My usual gaming experience involves some high octane FPS action with multiple things either crashing, or blowing up around me every few minutes. Imagine my joy then, when I was asked to play the Panzer General Online closed beta! My joy wavered a bit when I realized that Panzer General Online is not a first person WW2 shooter, but an online strategy game. Now it’s fair to say I would not usually choose to play such a game, but I was willing to give it a bash and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.
Panzer General Online from Ubisoft is a free to play browser game and on my iMac, it worked liked a dream with no lagging or slow loading screens once you are in the game; I do have a 120 mbps connection, but I doubt users with slower connections will suffer. Visuals are quite basic, but well put together with some nice attention to detail. It’s a shame that there are currently no plans for a phone or tablet version, as I think it would be a great game for the daily commute.
The best way I can describe this game is that it’s like a board game on your screen, reminding me a little of the game Risk; if you’re not three moves ahead, you’ve had it. I’ll briefly describe the gameplay; bear with me as although it may sound a little yawn inducing, it’s really a very clever way of playing a game. You win by either destroying all of your opponents ‘pieces’ or when their command points reach zero. Command points are lost when your opponent attacks your command post and also used when you play your command cards, which are the actions you can take during your turn to move, attack and resupply amongst other things. There are several to choose from and each one will cost a certain number of command points. You can only use one card per turn and there are only 4 to choose from at any time, so it is crucial to perform the right action at the right time. There are ways to increase your command points by playing resupply cards, but again to maximize the effect these have to be played at the right time. When using an attack card, you need to make sure you are going to inflict maximum damage as your opponent will automatically return fire; you soon learn not to go in all guns blazing, without thinking it through first.
The game has a single player campaign mode, where you play as a German general along with period side parting and evil stare. The storyline is ok, but I never felt immersed in the game. The campaign has several practice missions to get you into the swing of things; these are very easy to start with and introduce the different units and vehicles, along with the different action cards. These practice missions give you a good bearing and prepare you for the proper campaign, which is taxing enough to frustrate you but leave you wanting more.
The multiplayer is where most players will end up after reaching level 6; the maps and gameplay are all very similar, but you are playing real people rather than the computer. Having an opponent who is also trying to outwit you and second guess your every move is a bit like chess with tanks; my friends looked at me a little strangely when I told them that, but it really is actually quite good. If you want a popular, online community and that warm feeling of satisfaction upon reaching the next level, then it will cater for you too.
I think that this is a good game, but not a great game. Clearly against GTA V or Call of Duty it won’t stand out, but let’s not discount it! I classify games a lot like I do films; I enjoy a deep, Oscar nominated epic as much as the next man, but there’s a time and a place for it and sometimes I want a brainless action flick with Stallone or Schwarzenegger, especially at the end of a night out when you don’t have to think too hard. Games are the same and Panzer General Online wouldn’t be the type of game you get your mates around for during an evening of crazy gaming; but if you want to kill an hour and engage your brain, it’s excellent. In fact, the single player campaign can be played at a snails pace making it an excellent ‘background’ game; I played it quite a bit whilst making some calls during work, completing at least two missions whilst listening to hold music!
Panzer General Online is currently in closed beta so features, visuals and gameplay are liable to change before release; if you’d like to register to participate in the closed beta you can do so here.
Mac beta code provided by Ubisoft.