Another tactical wargame set during World War II, Strategic Mind: Blitzkrieg is defined in equal part by its strong gameplay and corny presentation.
Developer: Starni Games
Publisher: Starni Games
Release date: 22 May, 2020
Strategic Mind: Blitzkrieg is the latest in the list of tactical wargames inspired by the classic Panzer General. It’s my first foray into the Strategic Mind series and, as such, this review is coming from the point-of-view of someone who’s a veteran of the genre, but who hasn’t seen this particular brand in action before. The experience certainly offers an interesting combination of gameplay elements, though its narrative techniques could have benefitted greatly from a different approach. Though I must say, the greatest challenge for this title is that it directly competes with the excellent Panzer Corps 2.
The Second Great War Retold
I’ll spare you the details of the story as I’m sure we all know at least the most notable moments of Germany’s experience during World War II. Fortunately for those who enjoy it, an alternate history does unfold thanks to your actions on the battlefield that will keep the narrative fresh for those who’d prefer something that breaks away from history. I’m neutral on this personally, I enjoy titles in this vein whether they delve into the alternate history or not, though I admit that it does add some spice when we’re trekking over familiar ground, no matter how interesting said ground may be. The campaign also lets you get your feet wet in the Spanish Civil War which mixes it up for the genre a bit as I’ve reached the point where I assume that we’re kicking off in Poland.
While the scenario timeline does its job well enough, the cinematic portions of Blitzkrieg were not to my liking. The art style and animation are subpar at best, often reminding me of skillfully performed claymation while I struggle to find a way to gently comment on the voice acting. The former is hit or miss, though the latter utterly ruins the immersion of the title. It’s so corny that I found myself laughing more often than being invested in the story that was being told which is a serious issue when it’s not just cinematics, but also unit voice lines throughout the battles. On a positive note, the music is enjoyable enough and adds to the overall atmosphere, even if it can’t overcome the details surrounding it.
From Ill-Equipped Recruit to Hardened Elite
If I were to choose a single gameplay aspect of Strategic Mind: Blitzkrieg that differentiates it from its peers, it would be unit advancement. Your core units, or those that are carried over from one scenario to the next, have three methods of being improved: upgrading, experience, and equipment. Upgrading simply involves changing the base unit type, like the jump from basic infantry regulars to paratroopers. This tends to offer a few boosts to stats overall and a new ability or two, though it’s not rare to lose a little somewhere in the transition and replacing casualties becomes more expensive. Experience grants new abilities, like fighting more effectively at night or being able to disembark from trains anywhere on the track instead of only at railway stations, as well as increasing the maximum size of the unit. On the other hand, equipment is made up of items like mortars, flamethrowers, fuel tanks, and incendiary bombs, all of which let you tailor your units to become more proficient at certain tasks. This gear can also be swapped in and out freely between scenarios so that your forces are at their best for whatever objectives are coming your way.
Another interesting touch is that ships are made up of multiple parts, like engines, AA guns, and hulls, that can be damaged independently from the rest. Most units simply have standardized unit size, which has always worked well in the past, though the additional depth when it comes to navies is welcome in the genre. I can’t say that I would want this feature to become the norm, but I do enjoy it as a fairly unique flavor of Strategic Minds.
Bomb Bay Full of Presents
Scenarios in Strategic Mind: Blitzkrieg have you tuned in for the long haul. Their maps are large, the forces on both sides become increasingly numerous as you progress, and there are always plenty of secondary objectives to pursue as long as you can fit them into the time limit. You’ll spend most of your time manoeuvring your forces so that each unit is performing its role appropriately while pushing forward toward your objectives, even when your corps could use a break to rest and recuperate. That said, you’re often granted at least a handful of non-core units that are semi-expendable; they won’t be carried over to the next scenario, but they do cost prestige if they’re eliminated. Prestige is used to upgrade and recruit new units to your core, so it’s in your best interest to still use them wisely and not throw them to the wolves. As with others in the genre, early mistakes are likely to have long-term consequences, even if they’re several scenarios down the line, so it’s best to always put your best foot forward.
The Spanish Civil War scenario excels as an introduction and is one of the better tutorials that I’ve seen, both for those new to wargaming and for those who are just new to Strategic Mind. Your forces are particularly small at first, with each objective unlocking more for you to use after you’ve had some time to learn the basics. As a player new to Strategic Mind, I felt that I’d picked up a few useful details that were different from other similar titles that I’d played. As an experienced wargamer, I wasn’t bored thanks to the hands-on method of instruction.
Strategic Mind: Blitzkrieg is a solid entry into the tactical wargaming genre. Its scenarios are large and intense with a complete steamroll of your enemies being unlikely unless you’ve first built some serious momentum in the earlier scenarios. Whereas the gameplay is enjoyable though, the immersion falls flat. The cinematic and voice acting quality leaves a lot to be desired and I firmly believe that less very well have been more with these elements.
Overall, I recommend Blitzkrieg to those who are looking for a new title to dive into tactical World War II battles with, though it does feel like something of a more upbeat and personable little brother to Panzer Corps 2. The bar for entry is slightly lowered with a variety of bells and whistles to capture the attention of more mainstream gamers, though the serious and realistic feel that many veterans of the genre are looking for is noticeably eroded by these features.