Eugen and Paradox have released their second piece of premium DLC for Steel Division: Normandy ‘44. This time rather alarmingly titled: Back to Hell. We’ve been a tad tardy with our coverage on this one, but in this humble writer’s opinion, if you’re in the market for buying just one Steel Division add-on (out of the two available), this is the one you want.
Perhaps the most significant addition in Back to Hell is the arrival of a variety of co-op missions. For those like myself who often find multiplayer more than a little bit frustrating after the rigours of real life, co-op missions against the AI are very welcome indeed. Eight missions are included: Two are single player versus single player actions, five allow for two people to team up together and for those blessed with numerous friends or clanmates there is a single three versus three scenario as well. Nor are these missions a copy and paste of the game’s multiplayer mode either (which the previous game mode added post release felt like). Instead, there are a variety of objectives, depending upon the scenario. The most memorable one for example is based upon the famous fighting around Pegasus Bridge on the very first day of Operation Overlord, where your paratroopers must hold until relieved against ever increasing German counter-attacks. At the same time the relieving troops must take a variety of objectives around the map itself as well as supporting the paratroopers inland. For a casual player such as myself, these missions are very challenging indeed!
The flexibility of these missions is not to be under estimated either. They can be played against the AI from both sides, so in the aforementioned Pegasus Bridge scenario you can play the Germans as well, and furthermore they can be played as full on multiplayer matches with a player commanding each of the divisions involved in the fighting. An ideal place for a group or clan or to relax or train up new players. In keeping with the general character of the fighting in Normandy, it is the Allies who are usually on the offensive in these scenarios, with the Germans holding on by their fingernails with quite inferior troops often being supplemented by heavy armour. Starting with the Germans in these scenarios, if you are new to Steel Division, is recommended, although the hordes of tanks the AI will send at you is not for the faint-hearted.
With all that said, we will admit that it would’ve been nice to see a larger pool of missions available in the scenarios. Whilst the Pegasus Bridge map shows the way with varied objectives and fighting taking place all over the map, the attack/defend nature of other maps means that without a large pool of friends to play head to head with, things can get stale rather quickly. This is even more problematic when you and your playmate aren’t terribly good at the game in the first place! Being absolutely smashed by AI Jagdpanthers that your puny Churchills cannot hope to penetrate can get old after a while.
Eugen continues its marvellous track record of finding the most arcane and ridiculous units to include in new divisions. One wonders when their research team will run out of options for its Frankenstein force pools. We have four divisions (as is traditional by now with Steel Division) included in this DLC. Two are relatively conventional. The famous 7th Armoured (aka the Desert Rats) are here and are perhaps one of the most experienced allied divisions you can use. Their experience in North Africa certainly warrants it, although their performance in Normandy was perhaps less than stellar. Those with a fascination for Fireflies and Mosquitoes will certainly enjoy this deck. Opposite them are the 2. Panzer Division, one of the oldest Panzer divisions in the Wehrmacht, it broadly mirrors the 7th Armoured with plenty of veteran armour. At the same time though there are some quite unique units in its line up as well, most notably the Borgward IV. Anyone who has played Company of Heroes will remember the much-loved Goliath. The Borgward is similar but is roughly the size of a car. We’re very glad to have avoiding being on the receiving end of such an infernal device so far.
The silliness however only really gets started with the two other divisions. These being the Festung Gross-Paris, the formation tasked with garrisoning and defending Paris (and blowing it up if it looked like it would fall to the Allies). Happily, it failed on both counts, but it does not fail to impress when it comes to the ORBAT. As is traditional with German infantry decks it has a ridiculous tank line up of every 1940 Blitzkrieg era French tank under the sun, although this time heavy support comes in the shape of some extremely dangerous big cats. Its air power is supplemented by captured French Dewoitine D.520 and it has on call a 600mm howitzer. Eugen is pretty good when it comes to research and I have absolutely no reason to doubt that this is all accurate for the period.
The hilarity doesn’t end here however. The allies, unwilling to be outdone by the silliness going on around Paris, bring the Demi-Brigade SAS to the party, complete with French Resistance fighters, a captured Jagdpanzer (the nemesis of many an Axis opening game) and the greatest hits of allied airpower. It is perhaps not the best deck for multiplayer, but my goodness is it fun. Those looking for a quite thematic experience (like myself, who likes a game to have a good story as it develops) will appreciate how the division transitions from homegrown partisans to SAS (complete with the iconic SAS jeeps) to the arrival of relieving US armour with all the Shermans, Wolverines and Armoured Rifles one could dream of.
Eugen Systems of late has been going through a bit of a rough patch. The company was currently caught up in an industrial action which has only just ended where they lost perhaps half of the work-force. It seems probable that we won’t be seeing another DLC from Eugen for a while. Nonetheless, Back to Hell provides a good, if not great, number of scenarios and the arrival of much needed co-op missions is a blessing indeed. The new divisions it brings to the table are interesting and continue to show off just how varied the fighting at Normandy was. Perhaps Back to Hell could’ve gone further but suffice to say that it is a worthy addition to the Steel Division line up and the best of its DLCs to date.