Amidst a sea of turn-based tactics games stands Panzer Tactics HD, a revamped version of Panzer Tactics, which was originally released on the Nintendo DS. So, does this new gloss of paint justify a purchase? While it does have a surprising amount of depth regarding its battles, it’s hard for me to recommend this game over others that share the genre with this remake.
For the uninitiated, Panzer Tactics HD is a World War II-era strategy game where you are a commander in one of three factions: Axis, Soviets, or Allies. These three factions comprise the standard campaign mode of this game, while also serving as the difficulty settings with Axis being the easiest and the Allies’ campaign being the most difficult.
The Axis campaign takes place around 1939 during the early parts of the invasion, while the Soviets’ campaign is around 1941 when Russia begins fighting the Nazi forces. Finally, the Allies enter around 1943 with climactic battles like D-Day being represented. This is actually where the first of Panzer Tactics HD’s problems becomes apparent, that being the lack of a story or memorable characters. I completely understand the developers wanting to avoid the delicate subject matter that occurred during WWII (especially concerning the Axis Powers), but there’s no reason to omit a decent narrative completely. All you get while playing the game is a wall of text and a friendly commander barking orders at you in-between missions. In essence, each mission just boils down to you defeating the enemy force with your commander congratulating you, as well as an update on what is occurring in the war, with little variation. With no compelling characters or story to speak of, if the gameplay itself doesn’t hold your interest, there’s nothing here for you.
The lackluster story wouldn’t be so bad if Panzer Tactics HD’s other modes had staying power or packed more of a punch, but that certainly isn’t the case. In fact, it’s hardly fair to say the game actually has any other modes besides the campaign. There is a tutorial mode you can access at the title screen, but there’s really no need to since it’s accessible to you as soon as you begin the campaign. Scenario mode is available as well, but it too is just reused missions from the various campaigns.
Despite shortcomings in the campaign and lack of other modes, Panzer Tactics HD shines when it comes to combat and strategy. One of its best features is the plethora of different units you can have under your command, and believe me, there are plenty to choose from. In fact, there are over 150 separate units. With a horde of infantrymen, tanks, planes, and boats to select, you’re given a staggering degree of freedom when contemplating which units will make up your squad.
Before each mission, you will be given a number of units to use, but as you capture cities and complete campaign scenarios, you will earn Fame, which you can spend to obtain your own personal units. By engaging in battles (and not dying in the process), your units will be promoted, which can net you some powerful benefits, especially when units become officers. Officers can offer incredible bonuses to the units in your army, such as being able to attack twice per turn, or even expanding the attack radius of nearby units. With such a boon available to you, great care must be taken to ensure your officers aren’t assassinated by enemy forces.
In addition, the maps in Panzer Tactics HD are remarkably large and diverse. One could easily claim that these are actually the best feature in the game. Not only is each map sizable, but there are many different types of terrain available, which all provide distinct bonuses or negative effects to certain units. For example, forests may provide cover and are easily traversed by infantrymen, but they stifle the movement of larger vehicles like tanks. This not only helps keep encounters fresh, but helps to ensure that commanders are wary of where they position their troops and this dynamic adds another layer of depth to the strategy of the game. Admittedly, some maps do feel like they have been recycled, but these mainly apply to the grasslands-areas you’ll be fighting on and I can’t really hold that against the game since there’s only so much you can do with plains and farmland.
The sheer size and scope of Panzer Tactics HD truly is what keeps the game afloat. With so many factors to consider when moving or obtaining units, commanders must be meticulous to avoid unnecessary losses or traps. Outmaneuvering the AI or successfully pulling off an ambush is a satisfying affair, especially on the harder difficulties when battles feel like they’re stacked against you. My only real complaint on the subject of combat in this game is the lack of battle animations. When units engage one another, audible sounds of gunfire or bombs dropping is basically all you get. While battle animations certainly aren’t a deal-breaker, some diversity would have been appreciated.
While Panzer Tactics HD is certainly a capable contender in its genre, it just doesn’t do anything to make itself stand out from its peers. It boasts an impressive array of varying units and large, unique maps, but it is ultimately held back by its mediocrity in all other areas. With nothing to call its own, other turn-based strategy games have a distinct edge over Panzer Tactics HD. Make no mistake, the game is by no means bad, but there are plenty of other more memorable entries in the genre to keep you busy.