Panzer Corps’ long-awaited sequel beats the odds and outdoes its legendary predecessor in every way. A must-have for any tactical wargamer.
Type: Single-player, Online Multi-player
Developer: Flashback Games
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.
Release date: 19 March, 2020
As far as tactical wargaming goes, I struggle to think of a title that did a better job of representing it than Panzer Corps. Scenarios are tense throughout, resources and time are limited, and although your forces are always improving, so too are your enemies’. With a robust selection of units complete with a wide variety of strengths and weaknesses, determining the right tool for the job is a must to ensure that you don’t run out of resources and doom your campaign. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure how it could be improved upon enough to warrant a sequel and was skeptical that there would be enough that was new to make its price tag worth it.
Yet I was pleasantly surprised (maybe even ecstatic) when I began my invasion of Poland in Panzer Corps 2. Seemingly everything was improved at least a little and I found myself instantly hooked. It’s quite an accomplishment to develop a game that is so well designed that the majority of its flaws go under the radar until they’re later revealed by its own sequel’s improvements, but Flashback Games did just that.
March of the German War Machine
There are several campaigns available and they frequently offer choices that can alter the path that they take. Poland, for example, has a northern and southern approach that you can take which will give you two separate experiences with different scenarios and challenges to overcome. Although an earlier build had direct mechanical benefits for choices (Poland offered prototypes for the north and increased prestige for the south), it seems this was scrapped and your choice no longer offers such benefits. Instead it simply offers an overview of the challenges that you may face with each approach and what you’ll need to prepare for, an important choice if you’ve specialized your forces in a certain direction. The last thing you want to do is fight in the woods and mountains if you’ve focused the majority of your energy on improving your armored divisions.
Those who’ve played Panzer Corps will find the campaign setup quite familiar. Scenarios offer a set of objectives that must be accomplished within a deadline and the units, prestige, and experience carry over from one to the next. This means that every single casualty has long-lasting detrimental effects on your campaign and units them suffer them will need to be reinforced or replaced by spending your hard-earned prestige. When this happens, you have the choice of bringing in elite recruits that will maintain the unit’s experience or bringing in much cheaper ones that will reduce it by a proportionate level. Casualties are inevitable but it’s integral to your success that you minimize them as much as possible.
Having multiple approaches in these campaigns is nice but it comes with a loss of the merit-based paths of the original Panzer Corps. Scenarios now end in either victory or defeat, marginal and decisive victories no longer exist. Overall, I think this change is a step in the right direction and adds more replay value since there are plenty of options to tailor your campaign along the way, though some may miss the additional benefits bestowed upon particularly effective generals.
Tigers and Panthers and Mice, Oh My!
The balance of units in Panzer Corps 2 is a noticeable improvement over that of its predecessors. I found certain units not to be worth the trouble in the original but I’d found myself seeing the value of every unit that I could recruit this time around. The improved capabilities of support units stands out in particular here with recon getting the most impressive boost with new traits that improve the effectiveness of those attacking an enemy near them, bring them from a useful scouting unit to an absolutely fantastic one that improves your forces overall.
Aircraft have been reworked and now return to base at the start of every turn. You’ll still have your fighters, and tactical and strategic bombers, but they’re no longer sacrifice themselves to further your goals, at least no when it comes to fuel. I like this change as it allows you to keep your mind on the strategy at hand without having to waste your time and manually tell aircraft to rearm and refuel. Speaking of aircraft, anti-aircraft weaponry now suppresses aircraft instead of destroying it outright, which is still incredibly useful but will require series veterans to recalibrate their brains.
The large selection of units that defines Panzer Corps is as impressive as ever. Rebalanced and ready to go, you’ll be excitedly spending your prestige each time a new level of technology’s reached your command. Scenario victories and conquered points of interest (like cities and airfields) grant you prestige and you’ll want to take advantage of many as you can within your deadline to guarantee that your forces are not only able to reinforce, but also able to grow by upgrading and purchasing new units. As you progress, you’ll gain more core slots which allow you to field larger force with each scenario as long as you can afford it. It can’t be expressed enough, management is key here.
Herr General’s New Look
Panzer Corps 2 shows up with a brand new feature of its own, designing your general. This not only adds new tactical opportunities but also significant replay value. In addition to selecting a portrait, you’ll be able to select strengths and weaknesses that will alter your capabilities greatly. Strengths will cost points while weakness will give you them, and abilities range from anti-aircraft causing casualties instead of suppression to specific unit types requiring fewer of your core slots to not being able to reinforce units outside of the deployment phase. I’ve mostly played it safe so far by choosing a strength or two without any weaknesses, though I could see this being such a versatile element of gameplay that you could force yourself to adopt entirely new strategies for overcoming your enemies. I look forward to making some absolutely wild generals in the future.
Your general isn’t the only one that’s looking dapper though, as Panzer Corps 2 is looking fantastic for a historical wargame. We’ve come to expect simpler graphics in the wargame genre, often even having them reduced to stacks of chips on a board, but this title manages to make combat surprisingly thrilling with its good looking units gunning down and blowing up other good looking units with visuals that blow our expectations out of the water. These graphics far exceeded my expectations, though the audio quality did as well, especially since its predecessors weren’t that impressive. I often found myself immersed not just in the tactics of any given battlefield as I’d thought but also in the overall atmosphere that was carefully designed. Neither of these qualities are needed for an excellent strategy game but they’re certainly a welcome addition.
Panzer Corps 2 set out to top one of the most regarded wargames of all time and succeeded. The elements of the original Panzer Corps have been improved, including streamlining certain aspects that dulled the enjoyment and adding depth to units that make some of the formerly less impressive choices a new valuable addition to your forces. If you’re a strategy wargamer this is one that you absolutely must add to your collection. I’ve had a blast with it already and I’m very much looking forward to its DLC.