PC Game Review: Battlefield Academy - Blitzkrieg France
Scott Parrino assumes control of the German Army as it invades France in this latest add-on for Battlefield Academy. Does it blitz ahead or stall on the frontlines?
France is the battlefield.
Battlefield Academy is a turn-based strategy game set in World War 2 that pits players against the AI (or other players) in war-torn Europe. Whether it’s tearing out from the Normandy landings or engaging the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge, players can expect a tough experience.
Recently released by Slitherine Strategies is the expansion Blitzkrieg France. This new expansion gives players the chance to play as the Germans as they invade France in 1940, complete with authentic units and new features not seen previously in Battlefield Academy. Is the additional campaign, units and features worth it? Let’s proceed.
Blitzkrieg France brings with it nine single player missions, four multiplayer missions, 25 new units with authentic and period camouflage and paintjobs, and new bonuses such as rally and resupply. A majority of these new units are French and early-war German units such as Somua 35 Heavy Tank and the Panzerjager I. These new units are a delight to use in battle as they were designed, since historically German tanks were generally under-gunned but could use their superior maneuverability to penetrate defenses and attack weak points. This strategy is important to a majority of the missions that you battle in, since you cannot go head to head with some of the heavy tanks.
Blitzkrieg France looks incredibly deceiving at first glance. Those that are unfamiliar with the Battlefield Academy series may give it a quick look and notice its simple interface and somewhat deformed units. Hiding under all this is a game that will give a lot of players a rather surprising challenge. You cannot just stroll up to other units thinking that because you are a big tank that you’ll survive a slugging match against other units. You’ll have to be wary of your units morale dipping as it is hammered by enemy fire, which can cause it to retreat, rout or even surrender outright.
Playing Blitzkrieg France is no big issue for experienced wargamers. Your units move in a grid format, with each tile having cover or movement bonuses depending on the unit itself. Roads are faster than fields, with a chance of a vehicle being bogged down if it’s driving about in the field. Attacking, when in range, displays chance of penetration, damage, and so forth. This can all be easily done with the mouse. In fact you can play the game entirely without ever touching the keyboard. It is this ease of control that lets players focus on small unit tactics and combined arms. With Blitzkrieg France, you’re going to need it.
Each mission has its own set of objectives that must be met within a certain turn limit. Before your mission starts you are given a set amount of points and a small force pool to select from. This gives players the chance to form their force around their own strategy. There is no rhyme or reason for the amount of points you get before each mission, but it is enough to create either a balanced force or an infantry or armored-centric type. Sometimes you will receive reinforcements on the field to help, but a strong core group of starting units is important.
The nine campaign missions that come with Blitzkrieg France are challenging through and through. Players will be happy to know that you can select any of the nine missions in any order. This can be a positive as you won’t have to worry about being held back by that one mission in order to advance a campaign. However, the downside is that there doesn’t feel like there is any continuation between missions, since you have no units that carry over. This can be seen as a non-issue for some because the missions themselves are loaded with objectives and achievements to complete. Before each mission, a small comic plays out and then you are given a colorful and clear briefing. Not much in terms of intricate detail but is not missed.
As mentioned before there are new abilities and bonuses that come with Blitzkrieg France. These work as easily as selecting them when they’re available and selecting them for the appropriate action, such as a bombing run or resupply. The new bonuses, resupply and rally, are a welcome addition that are incredibly helpful in desperate moments. Rally is important to bringing retreating units under control and getting them back into the fight, where as resupply is necessary for your engineers to get more satchel charges for their assaults. These bonuses are not an “easy mode” as you still have to maintain a sound strategy to utilize the units, so they can be viewed as “assists”. They also have a recharge of a few turns, so the challenge is to either wait for the right moment or when desperately needed. The new abilities are new aircraft for strikes, such as the Heinkel 111 and the Breugot 693.
As mentioned before, don’t let the ease of controls lure you into a false sense of superiority. Real tactics and strategies such as attacking armor from the rear or using suppression fire works in Blitzkrieg France. And not only will you be using it, the AI will as well. This in itself makes the gameplay very rewarding for suppressing an AT gun to have your infantry sneak up on its flank and assault the sandbag fortification it is in. It can be frustrating to be on the other end of these tactics, but any other way would detract from the experience. If things start to get tough, you can always select "Easy Mode", great for new players.
For those that want to increase their replay value, Blitzkrieg Academy does come with a game editor to allow you to create your own maps and scenarios.
The look of war.
Any World War Two strategy game would not be complete without authentic graphics. While the units are somewhat in deformed style, they are fairly accurate with their representation in full 3D fashion. Turrets will swivel and tanks will recoil as they fire, as well as units animating grenade attacks and being suppressed. Everything is smoothly and nicely animated in that it is not a bore to look at. The wonderful experience here is that when tanks are blown up, they leave charred hunks of metal that block movement. The wrecks can be cleared but the fact that they leave remains that can affect movement is a nice touch.
The graphical requirements are not that steep. As long as you have half a gigabyte of RAM and a 128 MB graphics card, you should be all set. With such low requirements Blitzkrieg France is a perfect title for your laptop for when you’re mobile or if your current PC isn’t very current. This of course means the graphics aren’t incredibly flashy or “next-gen” as some current titles are, but it is not needed for Blitzkrieg France. The style is original and functional while still retaining character and detail that some grognards will appreciate. The comic book style of presenting the mission set ups is informative enough to convey what the mission is about, be it defending a position against a combined British and French assault or ambushing a French convoy. Aside from these comics, there are no videos or voice-overs, but it doesn’t seem necessary.
Since Blitzkrieg France dukes it out at a small unit level, the action is going to be close and players are going to want a good amount of sound. Luckily players will not be disappointed and fans of the Close Combat series will even notice some familiar gunfire and radio chatter. The sound is decent enough that you’ll feel like your weapons have weight and damage to them. Each weapon sound is unique, even in the tanks category. The music is of standard orchestral affair with not much variation, but it is not grating on the ears and is quite pleasant.
Blitzkrieg France, as an expansion to Battlefield Academy, is worth it for the additional campaign and multiplayer missions, new units, new bonuses and abilities. Combined with the editor you have a decent amount of replay with early war units. If you are a fan of Battlefield Academy then by all means pick it up. If it was something that just wasn’t your cup of tea (or coffee), then it might be best to pass as the core game still remains.
- New units, abilities, bonuses.
- Challenging gameplay.
- Easy to get into.
- No unit carryover between missions.
Review written by: Scott Parrino, Editor in Chief