World War 2 is known for a lot of things, but one of the key things about it is the sheer size of battlefield and theatres that this war was fought over. In Europe we had the Western and Eastern Fronts, with Northern Africa and Italy later. There was the Pacific and the Atlantic. There was also mainland china. Numerous strategy games were created about WW2. FPSs, RTSs and of course “Wargames”. Wargames are a specific genre of games, as they are normally an attempt to create a board game for the PC. Then we have games like Hearts of Iron or Europa Universalis, which aside from just war add politics, trade, logistics, espionage and a lot of other things which make these games exclusive for people who want to learn the ins and outs of them. Soon after its Beta release I decided to give Iron Cross a go (which was, last Friday). And I am not talking about the Iron Cross for Hearts of Iron, but instead a entirely different Real-time Wargame which (I personally hope) will shake the strategy world with its uniqueness and originality.
What is Iron Cross? To name it in simple terms, it is a Real-Time Wargame. In it’s current Beta form you fight in North Africa as either the Axis or Allies, with different scenarios which sets either side on the defensive or on the attack, where victory points is all that matters (or as much as your working units). There are different unit types over which you will have control, be it Infantry, Tanks, Artillery, Anti-Tank Guns, Artillery Guns and different Planes. These units although looking exactly the same often have different sizes and strengths, so do not be fooled by similar icons! The creators of the game, Panzer Division designed a number of classy Scenarios for you to enjoy, but, here is the catch, they are all aimed at playing them online, with as many people as you can gather. “So, like any other supposed Multiplayer game?” you might ask. Allow me to explain.
What makes this game special, is not high-end graphics, high paced action or complexity which makes it look “Like Real Life”. It is simple, fun, easy to learn and very easy to use (at least for a seasoned strategy gamer like myself). I played a three and half hour session with the developers (and a number of other random persons) which was, in essence, only three days of Operation Battleaxe. You can set the speed of the game, which makes it pass quicker or slower, but at our seeming “Turtle’s Speed” events were unfolding quickly and you often gritted your teeth wondering whether you did not send your counter-attack too late. Before I even joined the game I was told that in case I got dropped out for whatever reason I can join right back in, and that was indeed the case. You can join a game which is already in progress and whomever is in charge of one of the sides (be it Allies or Axis) can allocate any of the units to an incoming player. If you drop out the commander takes over control of your units, but he can efficiently give them back to you (if it’s on divisional level, for example). It is all well structured, with the “Head” Commander assigning “Divisions” (or smaller groups) to players and everybody plans what will be be done during the day of fighting (a fighting day lasts around 14 hours, a cease-fire being called at 19:30 each day). At the start of each new day all your units regain a bit of morale and the “Head” Commander can allocated reinforcements and supplies to those units he thinks need them most.
The “Head” Commander, at this point in time, is whomever connects to the game first but as Tomislav Čipčić (Head of Panzer Division) says “In the next version, it will be the commander with the highest rank”. Ranks are gained through playing games, where you “Gain points by destroying soldiers and equipment, taking objectives, stocks and airfields, routing and capturing enemy units. All that multiplied by the difficulty ration- based on the ratio between you, and the enemy”. Of course, we all start as Officer Cadets, but as we slowly play the game we will advance in ranks, and in the future this will mean “In one of the next versions we will have something like: Armor Academy Specializations, Manoeuvre Stabilizations and so on. That way you will be able to tailor your bonuses on your character”. Thus, for example you could become a high class Tank Commander, where the bonuses from your character will add to your battle and tip the balance in your favour, however ” We don’t want two players with completely different levels fighting one against the other. That way one would have the bonuses while the other one would have nothing. That is something we must resolve before implementing.”
As to the scenarios themselves, Panzer Division already provided its players with the necessary tools to create their own scenarios, however big, allowing you to customize your units in whatever way you like. “All players connect to the host, who acts as the server. He can download the Scenario editor, make his own scenario and play it with others (so, no download needed to play with somebody). And if he wants, he’ll upload it on our Forum and share it with others.”. But, this is not all! “Players can use the Scenario Editor to do whatever they like, to play with combat data, units, maybe even create their own Mods. The Game is open for modding, so they can create other wars and campaigns- players can do whatever they like with it”. “We would like players to customize the game, to do whatever they wish with it, to make it their own, so to say. To give us feedback to make it easier for us to upgrade it.”
A big thank you once again for being allowed to publish a part of the interview of LazyAssGamer exclusively on IY. – Max Pen