Gather the forces of the Reich and rewind to the Spanish Civil War as you lend your support to the Nationalists to boot the Republicans out.
Type: Single-player, Online Multi-player
Developer: Flashback Games
Publisher: Slitherine Ltd.
Release date: 16 July, 2020
Panzer Corps 2 is a strong entry in the World War II tactical wargaming genre. I would even go all the way and say that it’s the best one out there that I’m aware of. There’s plenty of depth and persistent consequences for every choice that you make and it is sure to keep any tactician busy whether you’re deciding how to maneuver your forces to strike at vulnerabilities or tailoring your corps’ composition to your liking. There’s something there for just about any wargamer and many different combinations that can be deployed effectively to take advantage of their strengths.
The first DLC for Panzer Corps 2, Axis Operations – Spanish Civil War, takes you back to a time several years before the invasion of Poland. The environment is much different in Spain, both geographically and politically, and you’ll have to master both if you wish to place Franco on the big boy chair with a minimum of dead Germans on your conscience.
Baby’s First Panzer
Upon assuming command, you’ll immediately notice that the technology at your disposal is a couple of generations earlier than what you’re used to. I love a good blitzkrieg as much as the next German officer, though Panzer Is lack a bit of the gusto that lets the later models lay waste to the enemy lines. Fortunately, the Republicans are often lacking in effective armored units and the Panzer Is smack around their infantry and armored cars as long as you pay close attention to the terrain. Spain has plenty of hills that give the enemy an advantage against your panzers if you’re not paying attention.
A lack of infantry will stand out and shift your old strategies as well. Nationalist infantry work alongside your forces, but to prove Franco’s legitimacy to the Spanish people, there are no German boots on the ground during battle. That said, you’ll be able to issue a general strategy to them at any given time that can be categorized as advance quickly, advance cautiously, and batten down the hatches. The AI tends to do quite well with not only following the directions but following them intelligently enough that I was never frustrated by its choices. It was a bold design choice, but one that paid off with the clear work that went into implementing it. I never complained about having a few Italian infantry units around that I could actually control when they showed their faces though.
The Atmosphere: Historical and Otherwise
Axis Operations: Spanish Civil War follows the course of history but not to the letter. This doesn’t mean that history buffs won’t enjoy many of the accurate aspects of the campaign, just that they’ll have to prepare themselves for the liberties that have been taken to further the Flashback Games’ vision of what they wanted for the title.
Although some of the missions and their objectives make use of these creative liberties, it’s the dialogue that stands out like a sore thumb to me. While the objectives add entertainment value, I found many of the conversations to be quite dull and add little to the experience, often wished they were more to the point. I much prefer the straight to the point approach of previous campaigns in the series and this felt like needless character building that was simply not needed. Throw into the mix that it wasn’t even voiced and the priorities of the dev team seem to be a bit muddled this time around. I recently reviewed Strategic Mind: Blitzkrieg and suggested that it seemed to be trying to push an undercooked cinematic experience and that it should be more like Panzer Corps, but ironically enough, Panzer Corps seems to be following down that same path. I found myself clicking through much of the ‘story’ that was being forced upon me in an attempt to stay more in the zone.
Axis Operations: Spanish Civil War is a respectable DLC for an excellent tactical wargame. It’s more or less an extension of the gameplay that we already enjoy with a few innovations and a few minor flaws. The restriction on German infantry brings a unique feel that pushes your focus onto your armor, artillery, and air force as you rely on your AI allies to capture victory points that you’ve cleared the way to and softened. Missions are often straightforward and seem to be less of a time commitment than the original campaign. Overall, this DLC is worth picking up if you had fun with Panzer Corps 2 and want more, though nothing revolutionizes the experience enough to pull in new converts, and if you’re like me, you’ll be clicking through a lot of the dialogue. For the most devoted fans of Panzer Corps 2, the number and scope of the scenarios are likely enough to justify purchasing this one at full price.