Panzer General II

Almost a five-star general.

Like it or not, there’s no denying that Panzer General is one of the most – if not the most – popular computer wargame of all time. It was certainly the first wargame to bring new gamers to the genre in quantity, and its simple yet deep gameplay was something rarely if ever seen in wargaming. And if you’re new to wargaming or have been hesitant to invest your time in one, delay no longer: this is the place to get hooked.

Snap5_1Included in the game are over thirty battles in several campaigns. Unlike the original Panzer General, campaigns are playable from a German, American, British, or Soviet perspective. Scenarios range from the usual battles comprising Germany’s famous Blitzkrieg, continuing with the American and British push into the Reich, to the final days of Berlin during the Soviet offensive. Due to a reduced map scale, the game focuses on key battles in concentrated geographic areas. The campaigns still branch off, so a few lukewarm results early on spell defeat later.

But if the campaigns seem to time-consuming or you just need the practice, refer to the impressive warchest of standalone scenarios. There you’ll find many battles that have never been war-gamed before (at least not on the PC): Lillehammer (Norway), Ciechanow (Poland), Thermoplyae (Greece), Kishinev (Besarabia). Among them are spread many popular battles as well, like D-day, Tubruk or Prokhorovka.

Panzer Perfect

As was true in the original game, the campaigns are the heart and soul of the matter. You can play as either an Allied or a German commander, and you start off with a small “core” of units. If you’re victorious, your units gain experience and can be made upgraded via prestige points. Improved equipment and better weaponry steadily become available as you advance. And every new unit you requisition becomes part of your ongoing core force (auxiliary units are assigned on a one-time basis, so you need not waste any points purchasing them}.

Victory comes in three flavors and the campaigns “branch” accordingly. Most desirable is a “brilliant victory,” which gives you plenty of points, but which is always severely constrained by time-factors — the clock often runs out just when you’re on the brink of achieving that elusive brilliance (and this, in turn, motivates you to try “just one more time” to attain it). Therein lies much of the game’s fierce addictiveness — you’re always wondering what you can do differently to improve your performance..Should you rack up a string of shining victories as the German commander (starting with the Blitzkrieg Campaign), you’ll eventually get to invade England, and after that, the United States.

Snap22_1Perhaps the biggest limitation of the game is that the enhanced graphics meant reducing the size of the mission areas. Unfortunately, it forces players to toggle between the strategic and tactical maps too frequently. The interface has also changed quite a bit. The game departs from the original one click information scheme, requiring four clicks to finally get comprehensive information on a selected unit. Even details as basic as the weather now require additional scavenging through the menus to obtain. Worst of all, no easy method exists for determining composite sight ranges of your units.

Multiplayer is fully supported, but solo play is greatly enhanced by the tenacious AI. Even if you set the campaign difficulty in your favor, you’ll still find the computerized opposition to be a tough foe. In all, SSI has lavished great care and imagination on this game, and the result is a masterpiece of the genre.

System Requirements: 386/33 MHz, 4 MB RAM, 10 MB HDD, MS DOS 5.0

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