Men of War: Assault Squad 2 – Cold War Review

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Men of War: Assault Squad 2 – Cold War. A name that is now as disappointing as it was confusing. What is it? A DLC? A full game on its own, right? Wouldn’t that just be Men of War 3?

It is quite the mouthful of a name to be honest. And keeping in mind that it has the same name as its predecessor, Men of War: Assault Squad 2, I will refer to this game as Cold War from now on when comparing the two games. And oh boy, will we be doing a ton of comparison work here.

I am Retroark, here today to bring you Men at War: Assault Squad 2 – Cold War. So let’s dive in, shall we?

Specs

MinimumRecommendedUsed
  • OS: 64-bit: Windows® 7,8,10 (latest updates)
  • Processor: Core i7-4790k
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Direct X 11 Compatible
  • HDD: 15 GB
  • OS: 64-bit: Windows® 10 (latest updates)
  • Processor: Core i7-4790k
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Direct X 12 Compatible
  • HDD: 15 GB
  • OS: 64-bit: Windows® 10 (latest updates)
  • Processor: Core i7-4790k
  • Memory: 32 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB)

The Game

I love RTS games. Among the many pillars that make up the tower of PC gaming, the RTS genre is one of the oldest, strongest pillars that exists. These games are truly the greatest example of the power the mouse and keyboard gives you in gaming. However, that is not where I started out in RTS gaming. My first true RTS game was a fantastic little game called Goblin Commander: Unleash the Horde.

Since then, I have sunk countless hours into games across the RTS gaming spectrum. Games like Total War, XCOM, Company of Heroes, Starcraft and many, many more. I even dabble in DOTA 2 from time to time, a game with some rather heavy RTS elements depending on the character. But out of all the games and their similarities and differences, Men of War has held a special place in my heart. Although I love RTS games, I cannot say that I am good at them in particular. I sometimes have trouble keeping up with the fast-pacing and multiple entities that most games of the genre throw at you. Men of War allowed for slow and strategic RTS gameplay, gameplay that fits my style.

-Taking direct control of tanks is okay for a while, especially with the FPS mod installed-

Gameplay

Unlike its peers, Men of War 2 had interestingly slow pacing, putting tactical movement and strategy above horde or blob push style gameplay. The maps were always more linear in design, allowing you to establish a feeling of having real front lines. All the while, Men of War 2 presented deep and interesting mechanics. It even went as far as letting you control individual tanks and soldiers directly. This level of depth was, to me at least, unheard of. What made Men of War so interesting was the culmination of these deep mechanics alongside the oddly satisfying of secure point tactics, all leading up to pushing into the enemy stronghold at the other edge of the map.

This here is where Cold War disappointed me so much. To explain it simplistically, the magic of Men at War has gone away. While most of the character mechanics remain, they have changed the map styles and gameplay so significantly that the game is hardly recognizable. The most notable difference is the lack of game modes. Out of the five or six game modes in Men of War, only two made it into Cold War at launch. Neither of those were the skirmish game mode.

Although it is debatable, it is my opinion that skirmish easily holds the most weight in Men of War. It is, easily, my most played mode and I believe it is the strongest mode across the board. It is tactical, can set up interesting scenes and above all else, it is fun. That this mode didn’t even make it into the campaign mode at the very least is, honestly, pretty devastating to me. I really was looking forward to playing this mode the most, both with friends and alone. But that is only the beginning of the tragedy. Upon closer inspection, I realised the entire game is bare of maps, modes, really any content at all.

I suppose if you are an avid PvP-RTS gamer, you could wrench out a drop of fun with this, (If you could even find someone to play against. I could not. Even the online devs wouldn’t join my games.) But not much more. The game is barren of players, and with very good reason. This game is empty and what it has is dreadfully boring. But it is playable. I’ll give it that.

-Though the balance is all over the place, tank fights can still be fun-

Story

I was truly hoping that this time around we would get a real story out of the campaign mode. In Men of War 2, they teased us with what the game could be, putting the skirmish mode maps back to back to create a pseudo-campaign of sorts. At the time I didn’t think much of this mode. However, in retrospect I realized that the design behind the original campaign was far superior to what they gave us here in Cold War. All the original campaign needed was connective tissue between the combat scenarios to be a true campaign, while the campaign in Cold War needs far more before ever being fun to play.

Cold War clocks in at a horrid 5 maps and 2 modes upon launch. And it doesn’t even stop there. The two modes, “Assault Zones” and “Annihilation”. Both modes feel almost exactly the same, only having slight tweaks and differences in gameplay. And then, the campaign… Don’t even bother. The campaign, if I could even call it that, is those two modes backed up with a meaningless graphic wall simulating a war front map. Oh no, but wait, it isn’t even those two modes truly. For some god awful reason, they implemented what may be the worst “troop deployment” system I have ever seen. EVER. I cannot even understand the thought process behind limiting the number of troops into rounds of three like they did here. To make matters worse, each spawn block is as follows:

  • 50 troop points
  • 75 troop points
  • 100 troop points

-Pointless campaign screen-

And when a single tank or assault squad takes a whole 20 troop points, your maximum troop count for an entire battle is a whopping 12 units. 12 WHOLE UNITS. WHO MADE THIS?! I cannot tell you much about Men of War, but what I can tell you is that THAT is not it. I played a little Men of War 2 before coming over for this review. And when you go from being able to have 10-15 tanks in an artillery line at once to twelve units in an entire session, you feel rather disappointed.

