The Xbox Live Arcade has been graced with a number of board game to video game conversions, including the likes of Carcassonne and Wits & Wagers. Courtesy of Petroglyph and Ubisoft, another title has been added to the collection in the form of Panzer General: Allied Assault. Regrettably, this latest addition is more of a bored game than a board game.
The campaign in Panzer General: Allied Assault is based on the events that took place during the last phase of World War II, following the battles from the beaches of Normandy to pushing the Germans back to Berlin. The campaign can be played on either normal or hard difficulty, with battles in the game taking place on a 6x5 or 7x8 tile-based maps, having the two sides (Germany and the player-controlled America) positioned at either end.
The aim of the game is to complete the mission objectives to gain victory in each battle. This usually consists of either placing three units on your opponent’s ‘home row’, placing a unit on your opponent’s ‘home’ tile, taking control of the four ‘vital’ territories or eliminating all the enemy units.
Players take it in turns to move their units – initially placed on the ‘home row’ (the first row at each end where players can place their units at the start of the battle). Once placed, using the two types of cards on offer: unit cards (which beckon new units, including infantry, artillery and vehicles, to the board), ability cards (which can boost a unit’s statistics or cause damage to an enemy unit), action cards (which can be used to give the player an extra advantage whilst on the attack, such as being able to draw additional cards) and combat cards. Combat cards are used in battles, activated by players choosing to attack neighbouring units, that increase or decrease to a player’s battle score. Alas, this is where the game gets over-complicated.
During battles, scores are tallied for each team to determine the outcome of the battle. If the attacking score outweighs the defending score, health is removed from the opposing unit. However, if the defending score outweighs the attacking score, the defendants hold their ground, forcing the attacking unit to retreat. For the attacking side, the score includes totalling up the unit’s attack, the tile terrain they are positioned on and nearby support, whereas for the defending side, their defensive number and tile terrain are considered.
The next round of the battle consists of the option to play combat cards before players are able to sacrifice action cards for additional points, with the value of the card added to the appropriate side’s score. If that wasn’t enough, on top of that, a die – labelled minus two to three - is rolled, with the outcome of this roll is also considered as part of the total; the attack then commences. If the attack successfully eliminates the opposing unit, the attacker gains prestige and is able to move into the tile. However, failure to eliminate the enemy forces players to go through the battle cycle again in the opposing roles, which is, as it sounds, ever so time-consuming, gradually becoming more tedious as play progresses.
Whilst it made sense to include multiplayer within Panzer General, the lack of local multiplayer support and the unfair advantage of veterans that new players will face isn’t ideal. Players who have already embarked through the campaign will have unlocked new, more powerful cards for their deck, which they can use to their benefit in online multiplayer, leaving new players swarmed under a flood of incredibly powerful units. Although the option to play ranked and player matches over Xbox Live is evident, the absence of any online players ensures the game mode is certainly lacking.
Panzer General’s final game mode is Skirmish, which allows players to set up their own scenarios. Despite the fact that there is the opportunity for some larger battles, they aren’t necessarily worthwhile, especially regarding the length of time a lot of the battles take.
Graphically, Panzer General is to the standards of a handheld title and therefore not visually impressive, nevertheless, what is evident is acceptable. It’s a similar case with the game’s audio, which isn’t anything spectacular, featuring a looping soundtrack and repetitive utterances of speech and sound effects. Whilst swanky graphics and incredible audio isn’t a major requirement for an Xbox Live Arcade title, the bar could easily have been raised to please the needs of those who expect the best from this generation of gaming.
To conclude, Panzer General: Allied Assault is a title that very few people would enjoy. The game’s slow speed and historical context will only appeal to strategic and war enthusiasts, rather than the typical average gamer.