Good turn-based strategy titles are few and far between on the download services and Panzer General: Allied Assault shows us why. They can be difficult to get into, and in turn, poor sellers. However, once you’re in and rolling out the tanks (in this case, placing them on the board) Panzer General: Allied Assault shines as one of the best turn-based strategy titles on the Xbox 360.
Panzer General: Allied Assault is an original take on World War 2 because it presents itself as a card game, set up on a tiled board. Some tiles affect your health giving you either a tactical advantage or disadvantage – using these accordingly will help.
There are three play modes on hand - Campaign, Skirmish, Multiplayer - and a deck builder. The latter is vital in online play because strategy fanatics will have a deck designed with a strategy for every scenario - built by the time you finish this review. However, you can run through the single player campaign without too much deck swapping.
The Campaign starts you off with an extensive tutorial taking you through rolling the dice, weighing the odds of winning a fight, and placing units – the basics of card-based warfare. This is backed up in a lengthy help menu, which may seem overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Battles come down to stats, the amount of support each unit has, and a roll of the die. A bunch of guys with grenades, coupled with a few long range artillery, stand a good chance of taking out a heavy tank; likewise if the stats are in their favour and on the receiving end a tank might not do any damage. Depending on how many hit points you wipe out in the initial strike, they will either hold their ground, retreat, retaliate or be destroyed.
Once you begin a stage you’ll place units from your hand at the cards given prestige cost (displayed on the top right of the card), the number below it represents its sacrificial value, which indicates the boost it gives when sacrificed in battle. There are three types of card: Unit, Combat and Action. You place tanks and so forth with Unit cards, Action cards can be played at any point to change your stats, or your enemy’s, and Combat cards can only be played during a fight for pre-emptive strikes.
Visually, Panzer General: Allied Assault is functional; you won’t be blown away with spectacular effects. At the same time it looks good enough that watching a bunch of soldiers and some artillery support take out a tank is very satisfying.
Each stage features a set of conditions you can pick from to claim a victory; the quickest being to get a unit sitting on the enemy’s home tile. Other, less efficient ways, include wiping out their units and, in later levels, claiming specific tiles.
After winning a battle you’re rewarded with new cards to add to your deck based on the type of victory you achieve. There are two types of victory: standard or superior. The type you score is determined by the number of turns it takes you to win – the quicker you are, the more likely you are to get a superior.
Unfortunately, there’s a big down side to the victory condition system in place; in some cases the enemy will surrender. In a real-world scenario this would mean victory, where as in Panzer General’s Campaign usually means a failure because the German’s surrender isn’t a victory condition. This is the biggest contradiction I’ve ever seen in a game.
Despite the bizarre you-failed-because-the-Germans-surrendered quirk this is one of the top turn-based strategy titles of the generation. On the down side it isn’t something casual gamers will get into easily. Play the trial first.