Blitzkrieg Preview

We take a look at Nival Interactive's upcoming World War II real-time strategy game.

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Russian developer Nival Interactive has previously created role-playing games like Rage of Mages and Evil Islands, but it's now working on a World War II real-time strategy game that will attempt to balance historical accuracy with fast-paced, enjoyable gameplay. Blitzkrieg will let you play in both single- and multiplayer games as one of three factions--the Allies, the Soviets, or the Germans--and though you won't get to fight any battles in the Pacific Rim, Blitzkrieg will cover historical conflicts throughout both Europe and North Africa.

You are about to embark upon the great crusade.
You are about to embark upon the great crusade.

Blitzkrieg will have a substantial and historically accurate single-player campaign divided between each of the game's playable sides. Rather than simply giving you an army of World War II units and requiring you to run fictitious missions in a World War II setting, Blitzkrieg's single-player campaign will actually feature missions based on real-world battles. In other words, if you decide to play as the Soviets, their campaign missions will consist of battles that the Soviets actually won during the Great War, so there's no chance for any historical revisionism, like having the Allies actually win in the infamously failed Operation Market Garden.

That's not to say that Blitzkrieg will be nothing more than a rigid game that forces you to follow historical battles down to every last detail, because the single-player game will also feature randomly generated missions that you can play through in between the historical missions. The random missions aren't based on any historical occurrences, so the outcome of those battles won't be predetermined, and if you wish to take a break from playing through the historical campaign, you can take a breather by playing as many random single-player missions as you like. Both random and historical missions will present you with opportunities to gain experience for your units, which they will gain from every mission and carry over to subsequent missions if they survive. But in the interest of historical authenticity, your units will improve by actually becoming more experienced on the battlefield--they'll fire more accurately, but they'll still have the same equipment they were carrying previously, so they won't arbitrarily get more health or receive an artificial armor bonus.

The game will feature more than 250 vehicles and artillery guns modeled after actual World War II equipment.
The game will feature more than 250 vehicles and artillery guns modeled after actual World War II equipment.

Doing well in battle also helps you advance your own rank from that of an army major to a general. Blitzkrieg will have more than 250 different vehicles modeled after their real-world counterparts--thanks to the help of a full-time military consultant--and all of them will be accompanied by historical statistics in the in-game recognition manual. As you're promoted to higher ranks you'll be able to commission better equipment and vehicles, including extremely powerful, extremely rare vehicles and artillery that historically didn't see much active duty during the war, such as the German Maus tank and the Karl artillery gun.

As with any good real-time strategy game, Blitzkrieg will encourage you to create varied armies consisting of mixed forces. Most infantry squads will be composed of 10 infantry soldiers and will generally be extremely mobile, especially since you can order them on a forced march, but they'll also be relatively fragile, though their speed will make them excellent scouts and help them provide excellent diversions while your vehicles move into position. In accordance with the game's goal of retaining historical accuracy, in the earlier campaign missions, which take place earlier in the war, many infantry units will consist of riflemen, but in the later missions of the war, infantry will be equipped with bazookas and other antivehicle weapons. Many transport vehicles will also be able to carry squads of infantry into battle, though the most important vehicles in Blitzkrieg will be your supply trucks.

I Rode a Tank, Held a General's Rank

The old saying goes that an army marches on its stomach, and it's true to some extent in Blitzkrieg, because your armies will live or die based on whether or not they can maintain supply lines. Supply will be provided by a stationary warehouse headquarters but will be ferried along to the front lines of battle by slow-moving supply trucks that must be defended at all costs. Supply helps commanders commission reinforcements and also affects an army's morale and its subsequent performance on the battlefield. Though you can't completely obliterate an opposing army's supply lines, you can hamstring your enemies by destroying their supply trucks and constantly bombarding their warehouses.

You'll be able to order your infantry to crouch or lie prone.
You'll be able to order your infantry to crouch or lie prone.

Blitzkrieg will also offer several other, more-elegant ways to thwart and dispatch your enemies, including using highly skilled infantry units such as snipers and engineers. Though all units will be able to crouch and lie prone to aid their firing accuracy, snipers will actually be able to blend into their surroundings, though if they remain in the same place for a while and fire shots repeatedly, they'll eventually be discovered. Engineers, on the other hand, will be able to repair damaged vehicles, lay out minefields, and build bridges across rivers (or blow them up). All infantry units will be able to man artillery guns, though clever players will be able to sneak their own infantry behind enemy lines, take down the enemy gunners, then take control of the artillery themselves.

Heavy weapons will be present in Blitzkrieg in the form of mortars, tanks, air strikes, and artillery cannons. Artillery will be devastating on the battlefield but will have to be guarded safely against capture and close-up attacks. Much of Blitzkrieg's artillery guns can't move freely across the map without the aid of an artillery truck, and as it happens, they fire so loudly that they will betray the general location of hidden artillery as a glowing circle on the game map, even on parts of the map that are yet unexplored and are under the fog of war. By all indications, the most successful tacticians in Blitzkrieg will be the ones that use mixed armies of different types of units to counterbalance their armies' inherent strengths and weaknesses, and the single-player game will give you a little extra help by letting you press the space bar to pause the game, then queue up orders for each of your units if you're getting overwhelmed. Blitzkrieg will also feature multiplayer play in the form of two major modes: capture the flag, in which you must capture a flag object and bring it back to your base, and attack/defend, a mode in which you must capture or hold a specific part of the map.

Mixed forces of infantry, vehicles, artillery, and air support will win the day.
Mixed forces of infantry, vehicles, artillery, and air support will win the day.

Aside from the single-player campaigns and multiplayer play, Blitzkrieg will also ship with a powerful mission editor that will let you build individual mission maps and string them together into your own custom campaigns. The editor will feature the same tools that the developer is using to make the game, so you will be able to quickly and easily build maps with hills and valleys, lakes, minefields, and forests by dragging and dropping items onto the map. You'll even be able to use the editor to edit the appearance of individual units, and if you're ambitious, you'll be able to use a 3D modeling program and import your own models into the game.

The developer of Blitzkrieg is clearly attempting to strike an interesting balance between historical accuracy and traditional real-time strategy. We'll see how the final game turns out when Blitzkrieg is released later this year.

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