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Men of War II Review – Tactical, Brutal and Challenging

Men of War II is a WWII RTS game, sequel to the 2009 original Men of War, and the original Ukrainian development team of Best Way are back with publisher Fulqrum Publishing. The game launches on May 15, 2024, on PC which coincides with the 10th anniversary of Men of War: Assault Squad 2 and carves a fine niche in the genre for players who crave a historically accurate portrayal of World War II battles. While it boasts an impressive array of new features, it did take me a while to find my boots and get my head around all the new systems and UI elements. Thankfully there are some great and in-depth tutorials which I recommend you start with even if you’re a veteran of the genre.

One of Men of War II’s defining strengths lies in its exceptional unit direct control. Unlike many RTS games where units function in squads, here you can directly control any soldier individually or split a squad to flank from two angles. This allows for intricate maneuvers and tactical decisions, and you feel in total control of the battlefield. You can order individual soldiers to lie prone, take cover behind walls or trees, scout ahead, flank enemies, or unleash suppressing fire while other troops move forward. Mastering this micromanagement is key to outsmarting your opponent and achieving victory, and I struggled a lot at first.

I completed the first four tutorials which covered control basics, spawning troops, supply drops and basic infantry movement, of which it highlights individual and squad movement. While I succeeded in each mission, it wasn’t without some casualties by leaving some soldiers in the open or by not totally understanding the instructions and just brute force charging ahead. I figured I had enough know-how to at least complete the first single player campaign mission. Yeah, nah, I got slaughtered. I placed my soldiers in the wrong positions sending whole squads to attack a position, and I didn’t anticipate the firing range differences between infantry, tanks, and other units. Restarting and using smaller groups to scout and move netted a much better result. Again, I recommend spending some time going over the tutorials, they’re very well presented, and they give rewards such as units for battalion matches as well.

Men of War II launches with three playable nations – Soviets, Americans, and the Third Reich – each with their own narrative campaign, as well as two further Historical campaigns, a dynamic Conquest campaign, and a skirmish-like Raid mode that throws you into various scenarios with specific objectives. All the single-player content can also be played in co-op with up to five players which is awesome, and the game offers extensive PvP and PvE multiplayer options, including ranked matchmaking for all three battle setups (Battalions, Combined Arms, and Classic Mode). I played some campaign missions co-op, but we didn’t give proper multiplayer a test given our Aussie timezone.

As you push forward in the campaign missions, you start with some predetermined units depending on the phase of the story. Over time you will unlock the ability to call in additional units, starting with first echelon soldiers needing command points to deploy. They’re limited and can reinforce your depleted forces and bolster your push forward. Later on you can call in larger units like tanks and resupply trucks in echelons 2 and 3. I usually took 2-3 attempts for each mission as I would start off too gun-ho, and remembering how punishing the enemy AI can be. A well-placed grenade or tank shot can blow up my well-planned tactics, often when I had moved the camera further afield to work out my next steps. It’s brutal but always a learning experience and I never got frustrated with lack of troops or resources either.

Men of War II boasts extensive multiplayer options, allowing players to compete against each other (PvP) or work together against the AI (PvE). Ranked matchmaking ensures balanced competition across three distinct battle setups: Battalions, Combined Arms, and Classic Mode. If you want to enjoy a different multiplayer experience, there are specific lobby bound modes like Tanks Only or asymmetric ones such as Incursion, as well as many settings you can alter to your liking. A custom lobby can also be used to play any multiplayer content in effectively singleplayer using AI bots. But again we didn’t try multiplayer during the review period so we are looking forward to having a crack post-launch.

Visually, Men of War II shines with highly detailed environments and unit models and you can zoom the camera in close to the action or zoom out for a more commander view. The game supports high resolution and boasts impressive visual effects, bringing the brutality and chaos of war to life. I am using a 2019 spec PC with an RTX3080 12GB GPU and I experienced some stuttering in some missions. I am unsure if I was playing with an early review build, but hopefully it runs a bit better at launch for me. My mates will tell you I have a potato PC, so this is hopefully just a ‘me’ problem. The sounds, however, are sharp and gunfire hectic when everything goes FUBAR.

The battlefields of Men of War II are far from static environments. Buildings crumble under artillery fire, tanks leave deep treads in the mud, and entire forests can be set ablaze. This level of destructibility adds some dynamic layers to the game, keeping you on your toes and ensuring you are aware of all possibilities depending on where you place your forces. Destruction also plays a role in cover and concealment – a well-placed shot can open up a flanking route or turn a sturdy building into smoldering ruins. Units can barricade themselves in buildings and this increases their defense and short-range power.

Further enhancing the realism, Men of War II features a meticulously detailed ballistics system.  Weapon effectiveness depends on factors like range, angle of impact, and armor penetration. A well-aimed shot from an anti-tank rifle can turn the tide of battle, while a squad charging headfirst into a hail of machine gun fire will meet a swift demise. This depth in combat simulation caters to players who enjoy the strategic puzzle of positioning units and exploiting weaknesses, and for those that are full bottle on WWII weaponry and technologies used.

With all this realism and precision unit control, it can get overwhelming, particularly for novice RTS players. I call myself a decent RTS player and came from playing a heap of Company of Heroes 3, I still struggled early learning the tutorials and unit control, particularly moving across open areas to cover. I lost a heap of infantry in the first few missions, so I went back to tutorials and tried to learn new tactics. This is not a negative point, I appreciate the learning process and enjoyed when my tactics finally clicked. Newcomers may also struggle to grasp the intricacies of squad tactics, resource management, and the sheer number of units and equipment at their disposal. The game doesn’t shy away from complexity, and mastering it takes dedication and perseverance, but it is well worth it for the immersive WWII battles.

Inventory management was one thing that I didn’t expect from an RTS game, but it makes total sense when you complete the tutorials. It can feel cumbersome at first, especially when equipping soldiers and managing their inventories. Despite the learning curve, it was pretty damn cool setting up ammo huts and fuel depots, covering them with camo and refueling the troops and tanks ready for the next big push into enemy territory. You really do feel like a battlefield commander with an overview of the entire battle, plotting your next moves and gaining tactical advantage to bring victory to your lads.

Overall, Men of War II is an outstanding WWI RTS experience for players who enjoy a high degree of tactical control and historical accuracy. The detailed environments, destructible battlefields, and refined direct unit control create a unique and immersive World War II experience. The learning curve is steep at times, but persistence pays off to create some awesome battlefield encounters, especially in co-op. If you’re a seasoned RTS player looking for a deep challenge and a chance to hone your tactical skills in a historically accurate setting, Men of War II is a game worth exploring. Casual players and newcomers to the genre are definitely going to want to hit the tutorials first to get an understanding of all the movements and UI elements.

This review utilised Steam keys provided by Stride PR and Men of War II releases May 15, 2024, on Steam and Epic Games Store. All players who purchase the game before May 22nd will receive the Frontline Hero Pack for free.


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