Historical military strategy games have always been a huge part of the strategy genre on PCs but comparatively thin on the ground in the mobile strategy market, where vast hordes of monsters, robots, aliens, and/or zombies walking single-file reign supreme. This is unsurprising, since much of the popularity of mobile formats is their ready accessibility to people beyond the usual audience for videogames, whereas historical strategy has traditionally been the domain of people who are shockingly geeky even by the standards of the usual audience for videogames. Fortunately, Strategy and Tactics: World War II is here to bridge that gap, and while it doesn’t have the sort of complexity found in more traditional games it does a fine job bringing the genre to a mobile format.
The game is turn-based and divided into 18 scenarios, each based on one of the campaigns of the Second World War. You direct your armies across a map divided into provinces, each worth resource points each turn used to produce reinforcements. Individual units each represent a division of infantry, motorized infantry, or armored vehicles, and can be combined to operate jointly in groups of up to 12. Larger scenarios involve dozens of divisions.
Combat when hostile troops meet is quickly resolved based on each side’s number and types of units, “Operational Index” – an abstract quantification of combat readiness – and other factors such as fortifications. The losing force is pushed out of the province. Individual units lose Operational Index from enemy fire and regain it by resting, and are destroyed if it drops to zero. A losing group of units with nowhere to retreat is immediately lost entirely, so maneuvering and encirclement are important.
Each scenario has one or more objectives that must be achieved, as well as additional bonus objectives. After each scenario, you’re rated based on objective completion, number of turns, and casualties. You also earn research points that unlock upgrades for units.
The resulting game is quite a bit of fun. There are enough strategic options and unit types to keep things interesting. The bonus objectives and rating system provides some replay value trying for better outcomes, and the gameplay is satisfying enough to make that effort feel worthwhile. The game is easy to pick up, and there’s a tutorial level that lays out the mechanics well. (And it’s not often you see a videogame level revolving around Mussolini’s disastrous attempt to invade Greece.)
In addition to the main campaign the game also includes a skirmish mode which can be played against the computer or, via Wi-Fi or single device hotseat mode, another person. There are numerous multiplayer scenarios, along with options to customize the match. Some allow for more than two players, and if you’re feeling hemmed in by smaller maps there’s a giant scenario for up to four players that encompasses almost all of Europe and a good swath of North Africa.
The maps and unit icons look good and are easy to understand. There are some cool graphical details that add to the visual style. The game map looks worn and scuffed, detailed with indentations running across it as if it were a real paper map that had been recently unfolded. Menus look like battered metal panels, and the Notifications window looks like a leather attaché case with summaries of recent events on the documents inside. These and various other sundry details help create a striking visual atmosphere with Strategy and Tactic’s modest technological resources, since the game only requires Android 2.3.
The music is fantastic. This is the first mobile game I’ve actually kept running simply to listen to it. It’s intense, dark, rousing, suitably martial, and surprisingly intricate. There are several different themes that play during battles, all of them well-done. Unfortunately, some of the sound effects are grating and unpleasant, especially with headphones. There’s an option to turn the audio off, which is appreciated, but it turns the music off as well; it would have been great if they could be controlled separately.
It’s not any sort of deep simulation, so you’re going to be disappointed if you buy this expecting a mobile version of Hearts of Iron or Panzer General. However, as a strategy game with a historical setting and more depth than most mobile strategy games, Strategy and Tactics: World War II is very solid.
A solid strategy title with a superb presentation.