Review: Order of War

OrderOfWar.jpg Quick – what pops into your head when you hear Order of War? Probably that it is a war game, and perhaps that it is a World War II game based on the similarity to other game names. But beyond that? With Medal of Honor you got the image of individual heroics that was fitting to the scope of the game. Call of Duty implied a broader action of which you were just a small part of. Company of Heroes implied an even larger scope with loads of valuable individuals contributing. Order of War, for me, feels thin and generic. So perhaps that is the most fitting possible name, because while it isn’t a bad game, it won’t leave a lasting impression.

Order of War is a real-time strategy (RTS) game set in World War II, with the player able to take on an American or German campaign centered around the events that began to unfold in the summer of 1944 as the ‘end game’ of WWII began playing out. The game is large in scope, placing you in command of entire forces consisting of up to a thousand units of various types including soldiers, tanks, air support, artillery and more.

Suffice it to say that the impression of a game that has a tutorial section dedicated to using the cinematic camera is that the presentation is very important. And in Order of War, the presentation is the best part of the game. Graphics are nicely done, there are well-made cutscenes that carry the progression of the storyline along well – though the voice acting, particularly on the German campaign, is not very good. But the overall presentation is very well done – there are tons of units on screen and loads of combat action, yet the game makes it all look great. That is why they focus on the cinematic camera – you will want to watch these great-looking battles unfold. My complaints are that, as mentioned, the voice acting isn’t very good, and that because of the color mix it is easy to lose infantry units when zoomed out. I found myself having a hard time tracking them in the tutorial, so I knew it would be critical later on.

Sadly the gameplay itself isn’t so compelling. The basics are typical of the genre, but the implementation is fairly thin. Your tactical options are limited, and the AI of your units exacerbates this. You can either charge headlong into battle or attempt basic flanking maneuvers. Attempting anything else will cause constant headaches, as your units can do little other than follow your immediate order and then wait for the next one. So if you send a small contingent of infantry and armor to attack an emplacement while focusing the rest of your units on a larger battle, your first unit would complete their battle and then just wait. If other enemy units arrived, your units wouldn’t respond in any way, and would simply die if not directed to attack.

Speaking of AI issues, at times it felt as though the enemy units were using ‘cheat AI’ tactics. My infantry would be behind cover and taking damage apparently THROUGH the cover, and while my armor units had to go through typical move-load-aim-shoot cycles, the enemy seemed to just move-load-shoot, resulting in a much larger damage ratio in the enemy’s favor. Since this happened on both sides of my campaign, I cannot attribute it to accurate detailing of fire rates of the armor units.

Order of War‘s subtitle could be ‘Strength in Numbers’, as you always seem to have a constant stream of reinforcements at your disposal. Even if the AI makes it so your troops wait to die and enemies have an unfair advantage, you will always find a way to win through sheer numbers. And since the combat maps tend to be small relative to the number of units, the option to simply herd mass quantities of troops towards your enemies quite often gives you an easy victory. So what does this teach you about strategy? It teaches you that you would have been better off buying a better RTS!

Multiplayer options are solid but skimpy. You get decent Deathmatch and Skirmish options, but only six maps. Each map provides two-or four-player modes, and are well designed and offer a nice challenge that allows you to circumvent the AI-related issues.

But sadly, the multiplayer is another case of ‘too little too late’ for Order of War. Also, while the $40 price tag is enticing, the bottom line is that there are much better strategy games available and many recent ones are available at bargain prices (such as Company of Heroes, which was recently on the Direct2Drive $5 sale). My internal ‘value proposition meter’ tells me that Order of War is worth no more than $20, and that is if you are a RTS junkie who has wrung the value from Company of Heroes and other strategy games and simply needs a new game to play. All others can simply let this one pass and feel no remorse. This is not the RTS you are looking for. Move along. Just move along.

SkipIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Huge scope
+ Tons of units at your control
+ Easy to access cinematic camera to watch the action unfold

Cons:
– Terrible ally and enemy AI
– Maps are too small for amount of units
– Lousy voice acting, especially in German campaign

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Wargaming.net
Release Date: 9/22/09
Genre: RTS/Wargame
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-4
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!