reviews\ Sep 21, 2009 at 8:00 pm

ORDER OF WAR - PC - Review

Square Enix has been celebrated throughout the years as one of the top Japanese development studios in the world. Their latest production treads down the well-worn path of World War II games, a move that some would consider inherently risky, given the high probability that any WWII game will be compared to all others within its genre. Even so, the lure is a strong one. People are perhaps more familiar with World War II than any other major conflict, so the universal appeal of a familiar subject matter perpetuates its popularity among game developers.

Unfortunately, using such a well-known premise does kill a bit of the excitement of seeing the war play out. Even so, Order of War manages to achieve what few WWII RTS games accomplish. The Allied campaign begins predictably with the invasion of Normandy, and the player is tasked with advancing the American forces further inland, capturing point after point until Berlin has fallen. The modern and perhaps slightly daring approach with Order of War can be found in the scope of its campaign, which does not simply settle for being grand in scale, but offers a look at events through the eyes of the German war machine. While Order of War is not the first game to offer a German campaign, it is certainly among the best attempts to be found in the genre.

Like many other war strategy titles, Order of War focuses on point-to-point capturing and rewards fulfillment of objectives with additional reinforcements. This causes the player to carefully consider the risk versus reward in each combat scenario; taking a landmark might grant greater manpower to one’s forces, but is it worth risking the number of casualties as a consequence of the assault? Experience points can be used to upgrade the abilities of your units, rather like “Company of Heroes”, to improve everything from the efficiency of your infantry to the accuracy of your artillery. Strategic planning will be crucial if any campaign progress is to be made. Bonus objectives can also be carried out to earn extra rewards, which also serve to strengthen your army’s resources. This helps to extend the replayability of the game, and provides a nice treat for thorough and inquiring minds.

The impressive scale of the battlefield itself can be a bit daunting, to say the least. While the large scale conflicts are impressive to gaze upon, the pace of the game generally discourages excessive feasting on eye-candy. This replaces the dull monotony of prolonged gameplay sessions with a sometimes profound sense of exhaustion; you will often need to think clearly and quickly under strained circumstances, rather authentically simulating how a real battlefield commander would need to operate. Fortunately, Order of War manages to successfully translate its thoughtful mechanics to the online multiplayer modes. These modes are extremely fun, and they run very smoothly with just a few players in each match. Unfilled slots can even be occupied with computer-controlled elements if need be.

With a wide array of adjustable graphical settings, Order of War is an experience that should be compatible with most decent computer platforms. That being said, it becomes a real visual powerhouse when the settings are cranked up, with layers of foliage and water effects dazzling the eye. The audio is equally impressive, with sharp cues and thunderously percussive elements immersing the player in their own private war. There is always plenty going on, and the battlefield feels consistently believable and “alive”. Despite the obviously strong precedent set by previous WWII strategy titles, Order of War has little to complain about and will definitely appeal to the hardcore tactician.

Review Scoring Details for Order of War

Gameplay: 8.0
The mechanics should come easily to the experienced RTS player, even if they don’t quite reach astounding levels of depth. The camera can be a bit of a bugger, but it’s not enough to ruin the experience.

Graphics: 8.5 
With settings at maximum, Order of War is one of the best-looking strategy games out there.

Sound: 8.5
Great audio effects bring the battlefield to life.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Might feel a tad easy for the veteran strategist, but this can be adjusted in the menu.

Concept: 7.0 
Yes, it’s World War II again, but playing as the German side is surely worth something?

Multiplayer: 8.0
A meaty online component, which will definitely please those seeking a better challenge than the single-player campaigns. Hopefully more maps will be available for download.

Overall: 8.2
Great mechanics and a beautiful presentation make Order of War shine brightly among some incredible WWII strategy games. Anyone who enjoys the genre should give this one a shot.


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