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So Eugen's games have always really been hit or miss to me. I really loved RUSE back in the day but the Wargame series really fell flat with me. Overly fixated on multiplayer gaming which im not really interested in anymore. On top of that the Wargame was desperately in need of a majorly redesigned user-interface so it wasn't so overwhelming and saturing the player with enormous numbers of units basically not-at-all different from one another in the context of the game. 

Steel Division 1 was also very uninteresting to me since it was obviously still designed entirely around multiplayer. Steel Division 2 was released last year and I only grabbed the game back in fall in time for the Vistula DLC and it's honestly the first game from Eugen in over a decade that I could recommend to anyone....with some notes and commentary on its overall design.

The new Army General mode is the thing Eugen's games have desperately needed for years. Wargame's really basic campaign generators weren't bad, but were crippled by cheating tactical AI and its bad user interface. Steel Division 2 has finally incorporated large numbers of semi-automated command mechanics that allow the player to delegate basic attacks and holding actions to AI commanders now. These mechanics have proven utterly crucial for me in finally being able to actually recommend Steel Division 2 for those interested in the game. It's still overwhelming at times....but crucially the player can now fine-tune the overall workload. You can do things like set aside artillery for counter-battery fire or planned missions that they will engage in without the need for tight micromanagement. 

It still takes quite a bit of practice, learning, and frustration to grasp the overall game but it's really rewarding once you do. At least now the scale able automation allows players to "bite off" and learn acceptable chunks of game at a time. Once I learned the game I really felt Army General and its depicted battles (now including a Red Army campaign against Finland in 1944!) were both exciting and accurate recreations of the battles they depict that avoided the overly-scripted pitfall of many strategy games while also creating entirely organic situations that could both reward you or punish you for sticking with...or (crucially) disregarding doctrine. 

As always Eugen's Iris-Engine technology is really impressive stuff, allowing the player to look down on the world as if a God and then zoom right down into the action to see nearly-shooter level graphics is really stunning stuff and Eugen can be proud of their achievement as far visual technology goes. Overall, if you catch the game on sale? I suggest you grab it, but I can sympathize with anyone who has too many bad memories of previous Eugen games. It's still very much a "Wargame" sort of game but Eugen is definitely refining its games into something more accessible to a wider audience than just the hardcore multiplayers. 

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Its most impressive aspect is its scale. It occupies that same sort of dual-space that Graviteam's games do depicting action at the Regimental, Operation level and is fairly granular down to the Platoon level. Below that it'd be the wrong kind of game for interested parties. A word to the wise in the Army General Mode, watch the manpower counts of comparable units before you send them to battle against one another, then compare available support in the form of things like attached armor, artillery, engineers etc. Also don't be perturbed by losing individual battles in Army General mode...you're being scored overall and "losing" a first battle isn't a major setback if you managed to inflict lots of casualties or seize ground. On a bunch of occasions I've "engaged" enemy units in feint actions that were meant to tie the AI down fighting me a on flank I had no intention of pushing seriously. This sort of organic strategizing is what makes the game good. 

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What I hope your review is saying is that SD2 is better than Griviteam's previous releases.  Am not a fan of RT games generally.  But, I loved the old Panzer Elite SE FP tank game from the late 90's - however, that was horribly buggy.

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Mind you, it's from Eugen, not Graviteam, and I suggest grabbing it off Steam especially if a sale for it is in town. If you want it right away $40 isn't bad but crucially two of its biggest Campaigns are now $15 DLCs or you could grab the history pass nonsense. This paywall stuff is really ridiculous so that's why I suggest waiting for a sale than just buying it at full price. 

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15 hours ago, SimpleSimon said:

it's from Eugen, not Graviteam

Ah ok...   I checked out a utube video, and it's not what I thought.   I thought it was an improved version of the Graviteam games where one can crew tanks etc.  Am not a fan of the high angle looking down on map games from a great height.  That's why I like CM so much.  

Edited by Erwin
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The game's ability to construct completely natural battles that affect each other over the broad term is really commendable. Ive been playing the Berezina stroke of Barbarossa as the Germans and it opens with a thin German line being held by a mixture of French SS, Security (Sicher) Battalions, and the odd mixed Kampgrupper-Osttruppen. The French SS are very motivated and professional...but not well armed. Only the HQ section has any Panzerfausts. Many of the Security Battalions don't even have MG34s, but the MG08 Spandau's of the Kaiser! The Osttruppen are good for holding rear areas and have no motor transport...in a fight you can only count on them to stand if the local SS Gendarmes are around to keep them from running away and they have absolutely zero anti-tank weapons of any kind. The one benefit of the KG they're in are the 5 or so ready Tiger Tanks....but they won't be able to stop the Russian Tank Corp charging up the road.

