Eugen Systems' real-time strategy (RTS) game Steel Division: Normandy 44 is a great experience that introduces new ideas to the genre, while simultaneously giving the player a sense of the true scale of a World War II battlefield. Mechanically, it plays excellent, but the gameplay is marred by the fact that some things happen faster then you can keep up with.
Gameplay: Show the Nazis who's boss
Most World War II games are shooters that give you a view of the war from the perspective of a soldier. Steel Division shows you humanity's bloodiest conflict through a rarer perspective: the eyes of a battlefield commanding officer. Infantry, tanks, fighters, and more are at your disposal; your forces are as varied as they are plentiful. However, they're only as effective as you command them, which you do by telling them where to go, who to shoot, when to fall back, etc.
Unlike most other real-time strategy titles, building and maintaining an economy isn't in Steel Division. Instead, your resources are replenished over time at intervals, and you have to use what you're given to create a fighting force over the course of three phases. In phase A you can only spawn minimal forces, such as light tanks, rifleman squads, or recon spies. However, it's imperative that you use these to their full potential, as the ground they take becomes vital later.
After 10 minutes, phases advance. Phase B sees the arrival of more powerful units, and by the time phase C rolls around, the battlefield is engulfed in large-scale war. After phase C ends, the player (or team in team modes) that controls more of the map wins. I love this system, but the gameplay feels way too fast, even for a fairly experienced RTS player like myself. Units are demanding my attention before I can even finish getting new ones, and that's when I'm winning. It's even worse when you're losing.
In the end, though, it's a blast to try out the variety of ways you can manipulate your army to get an edge over the other side. Machine gun squads become devastatingly effective when placed in defensive positions, for example. Another good strategy is to destroy supply trucks as this can cause enemy infantry to run out of bullets, making them easy targets. Of course, these are only the beginning of the possibilities, and it's ten times better when you do these things cooperatively with a friend in multiplayer.
The DLC for the game is solid as well, bringing over 50 new units, seven singleplayer missions, and more extra content to the game. The missions are challenging and fun, and the units are cool too.
Presentation: Surprisingly impressive
RTS games often look rather average due to the amount of things being rendered on the screen at once, but Steel Battalion is unexpectedly excellent looking for an RTS. The texture work and detail for every soldier, vehicle, and airplane looks like something from a so-so first person view game on PC. By real-time strategy standards, though, that's an achievement.
Sound design is great too, and between artillery shells, automatic rifles, and shouts of men to one another, the sounds of thick warfare are convincing, heavy, and intense. Unfortunately, the music is rather bland and repetitive, but thankfully you can shut it off.
Steel Division: Normandy 44 for PC conclusion
While the gameplay can feel rushed sometimes, Steel Division nevertheless is a great game that authentically recreates the World War II conflict and brings some new ideas to the RTS genre.
- Well crafted gameplay.
- Deep mechanics.
- Surprisingly good graphics.
- Pacing was often too fast.
- Sub-par music.
Steel Division is available now for $39.99 on Steam.
This review was conducted on a PC, using a copy provided by the publisher.