Achtung Panzer – Kharkov 1943 (Pc)

Die-hard strategy games only account for a small part in the games market. As developer you need to be really inventive in order to make your game interesting enough for it to get any attention, something that isn’t easy with some of the top titles that we’ve been seeing lately (and are coming up). Still, small developers like Snowball dare to give it a shot and what they’ve cooked up is what you’ll read below.
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It’ 1943 and you get to lead either the Germans or the Russians, depending on the mission you’re playing. The goal is to occupy certain locations as fast as possible and request a cease fire at the right time. It reminded us a bit of the somewhat older game of “Blitzkrieg”.

The idea is simple enough, but it did take us some time to find out as Achtung Panzer doesn’t have an extensive tutorial. Let’s find it out ourselves then, something that’s easy enough but we’re going to hold it against the game anyway.

When you start up your first mission you’ll immediately notice a boring explanation and have to undergo a textual briefing that doesn’t even have any speech support. Afterwards a map is drawn on your screen and you get to make notes on it for your units which makes movements pretty swift. If a certain move results in a conflict, the game will go deeper in on that.

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When you come in contact with the enemy finally some action arrives and you can handle this yourself in 3D. This is where the interesting stuff starts and the type of units you get can sometimes influence the difficulty degree. If you only have a couple of soldiers you’ll have to be a bit more tactical than when you’ve got some nice big tanks. Next to those you can get some extras like airforce assistance that can be called in but they don’t really seem to be that effective. The AI doesn’t impress and the fact that you f.i. have to leave your vehicle when you want to cross a river with ice doesn’t really help. Dare to go ahead and your units won’t try to find another way but will just go straight ahead and get their vehicle in the water and themselves swimming to the other side.

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Hole in the wall! Or not?

The HUD may be one of the positive things in this game. The overview is quite good and you don’t have to meddle with tabs or something similar. Everything is constantly displayed and it’s easy to determine through the menus which units get selected and what they have to do. Despite the amount of options we never did have the impression they always made much of a difference though. You can also choose to speed up time a bit and that’s a good thing as moving vehicles over the sometimes quite large map can go extremely slow. Playing this game can be an exericise in patience.

Graphically Achtung Panzer isn’t really a treat. The surroundings are quite empty which may suit the landscape, but still. Also worth noting is that although tanks can flatten trees and fences, but houses seem remarkably capable of withstanding gunfire. Eventhough they get alternative look, they just keep standing there. The lighting is quite decent but all in all we can’t but judge the graphics average. Sound also isn’t anything more than the bare minimum, something we already feared when experiencing the briefings without any speech.

So let’s sum it up: slow gameplay, average graphics, sound only when absolutely necessary, sometimes weak AI… sounds quite negative but if you’re a true die-hard strategy fan you might want to pick it up nonetheless. At a budget price.