It’s easy to dismiss Unity of Command because it is turn-based, a strategy title, looks like a tabletop game, takes place in World War II, and even its liberal use of hexes. It seems like a contradiction, but the Croatian developers at 2×2 Games have made an accessible, fun, hardcore turn-based strategy game that looks and plays great without overwhelming you with systems and screens.
What you see, is what you get in Unity of Command. There are no hidden screens or other UI elements that aren’t front-facing from the moment you start a game. You can learn how to play for yourself, or absorb the information from the included digital manual. I recommend you start with the Tutorial and introductory scenario if you’re at all new to the genre or style of play. Featuring two campaigns: the Soviet and the Axis, each re-enacting history, asking you to perform specific tasks are individually challenging. It is extremely likely the game will take you out back, beat you up until you learn how to play it properly.
It isn’t so much difficult as it is strict. You must maintain supplies in order to furnish your units with ammo and fuel to progress the battle. Stray too far to try to capture a city or get around an entrenched unit, and you might get stranded, leaving yourself a lamb to the slaughter. The AI is no slouch and will capitalize on any missed opportunity or accidental movement that ate up the move for that unit. It can be downright mean. These accidents can have catastrophic consequences as you may not reach a target in adequate moves to be awarded prestige. It’s entirely possible through the campaign to expend your prestige before you get to the final campaign mission, only to lose. So you have “won the battle, but not the war”. Maintaining supplies and prestige is a balancing act. If you play the Scenario side of things, you don’t have to worry about the prestige portion.
Games don’t last very long, with the longest of turns only going as far as 24, averaging between 7 and 9 turns. As you start out, you’ll be in situations where you’ll earn a set amount of prestige for capturing a town in 2 turns, you’ll learn efficient methods of doing so quickly. It is all in how you use your units to the best of your ability, when to call in for reinforcements and using your theater assets like air attacks to weaken enemies. Each turn can have a lot going on such as weather slowing down units, terrain causing them to go around large hills or mountains, or a river with no bridge. Decisions must be made wisely and an unlimited amount of time to make them, so long as you have the patience to observe and analyze. Winning can be through standard Victory by reaching your goal turns or a Decisive Victory can be met if you get to your objectives under par.
The game’s art direction leans on the cartoonish side, but it makes for easy-to-see units, unit cards detailing strengths and weaknesses, and observing the battlefield. The game lacks any real graphical options other than full-screen and resolution, and that’s okay. It isn’t a demanding game and can be played on nearly any type of PC or Mac. The sound design is okay, music is good and keeps things from being too quiet. The sound effects of soldiers marching is used every time you move an infantry unit and while a short audio clip, it’s repetitive.
Multiplayer is handled via Internet or Hotseat play. The internet option creates a code to share with a friend that they can input to join your game. There aren’t any lobbies or matchmaking with strangers, this allows you to have that intimate, tabletop experience with a friend to enjoy playing a wargame. The hotseat mode is for local play and you and a friend literally swap seat positions to play your moves.
2×2 Games has taken special consideration in getting historical accuracy as well as having fun with some not-so-historical moments during World War II. It’s all-in-one UI solution is something other developers should look at for future reference. The deep and rich campaign offers replayability and challenging gameplay as you have to maintain supply to win the battle, eventually the war. While World War II strategy games are in abundance on PC, that doesn’t make Unity of Command any less important or interesting.
A code for the game was provided by the developer for review purposes