I kind of see where they were trying to go with this system, but ultimately it fails in every way. The basic skirmish driven campaign from Men of War 2 was and is far better than this atrocity. Scrap this, burn it at the stake, give it concrete shoes and throw it in the ocean.

Bring back skirmish mode and give us a real campaign with real maps and some real gameplay. Add some cut-scenes and characters and call it a day. Please.

Characters

I hate doing this. I really do. Although the games before it had very little in the way of characters, being an RTS, somehow Cold War has even less. At least you got a small voice over in campaign mode before. This game just feels barren of all inspiration or quality design. It is truly a shadow of its father. There is not much more I can say in that regard.

Soundtrack

I finally made it through the difficult part of this review and can shine a bit of light on some good traits this game has under its hood. Unfortunately, sound is both good and bad at the same time. The shooting, troop sounds and tank sounds are very good. However, they also shine a light on just how translated this whole project might be. From what I can tell, the character voice overs when selecting troops, when firing rifles and when firing tanks in Cold War may have been ripped directly from Men of War 2. I can’t really be sure, but I know the troop voices are. Now, let me explain thoughts on this.

Unlike most average people, I do not have an issue with asset reuse. Especially with sound. Why? Because I have been hands on with audio/visual video game design work in the past. I know how difficult it is to get new sounds and complex mesh framework every time you make a new game within a series. And I believe that it is not at the detriment to a game if done correctly. Plenty of widely beloved games reuse assets, take the Souls series for example. You can find plenty and more of the assets used in Dark Souls and Demon Souls used across the series. hell you can even find them here and there in Bloodborne. The iconic chest opening sound in Zelda? Asset reuse. The iconic Resident Evil intro screen voice? Asset reuse. This happens everywhere and sometimes we don’t even notice it or care at all.

However, when a game is so barebones? When a game has so little to offer on its release that you tire of it in 12 hours? Well, these small things become clear quickly. And while I believe it is okay to use assets again to save time, if you used that saved time not making the base game better, what did you do with it exactly? It all only ends up making the whole experience that much more lazy feeling. The main screen music is solid I suppose, for whatever that is worth. The stranger thing to me is the lack of any music at the victory screen. The game just kind of ends in silence, adding to the underwhelming nature of the game.

Graphics

Finally, I have walked the coals and made it to the end. Now I can finally talk about the piece of this game. Graphics. Cold War looks significantly better than its predecessor. This means very little at the end of the day. If there is one thing games like The Order: 1886 have taught us, it’s that graphics alone cannot carry a game. You can make an astonishingly photorealistic game, but if the gameplay is bad, if the writing is bad, your game won’t have a leg to stand on. In addition, the graphics upgrade seems to have caused a massive spike in loading screen times. Sometimes I feel like I was sitting at the loading screen longer than the session lasted.

-Graphics upgrades alone cannot make a game-

Final Verdict

Cold War feels less like a game and more like an alpha project, because of the lack of content when even compared to the game before it. Although it is being updated almost regularly, all the updates have been bug fixes and hot patches, not really addressing the main issues with this game. Ultimately, Cold War is not an Alpha release. It is a fully released game that I will treat as a fully released game. And in its current state, I cannot recommend it to anyone. If you want to experience what Men of War 2 is, go buy the original. Until this game gets a massive load of modsets or some massive updating, it will continue to not be worth playing.

Personal Opinion

Cold War has the framework to make a good game. It truly does. If the modding community and the devs stick with this game, they can make it into something great. But as of now, I have concerns about the game having a community at all, much less a modding community. If they had pushed out the Cold War release date till next year, the game would likely have been a much stronger experience. If you already own this game, I will say it is slightly better with the FPS mod that allows you to take a more direct control of troops. However, it still doesn’t compare to a good FPS or a good RTS really, even compared to its predecessor with superior mods.

Update

I have gone directly to the developers hoping to get an interview or some words about future updates and what they have in store, if anything. I wanted to give them the chance to give an apology or do some damage control, or at the very least a promise of future content. Out of the few I have asked, None have responded. If this doesn’t spell it out for me, nothing will. Do not buy this game, at the very least until they respond to inquiries and perform damage control.

Good

  • Improved graphics
  • Constant updates
  • Modding might save this game

Bad

  • Very few maps
  • Very few modes
  • Tiny online community, if any at all
  • Campaign is mundane at best, unplayable at worst
  • Skirmish game mode has vanished
3.4

Bad

Story - 1
Characters - 1
Gameplay - 3
Soundtrack - 5
Graphics - 7
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