reviews\ May 30, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Theatre of War - PC - Review

Many of our readers may have read us state that the World War II real-time strategy genre is a depleted genre with not much left to discover.  For years now, the genre has been oversaturated with dozens of games that haven’t introduced anything new besides a different title on the package.  Also add to the fact that the World War II theme is also explored in first-person shooters and action games and it’s evident that it’s wearing thin on the patience of gamers.


Though, not to be contradictory of myself, I have to point out that last year’s Company of Heroes did a lot of justification for companies still digging up gold in this well exhausted mine. 



It’s tough to surprise me nowadays with a WW2 theme.  I have seen Nazis teaming up with zombies, vampires and several other supernatural beings.  I have seen the Nazis winning the war in several plot outlines.  I have seemingly played every battle, in many different variations too, that any WW2 game can offer.  But, let me say this and say it proudly as a fan of the RTS genre, Theatre of War is a diamond in the rough. 


Gamers cannot go wrong for at least putting a few good hours into Theatre of War to see if it’s their cup of tea.  Theatre of War isn’t the conventional RTS to any extent.  It removes the necessity of gathering resources and building barracks for units.  It also creates an immense difficulty level for the trigger happy gamers that like to jump the gun and start their assault right away.


The tactics that are needed to successfully play Theatre of War consist of patience and a well thought out route to advance position.  Similar to real life, examining the battlefield is the most important detail needed to finish the levels.  Who would go into a battle, besides the British in the American Revolution, without knowing the lands they’d be fighting on?  The main reason for such rigorous planning is because factors such as hidden enemies and distance need to be carefully looked out beforehand.



Endurance is needed to play Theatre of War.  There are five long campaigns modeled after several World War II battles all across Europe.  The campaigns provide control over four allies’ nations and one for the axis side.  From controlling the British and the Americans to being able to control the smaller portion of the war like France and Poland, it’s all included here in terms of what to expect in WW2 games.  The campaigns are in no particular order, so players have the chance to play them in any method their heart desires.

Missions start out basically with what people are used to – with a set amount of units at the disposal of command.  More reinforcements will be provided once objectives are reached throughout the missions.  Regretfully, the missions do in fact become repetitive and overbearing to sit down and play for a fifteen minute span.   There are over 40 battles to engage in, but that doesn’t mean all of them are a worthy of time and effort to complete.  I must say, the repetition wore down on me about a quarter a way through.


Theatre of War leans more towards authenticity and atmosphere of bringing World War II to life.  Each soldier is proficient in different skills.  This plays into great effect on their performance on the battlefield.   After every mission, players can provide upgrades to their soldiers for an award.  This promotion based system needs to be tackled intelligently since the game is complex by all means.  The basic tutorials are included and are much appreciated with the plethora of detail that needs to be paid attention to.


Just for case in point, artillery can be called upon to soften up the enemy’s line of defense.  Even firing angles and shell types are all taken into account to assess damage.  Vehicles, after excessive damage, will no longer be operable.  These are only a few examples of the realistic details the developers paid attention to creating a solid RTS.  Though the computer A.I. is at a high level, it applies to both the computer controlled units and the soldiers under the control of the players.



The maps are great in size and are benefited by the extraordinary amount of detail.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, while the maps are brilliantly laid out, they tend to have the same elements applied for every map.  The recurrence of battling on the same farmlands will become severely boring halfway through the first campaign.  There’s a mission editor included to ensure longevity.


The graphics engine is attractive, but isn’t impressive when compared to games such as Company of Heroes.  The best feature for Theatre of War has to be the damage models.  The damage is realistic and the models used are historically accurate.  What holds Theatre of War back from being a superb must buy game is the slow down factor.  Framerates often drop down to low numbers, especially when the battles begin.  Also, I haven’t played it on Vista, but rumors are flying around that Vista doesn’t handle the game well.


The audio isn’t impressive in any way.  The sound effects are boring and drab.  The soundtrack tries to portray a grand battle with every mission but it comes off as cheesy.  A little more time was needed to be spent in this department to effectively nail the atmosphere of a war.



Lastly, multiplayer supports up to eight players whether it be on the net or on a local LAN.  The multiplayer shouldn’t be the reason to pick up Theatre of War.  The main attraction of Theatre of War is for authentic experience.  I haven’t had to pay this much attention to precise movement and directions since the Commandos franchise.  Theatre of War is definitely worth a look for long-time World War 2 buffs.


Minimum Requirements:
Operating System: Windows XP
Processor: Pentium IV 2.6 GHz or AMD Athlon 2.0 GHz
Graphics Card: GeForce 4600 or Radeon 9600
HD Space: 1 Gigabyte Hard Drive Space

DirectX 9 compatible Sound Card


Review Scoring Details for Theatre of War


Gameplay: 8.0

Who wouldn’t want to command their own army in WW2?  Theatre of War presents gamers with a chance to show off their skill with holding their own in a battle.

Graphics: 7.0

The battlefields, high in detail, are realistically laid out.  The largest problem with Theatre of War lies with the horrible framerates.  At times, the game is unbearable to play.

Sound: 6.3

They tried too hard to present a game that is on the grand scale, when in reality, Theatre of War is a middle of the pack RTS with a lot of attention paid to detail.  What does this mean?  The music is flat out tacky at almost every instance.

Difficulty: Medium

The computer A.I. is done the correct way – they can cleverly defend themselves and pack a real punch with their attacks.

Concept: 8.5

Usually I harp on WW2 games but Theatre of War receives a free pass.  It felt like, at times, that I was a general in a living and breathing war.

Multiplayer: 7.0

Basic multiplayer is included.  Not much to see here with innovation and originality.

Overall:  7.7

Theatre of War will put energy back into the real-time strategy genre for hardcore gamers, but it may be too late to fully grab the casual crowd back into the genre.  Players will know whether or not if they’re ready to play another WW2 video game.


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