Sunday, 16 December 2012

Review: Unity of Command (PC)

World war 2 games are my favourite sub genre of gaming on PC.  I have many titles from the big developers down to the more indie titles and I enjoy them all.  My love affair starting with the Medal of Honor franchise with Allied Assault and since then I have collected many books, models and miniatures over the years.

Previously I have given a shout out to the Forgotten Hope team who make one of the best mods I have ever played on PC and I urge players of Battlefield 2 to check it out.  But more recently I found a relatively new title by the name of Unity of Command, a superb grand strategy title from Croatian developer 2x2 Games a 4 man dev team.

The campaign map has diverging paths depending on your score
Unity of Command is a grand strategy title set on the eastern front during the height of the German offensive in 1942 in the Stalingrad sector.  Players can play as either the Axis or Soviet armies as they fight for every mile of Soviet soil.  The campaign is broken down into smaller engagements which make up the whole of the campaign, so the Axis campaign for instance sees you fighting Soviet forces in Voronezh and then onto Case Blue and so forth.

Grand strategy games are played using counters to represent huge numbers of troops instead of other titles like say Company of Heroes which plays on a more platoon level basis.  Players take turns manuevering counters around a hex grid and taking actions such as reinforcing units, attacking or digging in before play swaps to the next player and so forth until a player is victorious.

Every battle has a turn limit with each representing several days worth of combat operations from both sides.  If you fail to achieve the objectives in that time you fail the mission and have to restart.  The missions are given a further challenge as prestige points are awarded for achieving objectives quickly or within the historical time frame.  These points allow you to reinforce your units or bring in reserve forces in later battles.  Prestige is essential for later missions so accumulating as much as possible early on will make things a lot easier for you.  Another layer of replayability is added with extra battles being unlocked by achieving mission goals within a certain number of turns. 

The maps cover the entirety of the Stalingrad sector
These missions can be very challenging yet immense fun as you continually tweak your battle plan to react to the AI players movements and attacks.  The most important element of Unity of Command is supply.  Without adequate supply lines your forces will wither and be unable to mount any offensive actions or even defend itself properly.  This accurately represents the German army's biggest obstacle as logistics was a nightmare on the eastern front.  In game terms this means that if a unit or group of units are proving difficult to rout or push back, it may just be easier to encircle them and let them starve instead.  When a units supply has reached 0 then even the most skilled force will be easy pickings for your rearguard forces.

Unity of Command uses a very streamlined user interface that keeps things simple without needing multiple screens or menu's to find what you are looking for.  Supply lines, terrain, weather, zones of control and objectives are quick to access from the top of the screen, while a mini map and unit card (located to right of the screen) can be toggled on and off as needed.  Every button in game has an informative tool tip for quick reference when needed and unit cards provide plenty of information regarding their current supply status, unit strength and other contributing factors based on current terrain and weather conditions.

Other modes outside of the campaign include single scenarios which can be played either alone against the fairly decent AI or another player opening up a completely new way to experience the same battles.  Also included in the most recent patch is a scenario editor which allows you to create your own battles for single or multiplayer giving even more longevity to this title.

On a personal note I have to give massive kudos to 2x2 for including the other Axis forces consisting of Romanian, Hungarian and Italian armies.  In fact this is the first game based on the eastern front that I have played that features the Italian forces in this sector.  This probably isn't the only game to feature these allied forces obviously but for me it's a big plus.

Encriclement is key to defeating stronger formations
Graphically Unity of Command is pretty good for the genre.  Counters are easy to read what unit is what and which nation they represent, so German Wehrmacht and SS units are immediately identifiable for instance and Hungarian armoured units look like Toldi light tanks compared to German Panzer IV's, while the maps are detailed and are accurate for the period.

The game features a somewhat haunting soundtrack in parts which fits the rather unpleasant nature of the war in Russia, while the unit sounds are generic but this isn't a game that demands actual recordings of vehicle engines and weapons fire.

Overall Unity of Command is a great title that really demands the attention of any world war 2 gamer or armchair general.  2x2 have supported the game post launch with regular patches and a recently released DLC campaign which focuses on the Soviet counterattacks post Stalingrad, making this an even greater package.  I hope they continue to produce more DLC and patches when needed, along with new theatres of war to play in as this is one of my favourite games of the year.

SCORE: 9.2/10

To purchase Unity of Command you can either visit the games official site

Or alternatively you can purchase through steam and other major digital stores.


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