The wrap-up of the strategy section of History of History: World War II deals with hits and misses over the past decade and a half. There were many strategy games that just flooded the PC market, and PC gamers had to sift through them to find the gems. Not all were bad, but some here just one-hit wonders never to see the light of day again.
Combat Command 2: Danger Forward!
Release Date: 12/17/2000
Here’s an interesting game. It was by order mail only through the website and came shrink wrapped in a paper sleeve with the game manual. It was also play-by-e-mail as well so just imagine. The game is very simplistic, but fans of this genre know that doesn’t matter. The problem that held this game back so much was the terrible AI, and this was a problem with all war games back in the day until real-time strategy took off. It’s worth a look for the hardcore at least.
Release Date: 1/23/2001
Sudden Strike was a very simple WWII strategy game, it wasn’t serious at all. It had a toy soldier-type look to it, but didn’t sit well with hardcore strategy fans. Once you beat the campaign there was no reason to really go back.
Combat Command 2: Desert Rats
Release Date: 7/29/2001
Not much changed from Danger Forward, but it was considered a bit better. It still had an overly simplistic design and look. It just pretty much got the job done but wasn’t really worth it unless you were a hardcore strategy gamer. Most people preferred the tabletop games, but good luck finding a copy.
Airborne Assault: Red Devils Over Arnhem
Release Date: 7/7/2002
Ever wonder how a game can be good with just one map? Call of Duty can’t. Airborne Assault could do it because it gave you full control. It came with a huge manual that detailed various tactical elements on the map, background on how the strategy works, tips, and various other things. They don’t make strategy games like they used to. This was back when you kicked your shoes off Friday night and sat down on your computer for 2 days doing nothing but figuring out the game. Your second weekend was dedicated to playing, and the third was conquering.
Strategic Command: European Theater
Release Date: 7/16/2002
Strategic Command was well known for the “what if” scenarios you could play out rather than what happened hour by hour. It was still a simple borderline table-top-looking game, but it all came down to the core strategy. It was mainly plagued with terrible AI and wasn’t much different from other WWII strategy games at the time. Good luck finding someone today who will play these.
Release Date: 11/4/2002
While most games thus far have been pretty decent, G.I. Combat is a real dud. This was back when strategy games started transitioning to 3D and weren’t doing a good job of it. The game had jerky animations, terrible graphics (even for back then), and downright awful AI. It also didn’t give you full control of your units.
World War II: Panzer Claws
Release Date: 11/14/2002
The end of 2002 was a time when strategy games for more casual players were coming out with more action like Command & Conquer and Warcraft. (Yes, it was an RTS before it was an MMO for all you kiddies out there) Panzer Claws had dated visuals that actually interrupted gameplay, as well as having that bad AI. This was a rough time for RTS.
World War II: Frontline Command
Release Date: 6/22/2003
Frontline Command was a bit better, it had better graphics, but was still poorly paced, and had a bad interface. One mission would be fast-paced and fun, and the next three would be stealthy and bring everything to a crawl. It’s still worth looking into if you’re a hardcore RTS or WWII fan.
Squad Assault: West Front
Release Date: 11/2/2003
At this point in time, the Close Combat creators were pumping out games that kept resembling the groundbreaking strategy series. The graphics were still really dated, and it seemed the WWII strategy scene just couldn’t straighten itself out. While West Front wasn’t bad, it was just something we’ve played again many times before.
Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich
Release Date: 12/10/2003
Wargaming is a really niche market, so niche that only 1 in maybe 100,000 people are into it. Airborne Assault finally got it right and pushed the genre a bit further. It was really fun and very accessible were many games in the past weren’t. If you love wargaming or want to get into it, this may be a good start.
Release Date: 4/1/2004
War Times was riddled with many issues and lazy design. A lot of the maps were symmetrical so the AI could overwhelm you with better units quicker than you can build them, there were pathfinding issues, and many other problems that put this game at the bottom of the WWII RTS pile.
Soldiers: Heroes of World War II
Release Date: 6/30/2004
Soldiers was an “almost but not quite” RTS game. It had a solid campaign and multiplayer but had issues with bad controls, difficulty, and various other small issues like bugs. I actually got this game free back when Direct2Drive was still around. I never got around to playing much, but the first two maps I played were fun, the game was accessible, and it had some entertaining presentation.
Codename: Panzers, Phase One
Release Date: 9/30/2004
The Codename: Panzers series seemed to hit the sweet spot for WWII RTS gamers back in the day. It had an excellent presentation, well-built maps, and a lengthy and challenging campaign. It was highly anticipated back in the day and was what Company of Heroes is now, the same kind of exposure. If you are itching for a good WWII RTS game I would start with this.
Release Date: 12/7/2004
D-Day was just another WWII strategy game that was uninspired. The game had the usual problems, boring missions, bad pathfinding, dumb AI, and was just really generic. It did have some good interviews with war vets, but that’s about it.
Gary Grigsby’s World at War
Release Date: 3/25/2005
Gary Gribsby’s was probably one of the best WWII wargame games to come out in years. It had clean visuals and addictive strategic gameplay that went beyond the usual Allies and Axis stuff. It just had some bad animations, a fixed resolution, and the menu was really cluttered.
Codename: Panzers, Phase Two
Release Date: 7/25/2005
Codename: Panzers continued to be a solid RTS franchise. The second game had more great missions, solid multiplayer, and one of the best things was that there were multiple solutions to most battles, which wasn’t like most RTS games. It did have dated graphics and a few other minor issues, but it was still solid.
