Panzer Tactics DS Hands-On

Unlike its counterpart the PSP, Nintendo’s DS doesn’t seem to get a lot of good strategy-based titles. In fact, most DS owners will be hard-pressed to name any strategy title at all on the handheld–although a good amount of the "real gamer crowd" would at least recognize Advance Wars. Panzer Tactics DS looks to solve that problem.

Developed by German developer Sproing, the game takes place during World War II. (Hey, at least it isn’t an FPS.) Taking control of the German Wehrmacht, the Red Army and the Western Allies, you navigate WWII battles in an historically accurate strategy title. (Keep in mind I was never good in history, so if it’s not 100% historically accurate it’s close enough, nitpickers.) 

Starting with the German invasion of Poland, the game’s three campaigns span WWII and are split between the three playable factions. You begin with the German, play with the Russians in the middle, and end with the Western allies in increasing difficulties.

Gameplay looks fairly simple in trailers, but it’s surprisingly deep for any strategy game, let alone a DS one. Each mission contains a primary objective, as well as two other optional objectives. Primary objectives are usually the obvious fare you’d expect, such as capturing X city.

It’s once you begin playing that you realize you may need to go back through the tutorials, after all. Each unit has a ton of information attached to it, including fuel, ammo, weaknesses and strengths, movement costs, morale, range, Officers, and more. With a huge variety of units (over 150 between air, water and land) and Officers there’s a ton to try and remember. You can see the information on each unit by clicking on it, but after a while you’ll start trying to ID them based on their model to save time; of course, in a game with so many similar-looking models this leads to a ton of mistakes, so take the extra time to make sure the unit you’re using or attacking is what you think it is.


Panzer Tactics DS

Combat mechanics are pretty easy to understand, as long as you ignore all of the things which make this fun such as weaknesses and support. Troops and tanks (usually) need to be adjacent to a unit to attack, bomber planes need to be above, etc. Once you initiate an attack, the game fades to a cutscene showing the two combatants shooting (or bombing) one another. Of course, the DS’s graphical output is rather limited, so WWII fights consist of standing on opposite sides of a line and just shooting until people fall down or vehicles explode.

Much like real war, there’s a lot more to this game than just attacking the enemy and defeating them; you also need to monitor your own side. Unlike a lot of games, Panzer Tactics DS puts a lot of emphasis on keeping your troops individually supplied and fresh. Some units require an extra turn to cooldown after an attack, some require more fuel to move, some have fewer total shots, etc. What this means is it’s key to keep bases under your control in order to have supplies available; it’s also important to keep airbases under your control so you can transport bigger units quickly if need be, but that’s a whole ‘nother element.

On the earlier levels playing it smart doesn’t matter much; you can usually just send your tanks one way, your planes another, and after bombing or shooting the crap out of something you’ll win. Later on, though, the strategy elements come much more into play, and the game takes on a new look as you’re required to contemplate whether or not each move will benefit you in the long-run. Will moving your tank right there really help? Do you take the risk of taking a shortcut through the forest, even if there may be an ambush waiting? What if your tank is stuck away from a base and needs to refuel by breaking through an enemy line? It’s the little situations like that which separate this game from similar titles, and which will make it so much fun for the tactical thinkers to play.

If I have one big complaint about the amount of thinking and strategy involved, it’s that this game takes forever. Battles constantly go on and on, often much longer than you anticipated. It’s not a huge problem for most games, but on a handheld, it can be a hindrance.

One of the main draws of the DS is the casual-friendliness of most games; Panzer Tactics is definitely not something catering to that crowd. The gameplay and intricacies of the game will probably only be appreciated (and learned) by veteran strategy gamers, so if you’re looking for a title for your young son to enjoy after he’s finished beating Pokemon, look elsewhere. If you want a deep, tactical strategy game to give your DS countless hours of play, then this is your game.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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