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War Mongrels Review – Real-Time Tactics

War Mongrels is an isometric WWII real-time tactics game developed by Destructive Creations and can be played single player or online co-op. The game originally released on PC in October 2021, and I did play the game at release. I enjoyed the premise of the game and graphically it was fantastic, but it was plagued with bugs that would make me lose 30+ minutes of gameplay, so I parked it for a while. In September 2022, Destructive Creations released the Polished Edition which added controller support and over 500 tweaks and fixes to the gameplay, so back into the fray I went, and it certainly feels like a better gameplay experience.

Taking place on the eastern front of World War II and focuses on the darker side of the war, the story follows two Wehrmacht soldiers, Manfred and Ewald, who end up defecting and taking up arms against their former Nazi comrades. Short introductory videos to each chapter explain the premise of each mission with great illustrations and give good backstory to Manfred and Ewald’s experiences in the war. Ewald is voiced by Doug Cockle (Geralt of Rivia) which was what sparked my initial interest in the game. Despite my love of his voice in any game he’s in, it was a little jarring hearing American voices depicting German soldiers, but I quickly got over that fact and enjoyed the banter between comrades.

If you have played any real time tactics games like Commando, Desperados or Partisans 1941, the gameplay of War Mongrels will feel very similar in that it’s stealthy, difficult, gritty, and you can very quickly find yourself overcome. Each character has a unique set of skills, but both can crouch or crawl to sneak around, both can whistle to attract attention, pick up bodies of soldiers, and sprint if needed. Ewald’s abilities include throwing bottles of alcohol to distract enemies or smash a bottle to be able to take out two enemy soldiers at once. He is also strong enough to punch them out when they are close. Manfred has a pocket watch that he can set the alarm and throw to distract enemies, and he has a knife to dispatch close soldiers quickly.

Enemy units have fields of vision, and they see anything in their line of sight at their level. If there are shrubs or boxes in their field of vision, Manfred and Ewald will be able to crawl past. Each field of vision also has a distance reference. Close to the soldier, you will be seen regardless of your position (unless you find a disguise). Halfway out of the field of vision is represented by diagonal lines. If either soldier is standing up in that area, they will be seen, but they can crawl within that area and not be detected.

Moving around each of the incredibly detailed maps in stealth mode is essential, but not required the whole time. The sound design of explosions is intense but can also be used to mask loud noises you may need to make. You can move the mouse around the area to scout out your plan of attack, and you will need to break your strategy down into smaller goals because there are soldiers everywhere. Each enemy soldier also has a field of sound too where if you make too much noise close to the enemy, even if you’re behind a box or a fence, the enemy soldier will come to investigate.

You can also go into tactical mode which pauses the game, give both characters an instruction, like taking out a guard each, and then execute the plan. This is where I had the most frustration with the game, even with the polished edition, where more often than not, one of the soldiers would just stand up and not actually do what I wanted them to do, or they would run across making noise and spooking the enemy. It was super frustrating, but I am thankful for the regular save points, so I didn’t lose too much progress.

At certain points in a mission, both soldiers will be able to pick up weapons, and there are sections, usually close to the end of each mission, where you can afford to go guns blazing. Rather than have simple mechanics of shooting every couple of seconds, you can go into combat mode by pressing ‘C’ and use WSAD to move your soldiers around with precision aiming to take out soldiers quickly. Using weapons was usually a last resort as I often died as soon as I tried to use them. There would often be a soldier or two that I forgot about through the level that will hear the fire and come running.

In each mission there are some fun ways to take out enemy soldiers, if you have the patience to get to them. There was one mission that had a truck propped up getting repaired. In the path of the vehicle was a group of four soldiers sitting around a table chatting. It was clear that if I could get to the truck, I could push it so it would run down the four soldiers. However, to get to it, there were half a dozen soldiers I would need to despatch first. It’s an optional thing to do and you can easily just bypass that whole section, but it’s super rewarding completing these sections. There are also collectibles found around the map areas that give more insight into the war stories.

Overall, War Mongrels is an excellent real-time tactics game with an engaging and gritty story in incredibly detailed environments. Having unique abilities for each character gave you multiple ways to achieve the objectives and diversified the gameplay enough to not get tedious. If you played the game at release and had a buggy time, I urge you to give the game another chance as it has been improved immensely. There were still some niggling control issues, but none that were game-breaking.

This review utilised a key provided by the developers and War Mongrels is available now on Steam and Epic Games Store, with console editions coming in Q1 2023.


Written by: @ChrisJInglis

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