Friday, January 20, 2012

Unity of Command: Review Part Two

Did you read part I?

In the future I think I will wait until I am ready to write a complete review, but that is too late for Unity of Command. It was my first review and I wanted to get something down. I do have some more thoughts about the game.

I wish moving the mouse to the edge of the map scrolled it. It is mildly annoying having to use the arrow keys to scroll the map when I have been conditioned in other games to move the mouse to the edge of the screen.

The variety of units seems a little small and there isn't much differentiation between them. For example, a Germain Mountaineer gets one extra movement over German Infantry. The movement bonus isn't only in mountainous or difficult terrain. Also, they don't get any type of attack or defensive bonus when fighting in the mountains. I do enjoy being able to attach specialists to units to customize their usage. Again, I wish there was a little more variety as it is an enjoyable part of the game.

I do like a challenge and each scenario has made me take my time and think about each and every move. This is good, but I’m not a big fan having to replay scenarios to unlock parts of the game because when I do win it feels a little cheap. It is like a do over and makes the game seem more puzzle-like.
Since I expect the end game to get really tough, I feel like I need to hoard my prestige until the end, and need to try and win without using it. Then and only then do I start to use the prestige. This feels like playing a game instead of pretending I am on an actual military campaign, and it takes something away from the experience. It isn’t the challenge or difficulty that turns me off, just how the difficulty is ‘enforced’. I have been pretty fortunate in that it has only taken 1-3 tries for the most part to get a decisive victory. I would be getting frustrated and bored if I had to replay a scenario 10 times so wasn’t locked out of the next one.

I think I would prefer an approach that allows the player to make his best attempt at a scenario, live with the results and move on without being locked out of parts of the game. Perhaps you are given a scenario score based on how fast you achieve the objectives and how many casualties you suffer. Maybe the prestige limit is more generous, but when you use prestige it lowers your score. That way you analyze the scenario and play like it is for real. Use what you think is necessary, not afraid to use any prestige, but only try and use what you need. It is also a built in difficulty setting. People who don’t do so well can use a lot of prestige to win the scenario, but get a poor score. Perhaps when you get to the end of the campaign, you get a war summary. If you used too much prestige and / or had too many casualties you are informed that you put too much strain on the war machine and while you won the battles, your personal successes caused your side to lose the war.

The tight time constraints put me on edge while playing and is really much of the basis for the difficulty of the game. It feels a little contrived. I appreciate the desire to create a challenging game, but I think there has to be a more enjoyable way then time constraints.

Update 1/28/2012
So far I'm finding the Soviet campaign a little bit easier, but still challenging. It could be that after playing so many scenarios I see things a little more clearly.
Overall this is an enjoyable game, providing a good challenge without being impossible. Brilliant victories are very hard to achieve, but decisive victories are within reason. With careful planning I have been able to get decisive or brilliant victories within 1-3 tries, with some scenarios needing a little more effort.  The UI is very good at making the necessary information available, but can be improved in a couple areas I mentioned above. Having different assets available in the scenarios provides a bit of variety. After taking some time to plan your initial strategy the turns play out fairly quickly. Unity of Command is a must buy if you enjoy a good turn-based strategy game.
A- (Excellent)


  1. Thanks for the review Rob, and good luck with your site in the future. We're proud UoC was to be your first review here.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Tomislav and I can't wait to see what is next from 2×2!

  3. Thanks for the review Rob. Despite your scoring of the game, I don't want to buy it. A few things you mention are putting me off.

    For one, the contrived time limitations has always been a real pain in wargames. I do understand the need for limits. For example, in certain scenarios something may need to be captured by a specific time or date. However, to limit every scenario in a wargame to a move limit is too artificial. I assume that's how this game works? The thing is, the devs see all while they set up a scenario and come up with a turn/time limit based on tweaking the scenario until it plays "right". To me, this kind of manipulation merely means a game plays more linearly than it otherwise would and defeats the object of playing a wargame. If it feels contrived, the suspension of disbelief becomes impossible and I find myself trying to beat the game mechanics than the opfor.

    I read recently there's no air war in this game. Is this correct? I notice you don't mention it in your review.

    The graphics and gui look wonderful and it's almost exactly the sort of game I love to play. But, with predefined deployment and troop choices, the thought of replaying a scenario I didn't win doesn't really appeal. Nor does the prestige issue, which again, feels like an artificial limitation placed on the player to get around what really is a limitation of the game itself.


  4. Hi Leaston,
    I do agree with your sentiments about turn limits, but in reality it seems like there would always be some type of time-based goal for achieving objectives (i.e. capture a town before reinforcements can be brought in, capture supplies before we run out, etc). For a game, I think the problem is when the time constraints are always too tight, creating a constant pressure to always press forward. If I remember correctly, achieving a normal victory wasn't that difficult, but the brilliant victories were. I also think it wasn't until the end of the campaign where a brilliant victory was needed to progress.

    There is now a demo so you can try the game. I really recommend you give it a shot:

    There are no air units, but in some scenarios you got some abstracted air strikes.

