The Nazi war machine has overrun and occupied much of your homeland. It’s up to you to use the talented partisans at your disposal to remind them that the war isn’t over just yet.
Genre: Strategy, RPG
Developer: Alter Games
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Release date: 14 October, 2020
Action-based tactical RPGs are a mixed bag that can vary greatly in quality from one title to the next. For every Desperados III or Broken Lines, there are at least a dozen others that miss the mark. Character balance, map design, and variety all play a huge role and one slip-up in any of these can lead to disastrous results that reverberate throughout the experience.
Partisans 1941 succeeds at fitting the requirements to be a worthy addition to the genre. Gameplay is smooth, mostly unique skill trees keep leveling up exciting across your cast of characters, and the story overall is one that you can find yourself getting caught up in before you know it. Just make sure that you’re prepared for a story based in occupied territory during World War II and all that it entails.
For the Motherland!
Partisans 1941 puts you into the boots of Captain Alexey Zorin, a Soviet officer whose command was captured by the invading German forces. His story begins as he pulls off an escape attempt from a prison camp. The first of his allies, experienced Sergeant-Major Nikolay Fetisov and fourteen-year-old Alexander Kuzmin, are recovered during the chaos. Once they’ve made it to safety, you’ll guide them as they engage in guerilla warfare to bring the hurt on the occupiers that threaten their country by engaging in stealth missions, maintaining and upgrading a secret base camp, and interacting with the victims of the occupation to gather information, equipment, and co-conspirators.
The story is suitably dark for the setting, though I never found it to get to the point that I would warn someone who had a passing grasp of the events of World War II. Blood and gore is limited, violence during gameplay is no worse than any other similar title in the genre, and overall, it tends to be the story of successful underdogs facing off against an overwhelming enemy. Encountering new allies is exciting and overcoming the enemy with many small victories is fulfilling. One of the first missions of the title is one where your squad sneaks into an enemy structure to permanently remove a tank that was left behind for repairs from the German armory.
From Green to Grizzled
One of my favorite parts of any RPG is leveling up my characters. Partisans 1941 has an enjoyable system in this regard as each character in your unit is unique. Though many skills are shared by some characters, such as rifle proficiency or increased defensive bonuses from cover, each tree feels unique enough to warrant consideration for who is the best man or woman for the job prior to going out on a mission. Right off of the bat, your squad grows to three characters that form your starting unit. Captain Zorin specializes in swift movement and quiet ambushes with his trusty knife, Sergeant-Major Fetisov is an all-around classic infantryman with a strong leaning toward using loud firearms and grenades, and young Kuzmin can become particularly capable of sneaking around in plain sight as long as he’s careful not to draw suspicion to himself. As your party continues to grow, you’ll gain even more variety that will allow you to tailor how you take on your missions going forward.
Progression also takes place on the equipment front. Defeating enemies will often have them drop items that you can use to your advantage and these come in quite a variety. As you might expect, weapons are of the utmost importance and you’ll need both them and their related ammunition to be able to take your foes head-on. However, weapons are only a part of what’s available to aid you in your strategy here and a particularly stealthy, tactical approach will likely make it so that you don’t need as much ammo as you find. Everything from rocks to medkits to vegetables, eggs, and cheese will be looted from those you defeat, and maybe even the homes of the locals if you’re particularly desperate. Rocks find their use in making noise and causing a distraction to enemies who aren’t on alert, medkits and their associated items will keep your squadmates in the fight after sustaining injuries, and food and other supplies that aren’t immediately useful will add to the resources back at your base, granting you the ability to significantly improve its functioning. This will not only make it easier for your partisans to survive, but also to thrive in their opposition of the occupiers.
Partisans 1941 is a challenging tactical action game that will keep veterans of the genre on their toes, especially if they’ve upped the difficulty. Quick saves and loads are still the order of the day here for many of us and will allow you to make some mistakes along the way and still be able to enjoy the game even if you aren’t one of the experts rolling up who are prepared to free the Soviet Union on their self-enforced ironman mode. The story and characters within it are interesting and only a few small areas feel as if they’re a little odd, such as German soldiers speaking with an accent but Soviet speaking perfect English.
Overall, Partisans 1941 is a solid addition to the genre and one that I can easily recommend to anyone who enjoys similar titles. Though it doesn’t innovate as often as I would’ve liked, it checks all of the boxes for a game that will keep you entertained by what you already enjoy.