Rather than try to compose a continuous frontline I decided that, dug-in or not, holding the map and stopping the Russians cold was impossible. So I set up the French SS and Tiger Tanks into defensive "boxes" that would allow the Tigers to snipe any tanks from  a distance while shielding them from attempts by infantry to push them out of my strongpoints. The Russians generally opened their attacks with the Motorcycle or Recon Brigades of the Tank Corp behind them and if it wasn't for the Tigers the 10 or Valentine Tanks and mixed armored cars they had might well run the French SS off the map...who have nothing to stop them with. This would be devastating since somewhere along the road to the Berezina I needed to make a stand to await 5th Panzer Division's arrival. 

The forests along the northern stretch of the Berezina are held mostly by Sicher Battalions who can count on Flak battalions. In a really crazy tribute the ToE mania of Eugen's games, most of those guys are armed with Czech light machine guns and even a few Polish 7TP tanks. The ominous red outline of the front is approaching the initial positions and im weighing retreating or standing. This is all great stuff. 

I'll start taking screen caps of these battles in the future for better narrative takes. Should be easy since the game records all games for later visual replay. You can really study what was going on.

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This is a game I've been on the fence with. I hear things like omniscient enemy artillery and that sort of thing and it makes me think I'd see the good in the game, and the frustration over what could have been, in equal measure.

Your last post Simon did more to make me want to buy it than all of the videos I've watched and reviews I've read. More of this please.

In wargames, I really enjoy disparate or or assymetrical scenarios with a wide variety of possible compositions and courses of action, like what you describe here. And to have it all mean something in the larger, maybe operational sense is even better. Like delaying with ad-hoc forces while awaiting the arrival of 5th Panzer. Gives the game a more organic feel and replayability too.  I'm one of those who feel balance is a consideration for multiplayer, but has no place really in single-player wargaming. It's really only possible to make this compelling gameplay if each tactical problem is part of larger operational one. 

Just the fact that it seems you have so much leeway to approach the problems you're being given, and again in the operational sense, seems very appealing. I hope you post more about this.

What would you say are the most frustrating aspects of the game?

Edited by landser
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, landser said:

This is a game I've been on the fence with. I hear things like omniscient enemy artillery and that sort of thing and it makes me think I'd see the good in the game, and the frustration over what could have been, in equal measure.

As far as I can tell, it's not omniscient, it's just challenging as it should be. Tubes are the biggest threat to your men on the field and you'll see real massacres happen if the enemy happens to bring an Artillery Brigade. If they did than I hope you brought lots of airplanes and tanks or both. It's all about match ups you know? Yeah, I could agree that the artillery seems a bit quick on the draw for the AI, (the main issues seems to have been that counter-battery fire was super reliable) but it's not distinctly clear to me, after several months of playing mind you, that it's cheating. If it is, it's cloaked well enough to not be a major bother to me. Like I said, if the Russians show up with 12+ 122mm guns and all you've got are some mortars you had better expect a massacre. 

Quote

Your last post Simon did more to make me want to buy it than all of the videos I've watched and reviews I've read. More of this please.

https://ibb.co/KhPsd2C

From a battle in the North sector of the Berezina... The men on the right are an entire Battalion of Osttruppen who ran into Guards advancing toward the farmstead in middle. The T-34s are mine (German) lifted off the Russians at one point or another during previous fighting. I only had 4 of them and I had been positioning them for an advance elsewhere (just behind them was a road I planned on fast moving them up the left section of the map to reinforce a weakening section of frontline. Instead they majorly assisted the Osttruppen advance the forest in the foreground and I redeployed them later on. Had they not been there the Osttruppen might well have lost (the heart icon means that they are brittle and the stars are their Officers). 

https://ibb.co/gTBFBSq

A photo I just like of an 88mm gun from the same battle. The men along the Berezina have the advantage of occupying a sector that happened to be well covered in anti-aircraft weaponry. Given the scale of the Russian attack I naturally ended up pressing these guns into the battle where I was surprised to see them engage and shoot down attacking IL-2s! This was most fortunate, I might well have lost the battle without them and ended up suffering quite a few casualties to roving IL-2s even with them. 

https://ibb.co/JHPgpJ8

The same gun's field of view. 

https://ibb.co/X7bvXKy

The strategic situation just before the battle. The Russians attacked me with the two Motorized Rifle Battalions and an IL-2 Wing that showed up from outside the picture, the *Disorganized* label was placed over the Russian units after those units botched a previous attack and they could not participate. The flag is an objective for both sides and yes that is a Swastika, not a mod. Eugen has decided to fully depict Axis insignia in the game. 

The boxed RONA is the deploy area for a group of units, and in that spot the Osttruppen RONA detachment can deploy. 

https://ibb.co/YtpT155

The situation in the south near Borissof and Studienka. On the left on top of 5th Panzer Division's deployment area is the Festung Borissof, two Battalions of the 13th. Panzergrenadier Regiment, and it's Regimental HQ.  In the middle of the road are the nearly depleted French SS and the KG Altmark who I was able to send into reserve. On the right facing the Russian advance is my principle line...which I plan on folding up before the Russians attack. On the right is one Panzergrenadier Battalion, a pair of mixed Security Battalions, another Kampgrupper, the 505th Heavy Panzer Brigade, and an Artillery Brigade. Most of the units at the very front are dug-in...which means if the Russians attack the defending units get free access to an assortment of anti-tank gun bunkers, machine gun bunkers, trenches, barbed wire obstacles, and pits for artillery. Seems secure right? Wrong. The Russians facing them have over 260 tanks ready to absolutely smash that part of the line, but since I was playing against the Easy AI the AI decided to go on a silly flanking maneuver to the south which I was able to check with a spare KG and Security Battalion. 

