Panzer General: Allied Assault is an odd concoction. It contains a heaping pile of turn-based strategy, a handful of card mechanics, and even a pinch of board play. Fortunately, these ingredients mix together rather well, resulting in a surprisingly deep World War II-themed strategy title that should catch the eye of any fan of the genre.
The gameplay is most reminiscent of a turn-based strategy title, only the units and actions are represented by cards. Each player uses their deck to work their way across the board and accomplish victory via a number of various conditions – often eliminating all enemy units, or controlling the enemy’s “home” tile. Along the way, prestige points are earned, which serve as a valuable resource required for playing cards.
Does Panzer General: Allied Assault reveal itself as a success in this niche genre of gaming?
All actions of Allied Assault take place within the confines of a chess-like game board. There are various attributes applied to each tile, such as bonuses to attack, defense, or prestige gain. For example, a “hill” tile may offer bonuses to the attack value of units positioned there, while a “city” tile will offer infantry a higher defense value, and reward the player with more prestige at the end of their turn. The wide variety of terrain features must be taken into account when determining one’s strategy.
The cards themselves fall within one of three categories. Unit cards consist of infantry, armor, and artillery, and can be placed upon the board during the players turn. Combat cards are played during the initial phase of unit engagement, and can have a drastic effect on a battle’s outcome – for example, some may disable supporting cards, remove defensive terrain bonuses, or even cancel combat all together. Finally, Action cards are used during the player’s turn to perform a wide range effects upon the game, such as granting the player extra prestige, performing an air strike on an enemy position, or drawing additional cards.
Unfortunately, the variety of cards is fairly limited. New cards are introduced throughout the campaign and as rewards for completing achievements, but they are often buffed versions of ones the player already owns. Furthermore, there are no mechanics to support the trade or purchase of additional cards, meaning midway through the campaign, the player’s deck can feel rather stale. Lastly, the deck-building UI is frustratingly difficult to manage, making the creation of custom decks a chore.
Panzer General also disappoints aesthetically. One could excuse the bland character models and uninspired animations based simply on the title’s genre – but the convoluted interface and bland card art are two items that are less easily forgiven.
Each card is adorned with a black and white WWII-era photograph of the unit or action it serves to represent. Though an interesting choice, this unfortunately makes each card difficult to distinguish from another – it’s difficult to tell the difference between a “Rookie” and a “Veteran” based on a grainy photo, meaning the player must often resort to the card’s title.
Combat within Panzer General takes place within four stages. First, attack values and defense values are calculated based on the stats of the involved units, and the terrain features of the tiles on which the battle takes place. Next, each player is given the opportunity to play a Combat card. Lastly, each player may sacrifice a card from their hand to further boost their attack or defense. This is a particularly interesting stage, as the player is unsure what their opponent chose to sacrifice until they make their own choice – does one dispose of a valuable card to ensure victory for this conflict, or save it for later? Lastly, a die is rolled to randomly augment the attacker’s power between the values of -2 and +3.
The only issue identified regarding the combat mechanics is that many actions simply take too long to complete. Each stage of battle is delayed by repetitive notifications and instructions that serve to bog down the flow of combat. This effect is magnified when the player is simply mopping up a clear victory, as each turn becomes a chore.
Panzer General boasts the availability of multiplayer combat over Xbox Live, but during my time with the title I was only able to connect to a single match, despite dozens of attempts. All others were met with a “No Games Found” error message. I was unable to determine if this error was on account of a genuine lack of opponents, or a networking issue.
Though it may please fans of the strategy and card genres, Panzer General: Allied Assault is hindered by a few crippling flaws that will likely make it unattractive to the average player.
Mediocre visuals can be expected in this genre - certainly in an XBLA title. But the uninspired WWII-era photograph card art and messy interface are less forgivable.
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Deep strategic gameplay is bogged down by a slew of repetitive alerts and notifications. Deck customization is limited by a lack of card variety and convoluted deck-building interface.
The sound effects are serviceable, though repetitive, while the musical score is barely noticeable at all.
For fans of the genre, there are dozens of hours of gameplay to be found within the campaign, surely with many more to be had in skirmishes agains the computer or over Xbox live - so long as one can find an opponent.
Panzer General: Allied Assault will likely please fans of the strategy and card genres, but all others should likely avoid this title.