    While troops are already deployed, you can use prestige to attach brigades to some units to customize them in some of the scenarios. This does give you some control over their abilities and where you want to beef up your firepower.

    I don't enjoy replaying scenarios and I didn't have a problem with this game. I beat the scenarios within 1-3 tries, many times on the first try. If you obsess over maximizing your score (which I didn't) replaying the scenarios may become an issue, but if you focus on victory it shouldn't be too bad - especially if you have experience playing games of this genre. I'm pretty sure you can play every scenario separate from the campaign too so you don't get locked out of content.

    Again, try the demo and see if the above issues make the game undesirable to you.

  5. Hi Rob,

    Many thanks for the reply, much appreciated.

    I take your point about the need for limits due to the objective targets and it often works ok if the design team spend enough time working out the balance. My moan was a general one about turn based wargames. It would just be nice to have even one or two scenarios where you could take longer than the set "15 turns" without being penalised or failing. It would be great to be able to use your own tactics instead of the ones you seem to be forced to use by the designer in order to complete the scenario in a set number. For example, you're to take a VP and hold it. If you're forced to do this within x number of turns, it usually means you end up following a very specific set of actions rather than using creativity and invention of your own, in order to win. If you deviate from the ideas the devs expect you to use to beat their setup, you simply won't. I'm still not sure I'm explaining that well :)

    Air strikes are better than nothing. I didn't know it had anything resembling air, so that's a bonus.

    Using the prestige to customise the troop deployment is useful, but as you mention in the review, it's something you feel reluctant to use due to the penalties in scoring. It would be nice to have the option of having a set amount to "spend" on troops for the scenario or going with the default chosen by the designer. That would give the grogs (which I'm not) more of a challenge. Being able to deploy on the map according to where you want to place troops is another thing I prefer. I know, I'm very picky hehe! I really can understand the thinking behind prestige, but don't like it used in this way.

    I realise I sound like I'm bashing the game for the sake of it, but I'm not doing that on purpose. For the record, I have bought many games from Matrix over the years and have a lot of respect for them as publishers. It's just that I'm disappointed that certain aspects of the game feel like they're dumbing it down.

    As Matrix rarely provide a demo, I hadn't even thought about looking for one, so it's great to hear they did this time!! I'm going to grab a copy tonight to give it a whirl.

    Thanks again Rob.


  6. Hi Leaston,

    I understand what you're saying about the turn limits and I agree for the most part. It would be nice for the scenario to define what resources you have to work with and lets that be the limitation and provider of the challenge instead of an arbitrary time limit.

    Also agree that it would be nice to have some 'free' prestige to use to customize the troops. Even the developer stated that the prestige system is the one thing that has received the most complaints and he wished he did something different in that area.

    You're not being too picky or bashing the game. We each have aspects of games that we like and don't like. I haven't been too crazy about some games that a lot of others like (Torchlight, Tropico 4). Hopefully the demo gives you a good picture of what to expect and you can tell if it is a game for you. Good luck!

  7. Bit late too the party :) But 8 months after this review i finally purchased after trying the demo, i am more of a flight simmer but do like a good strategy/tactical type game and this fits nicely.

    Everything to be said has been said above really but i think a more scaleable options list could solve the whole prestige/dv/bv and turn limit part of the game. Have an easy, medium and Grognard level. Something where we could set no turn limit for the scenario in a campaign or simply extended turn limit for easy and scale it down from there. To me that could be an option gets new 'wargamers' in the door.

    I could see some easily frustrated by the fact they may never get a BV and playing a mission more than 5 or so times can just be too frustrating for them, especially in this day and age where a new app or shiny object is out every ten minutes :)

    Good review and fair Rob. Its a neat little game and done well for what it is.

  8. Better late than never Hetstaine! I think your idea would ease some of the frustration some players will feel. I believe the DLC eases the difficulty as far as the time limits go. I still need to fire it up. My backlog of games got too big and some good games are still sitting in it.

    I'm glad your enjoying Unity of Command as Tomislav did a great job with it.

  9. Also late to the party (though been thinking about this game for a few months, back into late 2012). The one comment I would add about time constraints is that most developers (and I think this group) are trying to incorporate historical realism into the game. Were this just some vague Red vs Blue type wargame, then perhaps no time limit would matter, but since they are trying to replicate the war on the Eastern Front, and a very limited aspect of that war, well time matters.

    Once the Germans made the decision to head to Stalingrad (dubious choice at best), then they were "on the clock" about getting it done before General Winter showed up again. Thus, a game that is attempting to represent that in an operational theater format must include time. If not, then they could allow the Axis player to take as long as possible, but at the end, they would suddenly announce "you lose because you took too long and now winter has set in, and the Russians counterattack in overwhelming numbers." :)

    If time limits are a frustration, then those gamers should tackle the larger strategic games like the Hearts of Iron series where the entire war becomes their concern. In those type games, there are typically no time constraints because there aren't any necessarily historical specific victories to achieve other then overall success for their nation.