Before the Russians attack I will fold up this line and retreat to just outside of Borissof. Sadly, the game has no city maps and fighting in a considered "urban" environment will be auto-resolved. What a shame. 

 

Quote

In wargames, I really enjoy disparate or or assymetrical scenarios with a wide variety of possible compositions and courses of action, like what you describe here. And to have it all mean something in the larger, maybe operational sense is even better. Like delaying with ad-hoc forces while awaiting the arrival of 5th Panzer. Gives the game a more organic feel and replayability too.  I'm one of those who feel balance is a consideration for multiplayer, but has no place really in single-player wargaming. It's really only possible to make this compelling gameplay if each tactical problem is part of larger operational one. 

You'll see tons of that in Steel Division 2. Note, that the game isn't going to do all that much to help you learn how to play, and for some time you may be needing to save-reload scenarios quite a bit before you figure out what you're doing wrong. On easy it's still very challenging, and the workload can be enormous. 

Quote

Just the fact that it seems you have so much leeway to approach the problems you're being given, and again in the operational sense, seems very appealing. I hope you post more about this.

What would you say are the most frustrating aspects of the game?

I'm not too crazy about the tactical battles effectively just being the multiplayer skirmishes but against an AI. In the tactical mode the game just uses multiplayer maps and unfortunately this leads to many battles fought in the same exact map. The enormous ToE depth and strategy mode mitigate this a lot though, as no two battles ever play alike on the same map. I also think the user interface gets saturated fast and when battles heat up it starts getting rough to keep track of all the units. I found attacking extremely difficult until I started using the smart-commands and more carefully evaluating the maps. I also didn't realize that the game was factoring in casualties on both sides into the score, so I thought that it was one of those (bad) games that was going to punish me for failing to capture every single flag. It doesn't, but that kind of nuance isn't communicated very well to the player. 

Also I still can't tell what the game's rules are for recovery of men and assets. It seems after battles both sides get a certain amount of men and equipment back based on how well they did but I have found zero reference material to indicate how this is determined. 

 

Edited by SimpleSimon
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What occurred to me is that the operational/strategic aspect is what many have been dreaming about to set up CM2 tactical battles.  

3 hours ago, SimpleSimon said:

the user interface gets saturated fast and when battles heat up it starts getting rough to keep track of all the units.

This is what I dislike about RT play.  It may work on an operational/strategic level, but tactically, it's impossible to play intelligently with much more than a reinforced company.

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PS the game has entrenchments and engineers too. The AI is a bit strange about how it uses them (it seems to favor tiny outposts excessively that are easily overrun) but it's great that that this is the sort of game that gives Engineers context for use. 

Regular infantry can defeat bunkers but they'll use up nearly their entire grenade supply to do it, and it takes more time. Rushing an engineer unit up to bunker gets them within range to instagib it with a charge. They can also cut barbed-wire entrenchments and of course they're extremely handy for fighting in towns and villages if you run into built up structures and defenses. They can and will lob their big TNT charges into the enemy and take a full-health squad of Panzergrenadiers right to a SURRENDERED state. For many Russian units, they may well be the only source of point anti-tank you have other than your usually generous allotment of anti-tank rifles. That pair of 45mm guns is only for killing motorcycles really, not stopping a Panzer Division. 

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Posted (edited)

When you play as the Germans, it really benefits you to use a node/outpost style defense rather than construct a continuous frontline. Unless you happen to have parity or superiority in manpower (you almost never will) you're really better off just ensuring the survival of your own units rather than trying to hold the map. This really means concentrating your men into defensible ground and protecting your sources of firepower. 

This means doing things like setting up Pak40s into keyhole shots or using a pair of MG42s to just shut down the slit of open ground between a forest and town. Force needs to be economized as much as possible. If you have artillery or fire support assets its crucial that they're kept protected inside the "box" of your defense so they can, without interruption, disrupt the enemy's attempts to kill your men with his artillery. This eventually leads the Russians into situations where they must call upon their infantry to dismount, close with your defense and break your perimeter by infiltration. Hopefully you have another outpost somewhere to prevent that but plenty of the maps have lots of cluttered ground or avenues of maneuver masked by terrain and in these situations you will have to construct a line or lose outright.

With the Germans what you're hoping for a "Minor Defeat"...which only forces you make a minor terrain concession and give up your (free) fortifications. Ideally this forces all of the available Russian units to commit their full supply of action points leaving them unable to turn your retreat into a rout. This is less likely to be the case if you suffer a Major Defeat (which forces a disrupted state on the loser) and in a Total Defeat I think your entire force makes a dice roll for outright destruction. Obviously not good for the already manpower-tight Axis... 

Edited by SimpleSimon
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