Despite World War II being the monumental event that it was, you may well be thinking that it’s been covered more than enough in various media, whether it’s books, films or video games. Infact, it’s been a similar length of time since Order of Battle: World War II was originally released on PC compared to how long the real war went on. To be clear, this isn’t a new game.
However, it is new to Xbox, and there is a raft of DLC available which shows the commitment to the game from developers The Aristocrats. The odd thing is that the game is still free to play on PC. That version includes the Boot Camp campaign as well as the first mission of each DLC pack, in an attempt to whet your whistle for a little more retro warfare.
On Xbox, the base game includes the Boot Camp and Blitzkrieg scenarios along with the first chapter of each of the DLC campaigns, but will cost you £16.74. Unfortunately, the numerous multiplayer modes and in-depth scenario editor haven’t made it into the Xbox version from the PC. That seems a bit steep to me, especially as each DLC pack can cost you anywhere from £8.39 to £16.74. As a result, if you want the whole experience it’ll cost you well over £100.
Anyhow, Order of Battle: World War II is clearly aimed at strategy fans who are after a deeply authentic and detailed experience. The game has been extensively expanded in its lifetime, and now boasts over 1400 different unit types, 200 scenarios to play through and 15 DLC packs which altogether provide hundreds of hours of gameplay.
It’s a turn-based strategy game that plays out over land, sea and air. Some battles will have you fighting across all three planes, whilst other scenarios will focus on one area exclusively. However, every battle is a slow paced, tactical affair which will suit some players down to the ground, but jar with others. It’s a bit of a Marmite situation in all honesty.
But for those players it appeals to, Order of Battle: World War II ticks pretty much all the boxes. Each scenario also tells a story, signposting historical events as you play using newsflashes complete with stock photos. You’ll have the opportunity to play as allied and axis factions, across numerous key events from the second world war. Hex-based unit movement allows for tactical placement of your troops, and each has hit points which you will need to manage to successfully implement your attack strategy.
The game also employs a supply system which is crucial for your units to remain fully operational. One of the keys to victory is using supply units to feed your army and establish a presence in enemy territory, whilst aiming to break the supply lines of your opponent. I must admit, I found it confusing at times when some of my units were cut off from their supply, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why or how to fix it. It took a while for the penny to drop.
As you play, you will unlock commanders who can be attached to certain units in order to gain unique bonuses which will buff them. When you complete scenarios, you will also earn specialization points which can be used to boost your army in all sorts of ways, such as increasing attacking and movement capabilities. Learning how to successfully use and combine the various different ways to gain the upper hand in battles is key to tipping the scales of victory in your favour.
If you lose units during skirmishes, you can purchase and reinforce your army using funds that you earn as you play. You also bring your army with you through the campaign, which is a novel idea but again doubles down on the realism of the experience on offer. However, in the same vein if you lost a scenario in said campaign, you’ll be starting from the very beginning (unless you thought ahead and saved your progress so you can load it back up again).
The big question with any PC game which comes to console is how well the controls translate. Here they are clunky, but work well enough once you get used to them. You can also click down on the left thumbstick to centre the cursor on your screen, which is much more useful than it sounds.
Order of Battle: World War II looks pretty good if truth be told, even if many of the battlefields look similar and fall into the island coastline setting. Detailed landscapes and unit designs help to set the scene and are backed up with a great set of authentic sound effects which punctuate the battles perfectly. It all adds to that sense of gritty authenticity for which the game is already known for.
Of course, the single player campaigns are the main substance of Order of Battle: World War II on Xbox and the AI is pretty clever on the whole. However, occasionally it will get stuck when thinking about how to move, meaning you’ll need to exit out and start again. The good news is that the autosave feature means you won’t lose much progress if this happens.
Order of Battle: World War II is a rich, detailed and authentic experience suitable for historic strategy fans, with enough DLC to keep them busy for weeks. There’s nothing here to tempt newcomers to the genre however – this is a game solely aimed at its target audience.
Take to the muddied battlegrounds in Order of Battle: World War II on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One