War Times Review


World War II has been used extensively as a setting for action games. In fact, many of the top games in the genre are set during WWII. However, WWII real-time strategy games have been a lot fewer and far between. What's more, most of these games have not been very good. It could be that the conflict does not make a good setting for RTS games. Or it could be that the developers of these games aren't really trying, instead relying on the setting to carry a weak strategy game. This latter point seems to be the case with War Times, which is yet another sub-par strategy game that is merely cloaked in a WW2 wrapper.

Screenshots
A base comes under attack.

War Times is based on the basic RTS model. You have two types of resources, oil and ore, which must be collected by workers. These resources can then in turn be spent to purchase buildings, units, and upgrades. Winning missions almost invariably means building up a base, amassing a large army, and then steamrolling the enemy under the weight of your units.  This in and of itself is not a knock against War Times.  In the past World War II strategy games have tried to stay closer to WWII strategy gaming's war game roots than to RTS games set in futuristic or fantasy worlds.  However, an exciting RTS game which featured WWII units would certainly find its way into a lot of strategy gamers' collections.  Unfortunately though, War Times is not that game.  The inclusion of the basic RTS elements in this case smacks more of laziness in game design than a clever attempt to merge two of strategy gaming's sub-genres.

War Times let's you play as one of the four major combatants in the war's European Theater, the US, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and Germany.  The Soviet Union and Germany are for players who like armor, the US has the strongest air units, and Great Britain fields a balanced force.  There are two campaigns in the game, one Allied and one Axis, in which the missions are set during some of the famous battles of the war.  The missions are not really recreations of these battles, but rather traditional RTS scenarios named after the battles.  For example, in Dunkirk you need to build a base and produce troops to hold off German attacks until you can move the required number of  units off of the map.  The invasion of Poland is the even more basic "lead a group of units through a maze-like map" scenario.  The majority of the other battles involve building a base and putting together a large enough force to crush the enemy with sheer numbers.

The primary problem with the game is not it's lack of imagination in applying the RTS model to a WWII environment, it's simply that every facet of the game is not very well implemented.  Let's start with the game's pacing - it is slow, at times painfully so.  Structures take a long time to build and the linear nature of the building tree means that you'll have to wait a long time until the important buildings are even available.  Units also take a long time to create, and when you couple this with the long time it takes to even get to the point where you can start building you get an exercise in waiting.  The designers may have been aware of this problem, but rather than fix the deign they provided an option to speed the game time.  This will make the waiting a little less painful, but unfortunately it speeds everything else up as well.  Trying to keep a handle on your units at four times normal speed can be rather difficult considering the game's poor pathfinding.