When John, our head editor, sent me an email about Men at War: Condemned Heroes, I just smiled. After being with Game Industry News for just under a year, he already knows how to get my attention easily. All he had to say was, ‘Want to play a strategy game where you control Soviet penal unit’s?’ How could I say no?
So I downloaded the game off of Steam and got ready to liberate the motherland. Once the game loaded up I went to the menu that allowed me to read up on the back story. With great detail it talked about the infamous order number 227, where Stalin refused to let anyone take even one step in retreat. That and he forced convicts to fight to defend the country. It’s an amazing story, but these penal units actually kicked butt and really fought with honor and tenacity.
When I finally completed my read, I decided I should play the game and see what it had to offer. Once it started out, I was already thinking it was it felt like a normal run of the mill World War II game. So I automatically went and hit control+A (select everything) and nothing happened.
I was dumbstruck; I couldn’t figure out why all my squad was not selected. So I scanned my heads up display and seen if there was any indication. Sure enough I found the reason. Turns out I was only controlling two soldiers. No, that isn’t a typo; I didn’t mean to type two squads, seriously all I had control of was two soldiers.
As a real time strategy buff, it actually hurt that a game company would do that to someone. The reason people play strategy games is to not only test their brains against certain tasks, but to be able to control battalions of soldiers, not two. Two soldiers is something you see in a first person shooter.
After taking a deep breath I continued through the first level and the controls were so awkward that I found myself glad that it was on easy. The two nimrods you did control were really slow about doing what you ordered them to do. Later that mission I lost both my people and I expected a game over’nope. It just sat there with nothing happening while the battle continued.
The audio and graphics were pretty much on par with other strategy games. The mortar explosions had some good punch to them. The rifles all sounded realistic and the background music was very fitting to the fast pace of the game.
It seems to me that a lot of these Russian titles are just very difficult to play. In fact, 1C tends to publish a lot of very tough strategy titles. That’s fine, but I think that players in Russia must enjoy impossible challenges more than us Western gamers or something. Setting Men of War: Condemned Heroes to easy mode is about like Hard for most games. Normal is like the impossible setting. The bad controls don’t make things any easier.
While this game has an interesting concept, it really doesn’t do anything special beyond that. Your convicts can’t hotwire tanks or whatever. Once you actually build an army, the missions are pretty much like all the other WWII strategy games out there.
All in all, with tons of awkward and clunky controls, poor tutorial and agonizing individual soldier control, this game will receive a below average 2.5 gin gems from me. I think just some minor tweaks would have given it a lot of potential. Instead, the only Russian thing I took away from this was that I wanted some Vodka to dull the pain, just a bit.