode.
What really makes Achtung Panzer worthwhile for grognards everywhere is that the expansive battlefields have been designed using archive documents and photos, along with modern day video footage, to make them as authentic as possible. This allows you to make the most of the terrain, and indeed be impeded by it, just as the real generals were during the actual battles on the Eastern Front. Even though the battles play out in real time, you are able to pause the action and make tactical decisions on the go which certainly helps to keep things manageable.
It immediately becomes apparent that Achtung Panzer is not as polished as it could be. The first thing you expect to encounter in a game like this is a tutorial. Sure most tutorials aren’t good enough but even a flimsy tutorial can help to put you on the right track. Achtung Panzer doesn’t have any tutorial whatsoever and that’s one hell of an omission. To be fair the game does a decent job of introducing the basics but it’s no substitute for have a proper interactive tutorial and it’s a poor state of affairs that there isn’t one.
The problems with Achtung Panzer don’t stop there however. There’s no ability to save your game mid-battle or to replay a battle that’s already taken place which means that should you make a mess of a battle, you’re stuck with its consequences until you’ve finished the scenario which can seem a little punishing. It’s also unfortunate that the game has no multiplayer options at all. This means of course that you can only battle against the AI but whilst it thankfully behaves in what I would consider to be a realistic fashion, for the most part, it’s no substitute for playing against human opposition. The game does provide an editor, and it works very nicely too, but it would have had far more value if you had the ability to play against human opposition using your custom scenarios rather than the AI.
The presentation of the game is absolutely fine. The quality of the graphics may not be the greatest but they are certainly good enough for a game of this type. I particularly like the effect of battles at night which you don’t often see in games such as this. The interface is absolutely fine and easy to use. On first playing the game I found it to be an absolute system resource hog but using the latest update has resulted in much better performance. The game uses a combination of text, numbers and icons to relay information and it won’t cause deaf gamers any problems. Briefings, which include Operational Status and Background Situation information, are exclusively in text and the text can be read at your own pace.
At its low price point, Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943 is a solid purchase for hardcore strategy fans. AI quirks and a complete absence of multiplayer options are unfortunate but there’s enough single-player content here to make it well worth the asking price. Those who don’t usually dabble in this genre would be wise to look elsewhere for a gentler introduction to the genre however. The absence of a tutorial and mid-battle save can make this feel like a punishing experience and whilst the manual does help you to get to grips with the game, it’s no substitute for a proper introduction to the game. Essentially then it’s a game that will satisfy its target audience but any future sequels should definitely have more thought put into them.