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Men of War (MoW) is a very deep, difficult and satisfying RTS that alternates between moments of jubilation and frustration. Co-developed by Digital Mind Soft and Best Way, MoW is based on the early parts of World War 2, allowing players to take control of authentic weapons, infantry and tanks from each side of the conflict. With such control (down to the type, and amount of ammo, fuel or weapons each soldier or tank was carrying) it became an exercise in micromanagement, especially when granted dozens of units to oversee at once. MoW: Assault Squad is one of several stand-alone expansion packs that are on track to be released in the near future.
One of the biggest difficulties (and enjoyable aspects) of the game is that units are not tough. As a stiff breeze can kill your soldiers, it suddenly becomes vitally important that no mistakes can be made. This glaring fact, along with the compounded issue wherein you cannot reinforce outside of scripted sequences makes MoW a brutally painful game. However, when you manage to succeed with such a pathetic force it becomes much more satisfactory and realistic. An early mission in the Soviet campaign in the original shows how expendable troops were when the controllers demand you take a series of fortifications in quick succession. This becomes a problem when you notice that the defenders are heavily entrenched with machine-gun nests and anti-tank guns, and you are given a mass of untrained (some unarmed) conscripts and a few light tanks to finish the job. By all means, it is clear that the designers plan for you to take a leap of faith and try to take the hills with just a sheer amount of bodies. However, when that is complete, looking over the small hill and the sheer amount of blood spilled to make it happen is evident, reinforcements arrive with a few heavy tanks that make the remaining charges a breeze (if you’re careful not to lose one.) At the end you feel like you’ve sacrificed much to make it this far, but you’ve succeeded for the great glory of [insert faction here].
The first expansion, Red Tide, added 20 single-player missions that followed the Soviet naval and marine forces as they battled Italian, Romanian and German forces in the Black Sea. Each faction brings with it authentic equipment, which is often not seen amidst the more popular late-war German and Allied equipment. For a true war nerd, MoW makes it all available for perusal and really does show how those older tanks performed.
Assault Squad is the second stand-alone expansion that puts more of a focus on infantry maneuverings and small unit tactics. For this venture the designers put a lot of effort into dealing with problems from online players, and so Assault Squad also makes a big step towards perfecting and making multiplayer a bigger part of the action. With fifteen single-player maps that are essentially attrition scenarios with varying levels of difficulty (each rated for a combat at least as long as 40 minutes each), this offering is for true veterans only. A bonus is that each map can be played cooperatively online as well with other players, extending the life and entertainment value of the package.
An important thing to note is that for Assault Squad, the developers made sure that problems and outstanding issues people had with the previous incarnations have been dealt with as well as improving the graphics, diversifying unit choices and introducing faction-specific unique units. The game looks fantastic now, with updates to textures, water, explosions making a big difference in the atmosphere of the situation. There are more vehicles, but armored units are more expensive in multiplayer matches in order to discourage their use.
While MoW had a bit of a snafu with Red Tide and a patching problem, the amount of developers in the project have been reduced to Digital Mind Soft alone, in order to streamline production and eliminate hitches that may occur as before. Assault Squad may seem as more of an improvement on the engine than a true expansion, but the sheer replayability of the new skirmish maps should show differently. Men of War: Assault Squad is set to be released digitally and in retail on February 25th, 2011 for Microsoft Windows.