I have been trying to like Soviet Corps (SC) – an expansion DLC for Panzer Corps – Wehrmacht (PC), released back in February – enough to recommend it wholeheartedly, as I would the rest of the series: the Grand Campaigns, Allied Corps, Afrika Korps, Operation Sea Lion, and (albeit with similar reservations) U.S. Corps. Unfortunately, the campaign suffers from uneven gameplay and drab written English (I cannot comment either way for the included French or German versions).
The campaign game begins with the battle of “Khalkhin-Gol”, a seldom-visited clash on the Soviet Far Eastern Front against the Japanese. Following that, a quick victory over Poland, then a reasonably tough struggle vs. the Finns in the “Winter War”, the player is sent to Minsk amidst reports that, despite the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Germans appear to be ‘planning something’.
What’s Not to Like…?
While veteran players of Panzer Corps may find the first couple of scenarios easy – I did, even on ‘Field Marshal’ Difficulty – the difficulty ramps enormously once the player faces German forces commencing in “Bialystok-Minsk”. Winning suddenly no longer seems possible…
While being put on the defensive after only two or three battles where your AI opponent was totally out-matched may be a welcome change for some, I found it very frustrating; especially so if one is used to – and prefers – the offensive tactics required for most of the rest of the series. It’s simply no fun to watch helplessly as your air force is shot out of the sky while your poor grunts are overrun and annihilated; it may be ‘historical’, but No Fun. When mission objectives suddenly change, it’s invariably too late – or would be, if one didn’t have foreknowledge from having already repeated this scenario several times…
In any case, I hesitate to base a review solely on the experience of two or three scenarios – so I won’t!
While getting out of “Bialystok-Minsk” with a loss does not end one’s career, as it often does with other scenarios in the campaign game of SC and others in the PC series, this time it has dire ‘consequences’. Often one is left with a choice between taking a nice vacation in Siberia or shooting oneself – or not even a choice, just one or the other, depending how much of a hangover your commissar has that day.
Although doubtless meant to be amusing, these admonitions didn’t come across as humourous to me, just silly and immersion-breaking. Some threats are delivered via the ‘briefings’ offered before each scenario, but the abuse continues even after wins. Though it may be again historical – given the Soviet political commissar system in WWII – I found it pointless and even insulting: “Hey, I just won that battle! And last month I was the greatest general since Hannibal. No, wait… He lost…”
Aside from threats, many offer little information or ‘atmosphere’ beyond something resembling, ‘Get it done! Oh, and the dirty Huns are bad’. Really? I don’t profess to be a WWII scholar, but I’m pretty sure the Soviets did not refer to the Germans as “filthy Huns” in WWII. (Or the Russian-language equivalent. “Fricove” and “Fritz” or “Fritzy” were a couple of terms I Googled; not sure how much faith I’d put in their accuracy, however.)
Topping it all, poor English – spelling, grammatical, punctuation errors – especially of the de-briefings, give an overall appearance of ‘placeholders’, where a scenario designer whose first language is not English made notes for a writer to expand upon. While the initial pre-battle briefings are decently voiced-over in an authentic-sounding Russian accent, the remainder are so blunt and bland that I found myself losing interest, especially putting up with the unwarranted abuse – a total failure of engagement, in my opinion.
The Bottom Line…
The above issues detract from what is otherwise an commendable entry into the PC family. Comprising expected battles such as the sprawling clash of armour at Prokhorovka/Kursk, to urban street-fights in Stalingrad and Berlin, players who persevere through the entire campaign can finish with a choice between a ‘surprise’ attack on the Western Allies or an invasion of Japanese-held Manchuria. Presumably, the former will assert Soviet dominance over Europe – as well as obviate a future Cold War! However, getting this choice assumes a Triumph (now replacing ‘Decisive Victory’, while ‘Marginal’ has been dropped from Marginal Victory, although I don’t see why).
Getting there, however, will take more patience and time than I possess, more so to wade through thin justifications for such naked aggression like, ‘making them pay’ and ‘destroying the capitalist pigs’. It may suffice for those who just want to get on with a battle, but as part of a campaign ‘logically’ building to conclusion… It just doesn’t do it for me.
None of the prior entries in the PC family left me feeling this… cold, and without much desire to play again – not a campaign, anyway. The scenarios in Soviet Corps represent thin rays of light in an otherwise cloudy sky, especially “Kursk” and “Second Battle of Kharkov”; like the Battle of the Bulge, one cannot fight Kursk/Kharkov too often! Try the theoretical “Western Europe” as well, especially if you like tanks! You can also design your own scenarios – or play others’, of which there are plenty. Still, one can always get Soviet Corps to simply complete one’s Panzer Corps collection as well.
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