Real Time Nazi Killing Strategies
Partisans 1941 takes a view on World War II that has not been used in many games – the Russian side. We have had the odd level or campaign and maybe one or two games where you play through the Russian side of the war, but the sheer number of games focusing on the American and English sides dwarfs those. Thankfully Partisan 1941 gives us a view of history that we seldom get and does one heckuva job at it too.
Soviet Resistance and Intrigue
The game focuses on a small band of resistance fighters, civilians mainly forced into a brutal war of survival against the Nazi war machine now occupying their homes. You lead a band of brave men and women on a guerrilla warfare campaign to disrupt the enemies supply lines and plans to help your fellow oppressed citizens and the larger state organs in their brutal war of attrition.
Story wise the game is small; you are a small resistance group doing what you can. There are no big moments or recreations like a stage set during the Battle of Stalingrad, the game relies on smaller more personal moments to get you to care for these characters. It’s an effective storytelling technique as it gives you a taste of the war in this part of the world and how the ordinary folk dealt with the war and the dangers associated with it.
The story is mainly told via conversations between your characters at your base of operations as they rest up for the next mission. In the very first interaction a fourteen-year-old boy that helped you during your escape from the Nazis in the first mission begs you to make him a member of your squad. This is more than a child wanting to go on a boy’s own adventure, this is someone who wants to fight against the invaders of his homeland for the good of his people. The fully voice acted game really brings the story and characters home and the developers have done an excellent job of making the player care about his squad.
A Larger Game that Desperados
Comparisons to the recent, amazing Mimimi Desperados 3 is inevitable as on the surface this is a real time tactics game and you control a squad of characters as they sneak around and quietly and efferently kill enemies as you try and make your way across a map towards your objective. Older gamers out there may even say that this is inspired by the Commandos games (of which a remake or sequel is soon to be released). And yes, it is that in some ways, however that would do a disservice to this game.
In the main mission maps you control your squad and have a chance to either move them as a unit or as singular characters so that you can approach each area you uncover and set up your ambushes and traps however you want. Just like other games in the genre it pays for you to be patient and study guard patrol patterns as that will give you the best chance of success. One false move and you could easily alert hidden or undiscovered enemies ending your campaign prematurely. Each squad member has different abilities so up to this point you may think that this is just a skin of the genre giants.
However, that is not completely accurate. The squad members are not as distinct, colourful or larger than life as Doc or Isabelle or Hector. Other than certain abilities or weapon specialities they tend to be similar. That makes the missions a little less interesting as it is fun hearing the various conversations and interactions between these characters during a long mission go a bit quicker. Differentiating the game further is the inventory system.
As you move through the game you will loot various chests, caches and even bodies for ammo and more importantly health packs. These are important as when you ambush a group of enemies, you are generally outnumbered and the first shot may take out one bad guy, but the rest almost defaults to an XCom like hit and miss battle that depending on your positioning can go sideways fast.
To aid you in these battles is a time dilation mechanic, hitting the spacebar will slow time to a near standstill allowing you to plan your moves and co-ordinate the opening salvo. It isn’t as powerful as Desperados pause and command stack mechanic, but it works almost the same and makes the things much more manageable when the proverbial hits the fan.
Where the game really starts to differentiate itself is in two areas. When you have time in the mission or at camp you can upgrade the squad members along a simple four tier skill tree. This allows you to create a unique squad that adds tanks or sharpshooters or any number of other skills to your squad. This is an interesting and enjoyable part of the game as while the characters are all named and have personalities the ability to make them in your own image adds just an extra level to your investment in them, the way XCom does, that Desperados doesn’t.
The second point of differentiation is the base building and larger game world that you manage from this base. The base building is not as complex as XCom’s thank goodness but is deep enough to keep you interested. Building a medical tent or a mess hall gives you a real feel for what trying to manage a resistance movement may be like and is a nice break from the action. In addition to the base building, you can assign idle squad members to various tasks from the vital yet mundane task of foraging for food and fishing to the important task of disseminating propaganda to increase support for the resistance. I did not notice if this worked, but the effect of propaganda could be to repair your reputation with the local populace as you can steal what little supplies, they have during missions. It would also increase the amount of supplies locals may send to your base. You have to be careful of who you assign to these missions as some may not come back as they are caught by the enemy.
Unreal Engine Has Not Been Banned on PC
Sorry I had no idea what to label this section of the review. The game was built in Unreal Engine and there is a reason it is popular. It is adaptable and powerful and runs on pretty much anything. Running on the following specs the game had zero issues. No graphical hitches, frame rate drops or crashes.
In terms of art design, the game is not what you would call a striking example of stylised art, but it is a well-designed game that evokes a real sense of place and time. The characters and maps are detailed and interesting always evoking a sense of exploration to see what is around the corner. A minor area where I can criticise is that the similar designs and clothes that the characters wear make it difficult sometimes to identify which of your does what, the advantage of Doc is that he looks nothing like Hector making mistaken selection rare and down to carelessness.
A Resistance Movement Urging You to Join
Partisans 1941 is an excellent addition to the growing Real Time Tactics Genre. It takes us to a part of the war and the participants therein who are seldom seen in media and gives us a window into a war that has shaped our world ever since.
Written by Lynley James
The game is available on PC through Steam and can be purchased here for £25.99.
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A new approach to the stealth tactics genre: Partisans 1941 combines stealth, action, resource management and base-building elements.
Price Currency: GBP
Operating System: PC
Application Category: Game