Lock ‘n Load: Band of Heroes
Release Date: 8/26/2005
Honestly, this is one of the most low-profile WWII strategy games you can find. There are no reviews for it online, it was that small of a game. I doubt this thing sold 1,000 copies. It was the video game version of the tabletop hex game. It was actually released during a game convention it was that low budget. I honestly can’t tell you how good the game is, but wargame fans should track it down.
Squad Assault: Second Wave
Release Date: 8/31/2005
Squad Assault fell into the mediocre range again bringing recycled content from past games. It was really just the first game but just all mixed up. It had dated graphics and was extremely difficult. Still worth a look for people who liked the first.
Release Date: 10/2/2005
Blitzkrieg 2 was popular because it was just fun and solid. It was fast-paced, had destructible environments, and looked clean. While it was technically dated (as most RTS games were back then) it was also very easy.
Strategic Command 2: Blitzkrieg
Release Date: 4/28/2006
Strategic Command 2 was very average. It had terrible visuals, even by wargame standards, but had many scenarios and units, but the end battle outcomes were a bit confusing. This is probably only worth a look for hardcore wargame fans. Everyone else will fall asleep.
Rush for Berlin
Release Date: 6/12/2006
Rush for Berlin was a bit of a blessing for WWII RTS fans. It had great graphics, good AI, and amazing sound effects. It also had a great campaign and was very interesting to play. Anyone looking for an RTS game should check this out.
Moscow to Berlin: Red Siege
Release Date: 6/14/2006
Red Siege was another flash in the pan WWII RTS game. By now the WWII craze had died down, and many gamers were tired of it. The game looked 4 years old, and it was bland and uninspired and just plain boring.
Faces of War
Yet another WWII RTS that just looked good and forgot the rest. There were many AI problems, boring linear missions, and it just wasn’t interesting. As it is, this is just another forgotten WWII RTS game to throw into the pile.
Release Date: 1/30/2007
Systems: PC, X360
PC — 77%
X360 — 73%
X360 — 230,000
PC — 10,000
Battlestations was one of the last into the foray of WWII RTS games. It was highly anticipated because of the mix of strategy and action. You could control planes and subs, and it looked good. The only issue was that the game was too short, and had control issues on the Xbox 360. This is also one of the few WWII RTS games on consoles.
Blitzkrieg II: Fall of the Reich
Release Date: 2/22/2007
Blitzkrieg was a great underdog WWII RTS series, but the expansions totally blew it. They were insanely difficult, had control problems, and the missions were boring and derivative.
Blitzkrieg 2: Liberation
Release Date: 10/12/2007
Less than 6 months and another expansion are released. The more unforgiving difficulty, recycled content, and the same bad controls and missions design. Thankfully, Blitzkrieg hasn’t seen the light of day since.
Strategic Command 2: Weapons and Warfare
Release Date: 10/25/2007
That 85% is misleading because it’s only one review. I can’t find much on this game, because the series pretty much died off and was already forgotten. This middling RTS series like Strategic Command and Blitzkrieg held on for dear life, but couldn’t make it due to the advance of PCs, the new generation of gamers, and the death of the WWII genre.
Panzer Tactics DS
Release Date: 11/6/2007
Wow! A wargame on the DS?! Impossible! This is the only one that exists on the system and it’s surprisingly good for the hardware’s limitations. Despite having a tiny screen, you can get a lot out of the game. It thankfully implements a thorough tutorial for the target audience, but can be very dry and has monotonous music. If you own a DS and need a wargame fix, this is your only option.
Theatre of War
Release Date: 5/19/2008
Theatre of War was one of the last successful WWII RTS franchises. It was very realistic down to the bullets, and wargame fans clamored for it. It was slow to start and did get boring in spots, so even casual RTS fans may balk at it. The game looked amazing (for the time it was a system hog) but the great AI and other features helped it along.
Release Date: 5/12/2009
Systems: PC, X360
PC — 77%
X360 — 76%
X360 — 290,000
PC — 10,000
The short-lived Battlestations series went out with a bang thanks to its explosive action of plane and sub battles as well as the great graphics. It was well balanced and fun, some missions were just too slow to move along and it had terrible voice acting.
Theatre of War 2: Africa 1943
Release Date: 11/19/2009
Theatre of War went downhill fast. It had great graphics, but the highly accurate battles and mechanics on the game just didn’t work out well this time around. It also had many bugs and crashes and the game was very short. Still worth a look if you liked the first one.
Theatre of War 2: Kursk 1943
Release Date: 3/9/2010
The Theatre of War franchise dropped like a rock due to the lack of polish and the WWII genre was now a niche market. No longer were games selling in the millions, people weren’t playing them online, only the die-hard were left. I can’t find much on Kursk, due to the poor reception of Africa this one didn’t sell too well and not much was changed from the previous game.
Order of War: Challenge
Release Date: 3/11/2010
Challenge is a great multiplayer expansion to the original and was just solid fun. At this point in time, the WWII genre had nearly completely faded from existence and only a few remaining games were left. Order of War is worth a look if you want a solid RTS game.
History: Legends of War: Patton
Release Date: 11/6/2012
Systems: PC, PS3, X360
X360 — 61%
PS3 — 60%
PC — N/A
Probably the last WWII RTS game to come out shouldn’t be surprised that it’s a dud. There’s a lot of attention to historical detail, but that’s where it stops. It has bad AI, pathfinding problems, boring missions, and it just isn’t any fun to play. It is even worse to play on consoles. There was a version for Vita that was planned but it was canceled after the unsurprising criticism.
As you can see the WWII RTS genre kept a steady run throughout the 12 years of its popularity. Around 2006 the genre started dying, but there was a peppering of hardcore tabletop-style wargames. A few franchises were flashes in the pan like Theatre of War, Codename: Panzers, Blitzkrieg, and Battlestations. None of these could stand up to the WWII RTS juggernauts.