Steel Division 2
Eugen Systems have a knack for capturing a sense of scale that is unrivaled, at least with regards to real-time strategy games. The only other title that I would say was comparable to what they are capable of is Stardock’s Sins of a Solar Empire, an epic space RTS which sadly never saw a sequel.
Eugen’s long-running Wargame series has been capturing the attention of many an armchair general for some time now, with their last, and most impressive entry being 2014’s Wargame: Red Dragon. At the beginning of 2017, they announced that they were developing a World War 2 game based on the same engine that they’d used for the Wargame series, and I was completely ecstatic.
Steel Division: Normandy ’44 was that game, and it was an impressive title indeed. The same expanisive scale was there, only it introduced a new “battle lines” feature which largely split its player-base. Instead of the usual fog of war where you weren’t quite aware of where enemy forces were, blue and red lines indicated where probable adversaries were located. In any case, the game still garnered very positive reviews from critics.
Well, Eugen didn’t seem to want to rest on their laurels, and have been working on their new game (and sequel to SD: Normandy ’44) titled Steel Division 2. I’ve recently had the opportunity to play both of its two beta phases and here are my impressions of what is on offer so far…
First off, trying to compare the Steel Division games to franchises like Company of Heroes, Sudden Strike, or Assault Squad, is akin to comparing a fine bottle of aged Bordeaux with a brown bag of Sizurp. While the former games are designed to have an epic sense of scale where you can oversee battles from a strategic level, while also being able to zoom all the way down to see individual tank treads, the latter games are much more arcade-y and appeal to the casual set.
This time around, Eugen has packed in more of everything; it’s simply a truly massive effort. From the loading screen art and epic-sounding orchestral score, to the meticulously recreated units, everything screams high production values. You can tell that Eugen’s obsession with detail is still quite apparent as well, just by viewing the Armory. The Armory functions not only as a historical representation of actual World War 2 units, but also as an in-depth research tool.
Steel Division 2, like Eugen’s previous strategy games, begs you to do your due diligence on each unit’s properties, such as range, armor value (and thickness), penetration power, and the like. Knowing what to bring to bear in order to attack certain objectives, or what to field in order to spoil your enemy’s assaults, can prove invaluable. Simply put; this is not a game for lazy people.
The latest Steel Division 2 beta only features a handful of maps and four divisions—two Russian and two German. While this may seem limiting to outsiders, people who are used to these games already know that this equates to more than most strategy games have on offer in their totality. The betas serve to get your feet wet and practice with Steel Division 2’s multifaceted complexity and scaling.
There are three phases present in the game—the first one being a recon phase, the second a medium tier where you start to see more impressive units, and the final being where you get to see the big toys. That isn’t to say that you won’t see advanced units on the field in the early rounds.
In fact, the devs seem to be a little too generous with the flow of funds into your chosen division’s coffers. For instance, sometimes I’d start a game and a few minutes later would be just settling into a game when I’d glance up at my allotted fund pool, and see that it had filled up considerably. If there was one complaint I’d say that maybe the fast and loose approach to doling out funds should be reined in a little.
The graphic upgrades are readily apparent. You’ll see anti-air guns shoot their beautifully-rendered rounds up at aircraft which glide overhead in the skies. Tanks squeal and creak on their metal treads as they take potshots at each other, over the bucolic fields and plateaus of 1940s Eastern Europe.
Large rounds that find their mark often result in gorgeous displays of carnage as carefully-angled armor turns into twisted, smoldering wreckage in the blink of an eye. Fires erupt, belching thick black smoke into the skies, signaling that at least some digital men won’t be returning home to their loved ones. Being zoomed in close to these battles between men and machines can come to resemble any great WW2 film from the recent past.
The flow of battle is also carefully handled. Instead of certain players “teching up” faster than everyone else and wiping the floor with their enemies, Steel Division 2’s three phases hit everyone simultaneously, giving a more even rhythm to the deadly proceedings.
Ranges have also been adjusted to allow for a more realistic portrayal of armor and artillery, which can now reach out and touch each other over longer distances. This means that the positioning of your units is even more important than ever before, as one well-placed tank or machine gun unit can shred things that come into their kill zones.
Overall, Steel Division 2 looks to be a refinement and recalibrating of the first game, rather than anything revolutionary, which is fine by me. Eugen has pretty much taken what was good in their first effort and run with it, while eschewing things that didn’t quite work. I’ll be looking forward to presenting a full review once the retail build debuts.
Steel Division 2 features some pretty nice looking graphics that make its shooter World War 2 gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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