Men of War: Assault Squad 2 Review
Parachuting into Men of War: Assault Squad 2, I admit I was unprepared. I started playing during the game’s tutorial-free Early Access, so was forced to dive straight in, before finding out that this was akin to diving head first into a pool drained of water. Not that this is a bad game, but it’s rare to find one that feels so unyielding to new players.
Men of War: Assault Squad 2, or MoWAS2, is a real time strategy game set during World War II. The game has a focus on realism, rewarding tactical thinking and quick reactions to unexpected attacks. To some this game is going to sound about as dry as a cracker in a desert, but there are moments of fun in there. Sort of.
Trimming away base building and resource mining, MoWAS2 boils them both down to command posts. These command posts are often what the game objectives are centered around, with objectives usually tasking you to take them or defend them. Completing these objectives rewards you with resources (just the one type) to purchase units with. Multiplayer involves more of a king of the hill scenario, where two teams fight over an uneven number of command posts, racking up points if they control the majority. They’re often the aim of the game, but command posts aren’t what the game is about.
MoWAS2 is all about unit management. Aside from artillery bombardments, they’re the only thing to spend resources on, so it’s a good thing there’s plenty to choose from. There’s an assortment of tanks, conscripts, assault squads, anti-tank teams, snipers, mine sweepers, medics, and that’s just a broad overview. In a particular squad, say an assault team, you may have a squad leader, an assault SMG unit, an assault rifle unit, medics, maybe more. Sounds overwhelming, right? That’s because it is. I could cope with managing squads, but when every person in that squad breaks down to an individual unit, things become tricky. You can direct those units individually, so you can have the machine gunner lay down suppressive as your other units flank, but now your squad is broken up, making them a pain to direct around, but also leading to scenarios where you have soldiers orphaned from their squad all over the place.
Maybe I’m nitpicking, but when there’s so many nits to pick I get irritated. Call me terrible at the game, but here’s a hilarious run-down of things I had to endure; squads breaking themselves up with no input from me, so when I click the icon for that team only one unit of ten moves; soldiers running all the way round a waist-high garden fence because I didn’t specifically tell them to climb it; tanks running over sandbags being used as cover by my troops; soldiers stopping on the way to cover because they spotted an enemy, so they stand in the open as they fire. It seems so inconsistent. If MoWAS2 is going for realism, could it be extended to the point that a soldier is a human being, and can deduce that hopping a fence is faster than the scenic route?
Getting past the niggles, the game does have points in its favor. For starters, the sheer amount of content. MoWAS2 is packed with 40 single player missions, spread across five campaigns; the British Commonwealth, the Soviet Union, the USA, Germany and Japan. There’s variety too, with some missions tasking you to push the enemy pack as you take command posts, defending against an invasion of around 50 tanks, and even a rare example of RTS stealth. In fact, stealth is not only a novelty, but a very viable tactic, especially against enemy armor. Often in RTSs you can just build your best units and steam-roll the enemy, but in MoWAS2 a single soldier with an anti-tank grenade can level the playing field, creating awesome David and Goliath moments.
There’s a good game in MoWAS2, but you absolutely have to work for it. I mentioned earlier that the Early Access was tutorial free. I’ve played the tutorial now, and it doesn’t cover enough of the basics in terms of control or tactical tips, and it really needs to. I found out how to fix tanks from a loading screen, and that was many hours in. The missions themselves have you controlling too many units at once, and having them all look near identical but doing vastly different jobs is awkward. Worst of all, I had the feeling that I was playing the game wrong despite my best efforts, which is an odd feeling to leave the player with. I want to like this game, but I’m not sure if it wants me to.