WWII enthusiasts certainly have a lot of options when it comes to gaming, and the list keeps growing. Because of this ever-increasing glut of titles, it’s becoming more and more difficult for gamers to pick the standout WWII games from the rest of the crowd. To make matters worse, RTS games have also reached a saturation point, making it difficult to work up much enthusiasm for anything less than the biggest-name franchises. So when developers decide to field a new WWII RTS, they had better make one that stands out if they hope to make gamers notice. Codename: Panzers Phase 2 does a good job of placing itself at the top of the RTS heap, but it falls just a little short of truly shining. Still, Phase 2 is a solid game and a good bet for the RTS crowd in need of another WWII fix.
Phase 2’s main campaigns focus on the North African and Italian theaters. There’s a bit more plot tying together the various missions than is found in most WWII RTS games. The opening campaign, following a young Italian officer, walks through the Axis portion of the game. With Italy’s less-powerful tanks, the Axis campaign forces players to carefully pick and choose the fields of battle, rather than diving headfirst into the fray. While the Germans never take the forefront in the campaign, their powerhouse Panzers are filtered in over the course of the campaign as they fight to hold North Africa. Following the Axis campaign, Phase 2 focuses on the British and American Allied forces as they take the battle to Italy itself. While they have more powerful tanks than the Italians, going toe-to-toe with German forces makes for some interesting play. Following the Axis and Allied campaigns, a third campaign opens up, following Partisan forces. As expected, the Partisan campaign is much more infantry-based than its predecessors, often requiring players to capture enemy tanks and vehicles before beginning a true offensive.
Each mission begins with a briefing, at which time the primary and secondary objectives are handed down. These objectives are important not only for completing the mission, but also for gaining prestige. Prestige is the currency used between battles to purchase new and impressive units. As there is no building or infrastructure component to Phase 2, spending prestige is the only way to increase forces above the number assigned at the beginning of a particular mission. With the limited number of units available, each tank and infantry squad is precious. Losing a single tank, repair vehicle, or sniper unit can be crippling. In addition, each unit gains experience from battle, leveling up in an RPG-lite manner. As they gain levels, units become more durable and better able to dish out additional damage, making it all that much more important to keep the veterans alive.
As one might expect from the name, Codename: Panzers Phase 2 focuses mainly on the armor and tank elements of the battlefield. While I tried to find a way to utilize infantry in a meaningful fashion, I soon found that I could complete almost every objective more effectively with tanks and artillery. Infantry are just too fragile and they don’t deal enough damage to make them a force to be reckoned with. While there are some interesting conventions in place, such as the ability of flamethrower infantry to heat enemy tanks to the point where the crew needs to evacuate, I had a difficult time finding many practical applications.
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