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  Panzer General 3D Assault
Preamble...
The WWII conflict has been SSI's meat and potatoes for some time and yet has an appeal that continually brings back gamers time and again. PG3D has given us a new look at this period with a new software engine that might just grab your interest. The 3D approach makes the maps more versatile and attractive. The bloodline goes back to Panzer General and its' sequel, Panzer General II. Both were excellent games that are still relevant to wargamers today. The question needs to be asked though, is PG3D a better game than its predecessors? Read on...

Companyline...

Assault sets the visual and game play standard for turn-based strategy gaming! Play in a 3D environment that is visually dazzling. Forests can burn, cities and airfields can be destroyed and the terrain alters as you crush and conquer your enemies. Your strategic command decisions will determine the power of your forces. Promote, dismiss or reassign your commanders to build the most powerful units in all of WWII. New 3D environment, new game system and totally redesigned interface - it's a killer combination!

Panzer General® 3D Assault Game Features: Fight as the American, British, German, or French forces in multiple campaigns on the Western Front. The new Action Combat System, which allows you to manage your leaders, will make you feel like the most powerful general in all of WWII. Without compromising the depth and playability of it's critically acclaimed predecessor, the new 3D graphics of Panzer General 3D Assault will give you a realistic look-and-feel that is unprecedented in strategy games. The new games system and totally redesigned interface are an outstanding addition to the already famous Panzer General franchise. True 3D with a freely rotating camera and map, as well as a dynamic lightning system. New Headquarters interface allows the player to tailor make an army to fit the upcoming battle. The Action Combat System gives leaders the ability to manipulate individual units and give multiple commands in each turn. The leaders with more promotions have more actions and can perform more effectively. Actions include move, fire, and special orders (entrench, refit, aim, fire, etc). Over 200 3D modeled units and 20 special leader abilities. Fight as the British, American, German or French in 8 campaigns in WII's Western Front, including North Africa. 10 areas of operation provide varied terrain and mission objectives. Simplified and intuitive game system. 30+ additional single and multi-player scenarios. 4 player multi-player.

Product Comparative
Panzer General 3D vs. Panzer General 2

Panzer General 3D 16 Bit Color True 3D Environment. All maps and units are done in 3D and the player can rotate and zoom in on the maps. Forest, cities and even units will burn or leave wrecks. Particle system (3D) based animations. 8 Campaigns based on the West Front. 4 major, 4 minor. Five campaigns are allied, 3 are German. Leader based game provides up to 5 specials derived from unit characteristics. Player Controlled Promotions. The player prior to each battle promotes leaders. The player earns promotions for successful completion of a scenario. New Action Combat System. Action-based, allows a leader to give multiple commands to his unit in each turn. Advanced order system. Leaders have access to standard (refit, resupply, entrench, etc.) and veteran orders (Blitz Attack, Out of The Sun, Bombardment, etc.) 60+ additional single and multi-player scenarios. Requires the presence of a special video card in the owner's computer.

Panzer General II :8-Bit Graphics 16 Hand Painted 2D maps. Simple 2D firing animations. 5 Campaigns in Europe. Unit based game with only two random specials. Units gain experience during combat and thus not controlled by a player. Each unit can move and fire once in a turn. 50+ additional single and multi-player maps. Requires a standard video card.

Gameplay...

So how is PG3D any different compared to the previous versions? Well...there is the rotating map that allows you to change the horizontal perspective. Because occasionally units will be hidden behind other units like aircraft, you can swivel the map to better view your position. The Zoom feature is something that helps somewhat but is limited with its scope. The special FX is what really grabbed my attention with making PG3D. Badly damaged units will smoke and burn. Hit them enough and they will explode in a ball of fire. Aircraft wheel through the sky, vehicles make dust trails, paratroopers float to the earth on parachutes as well as many other little effects. The sound effects are very nice with rumbling tanks, aircraft droning across the sky, anti-aircraft pumping away (but I saw no bursts in the sky!) and the explosions of the destroyed unit.

The movies are more like slide shows with voiceovers and little video clips occasionally inserted. Getting into the game itself brings you up to the main menu with a selection of options. Tutorial, single scenario, campaign and multiplayer are all available. But no scenario or campaign editor. Picking a scenario or campaign brings you to the description screen where you can set difficulty with a wide range of options. There are 4 full sized Major campaigns, 4 Minor campaigns and at least 20 scenarios (not including what you can download from the Net) for you to bite into. I typically started with a 2 star general, which limited me somewhat but gave me excellent gameplay with a range of difficulty. Then it’s on to the Headquarters screen where you assemble your army. I strongly suggest constructing a combined arms army to be able to deal with your enemy opponents. The Motor pool tent contains all the units relevant to that time period (so you won't see a Me262 in 1941). I generally go through the various stats of units to see which one is more powerful or will be able to assist other units during battle. The Leaders pool allows you to draw personnel to lead the various units available. There are a number of slots available to put new leaders into though you may have some in place already that cannot be removed (historical?). Once you assign the equipment/unit to a leader, you may be able to promote that leader to greater capability. During the course of battle, leaders will receive commendations that give the Leader Specials. My opinion is that you should promote one leader in each class to a 2-slot position at least. The most important Leaders I believe are the Tank, Bomber, Recon and Artillery. This will give you certain advantages with Leaders who have greater movement and more specials. The others should be brought up to speed when you have improved these previous units (IMHO). I found the Headquarters screen an impressive part of PG3D that allowed me to change leaders and make up armies in anticipation of upcoming conflicts.

