The games in the strategy genre are often considered more “thinking games” and Minecraft is a popular example in this category. Moreover, Minecraft accounts easier and cheaper for teachers as you enjoy the game. They often require more thinking than your average game since you must take into account your units’ capabilities and weaknesses in order to defeat an opponent.
Wargame: European escalation by Eugene Systems, a French Studio, is no exception.
The game sets you as a commander of either a NATO or Warsaw Pact battlegroup composed of 4 nations each (NATO: US, Britain, France, West Germany; Warsaw Pact: USSR, Poland, Czechoslovakia, West Germany) in various campaigns set in the 1970s-1980s in an alternate history of the Cold War. You do not need to know the in’s and out’s of history to fully enjoy this game, though knowing something does help. It can also be a very fast-paced game, as shown by the sheer number of mechanized (vehicular) units. In fact, taking too long and being too thorough or cautious in advancing to an objective can actually make the game more difficult since some events occur based on a timer. It also requires a lot of forethought and quick thinking. When you lose units in one battle, they are removed from your battle group. That is, they will not be available in the next mission. Also adding to the challenge is that there never seems to be enough units available at a certain time. The units themselves range from standard infantry (ground troops) which can ride around the battlefield in lightly armored vehicles (Armored Personnel Carriers, APCs) to tanks, artillery, and even helicopters. In every battle, you have to deploy the units of your battlegroup using a preset amount of “deployment points”. This requires some budgeting and prioritizing (should I deploy 2 tanks, or 1 helicopter, or a bunch of infantry?). The units are fairly balanced, with only a few obviously overpowered units (M1 Abrams, T-80 Tank, “Late-era” attack helicopters, and Special Forces Infantry for example), but those are “expensive” and available in limited numbers so you can’t just spam them for an easy victory. Units also speak to you in their native language when you click on them. There are a lot of units, at least 200 in total, due to the 8 available nations. This leads to some interesting gameplay, though selecting which units to buy can be a challenge due to the very wide range of properties.
For me, the game was kind of difficult. My “style” is very slow, and thorough, which as I’ve said before, the game doesn’t like. There is also no “easy mode” or any difficulty settings. For me, I often got stuck at certain levels for several hours, even a whole day. The game has a plot, though it is quite linear. Accomplishing secondary objectives does not alter the course of the story. The plot is also quite historically driven, but still understandable.
There are still a few bugs in the game. It can be demanding on your hardware at times but the graphics are amazing. You can see every detail on your vehicles. The most annoying bug is where the game only lets you deploy units one at a time because “you have reached a maximum limit” despite having more than enough deployment points. This can get annoying since instead of, for example, 4 tanks deploying at once towards an objective, only 1 tank trickles in at a time, with a considerable gap in between.
I enjoyed this game immensely. I’d say it is definitely worth the $40 price tag. It provides hours of fun and a challenge, and free downloadable content and expansion packs get released quite often. I got it for sale at around $26, though it can be seen every now and then for $10.