After you have put together your force, it's on to the scenario itself. Place the units on the assigned map spots and it's off to the races. You can use Recon units to spot the enemy or fighters with their 'eagle eyes'. Move in bombers and artillery to bombard positions and then go to assault. Settle in with some entrenchment and wait for the counterattack. I noticed the AI had some patterns that helped me anticipate moves. If they were spotted, most times they would engage and then retreat. Unspotted units seem to retreat to primary or secondary objectives. Though this may not always be the case, it happened fairly often. When you come into range of an enemy unit, their hex will turn red and when your cursor is over them, you will see combat cursor. This supplies info on the likely outcome of a battle. This does not take into account the likelihood of support fire from unspotted units though. The start off the next turn may bring into account a new factor-weather. This affects your air units, as so far as if it is raining, they are mostly useless (great time to resupply or refit). Some air units are all weather but with limited effectiveness. As you capture objectives, you make get commendations, new leaders, prototype equipment, promotions, and other things to sweeten the pot. You will have only so many turns to capture the primary objectives (and hold them!) but if you manage to, you can continue to rout the enemy for an improved score as well as being awarded extra leaders and equipment. If you notice that one or more of your units is starting to smoke, its time to refit them so that they may survive. Play safe and win in the long run. The campaign scenarios run for the most part in Europe and North Africa but I have managed to take Rommel to the USA for a truly fierce battle

If you never want to play a human opponent (multiplayer), then I suggest creating a savegame system. I typically named the savegames after the leading general in a numbered series (e.g. Rommel1, Rommel2, etc) and saved at the beginning of each turn. This way if you badly blunder, you can go back to the beginning of the turn. In the case of multiplayer though, you cannot savegame and so if you do not put a good strategy in place with good tactics, you will likely lose.

The manual is very typical of SSI. Nicely laid out for the most part with appropriate graphics to explain the various screens. I suggest closely examining the Leader Specials as well as the Command Orders to exploit the various capabilities of your units.

Multiplayer is an animal I haven't managed to tackle (I'm still trying to complete some of the major campaigns and I have a modem line only so will likely experience some bad lag). PG3D is LAN capable or TCP/IP (Mplayer for one). You can host or join and may be either Axis or Allies.

The Bottom Line...

PG3D is right up there with its parents. Being turn-based makes it a thought engaging game. The animation is extremely nice and adds lots to the ambience of the WWII conflict. The versatility of the Leaders system is complex enough to produce an in-depth army but not so you have to refer to the manual for every move. The accuracy is pretty much what I expect from a company like SSI-excellent.

There seem to be some misunderstandings about leaders and slots among players who currently have the game. Each scenario in campaigns has a given number of slots available. The previous scenario may have given you a number of promotions (some on the battlefield) that may make you exceed the slots available. The game will remove the leaders necessary to bring you down to the acceptable number of leaders and slots. Leaders with 1-4 stars need one slot, 5-7 stars need 2 slots and 8-10 needs 3. So those promotions may limit the number of units you can field.

The downsides are pretty well small and do not really impact the game to any degree. The zoom feature could have used a bit more range. At least twice as much as currently available.

Scenarios seem to be offensive only (I have played many) and if you are the Wehrmacht, there should be some that are defensive/hold positions. But then this may be due to the fact that I usually got a major or minor victory in the previous scenario which kept me on the offensive (might have to lose one to see if the game switches AI to offensive). I also miss the Eastern Front that had huge battles on the Russian Steppes as well as the truly Eastern front- the Pacific (hey-why not!).

The preview map is very limited as it shows only the tiles with no info about which is the objective(s) and names of each. The strategy map should be available as well. This should be addressed in a patch. In addition, I noticed seams in the map that made it look somewhat patched but only slightly noticeable at points.

The savegame system is not the best I have seen. The biggest hang-up is the lack of being able to write a description of the save. This is cumbersome if you tend to save a lot. And as I said before, no editor.

The Diamond Viper V770 appears to have some problems with the DirectX drivers and you must make sure yours is current.

So in the end I have to say is that SSI scored big on this new addition to the General series and have managed to keep the intense interest of discerning wargamers worldwide.

Review ID Number: 185
  Product Details
SSI
Review Date: 2001-04-20
Reviewer: Nick Sardy
Rating: 8 out of 10
 
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