Sneak, shoot and spar your way into enemy front lines as the Partisans, a bunch of revolutionary manumission abolitionists.
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Release Date: 14th October 2020
Genre: Strategy, Real Time Tactics, World War II
Platforms: Windows PC (Steam), Mac OS, Linux
Reviewed on: Windows PC
Game Supplied by: Publisher
Now, I’m going to preface this review by saying that I have never played a top-down, real-time strategy war game. I know, I know, please don’t lynch me just yet! When I saw the art and play style of Partisans 1941, I thought that it would be the game to get me into this genre, and I must admit, it’s done an exceptional job so far!
Based in Nazi controlled USSR, the game follows a detailed story surrounding a man called Commander Zorin. As part of the Red Army, he’s captured by the invading enemy. During his execution, he escapes and joins forces with a stout gentleman and a 14-year-old boy. From there, they hunker down in a hideout in the forest and go on missions to deter the invading forces, recruit Partisans, and explode tanks. The hideout can be upgraded throughout the game to allow the Partisans to gather resources, customize weapons, and troop off to recruit more Partisans. It’s a nice, calm place to gather your thoughts after being shot at by Nazis.
With each new member recruited into this rag-tag team of rebels, you can unlock new abilities to crush your enemies (not literally!). Some characters are best at sneaking and killing enemies up-close and personal, whereas others are better at range, making use of grenades and machine guns. Each recruit has their own skill tree which can unlock these specific talents, although you do have to be careful that you unlock the right ones at the right times. Unlocking “be better at throwing grenades” when you have no grenades to throw is a waste of a valuable skill point. I found this out the hard way. Another key thing to note about the skill tree is that it’s not really a tree; more of a set few lines that you need to follow, with one skill unlocking the next, and so on.
When going on missions you can take four characters from your Partisans, so it’s crucial that all their skills work together. It’s not good having all four of your characters be up-close and personal. I preferred having a long-range fighter for cover, just in case a take-down didn’t go as planned. Throughout the missions, you will learn more about each character, which gives the game a depth that I wasn’t expecting outside of the main story. The dialogue is written well enough to keep me engaged in each character’s story without rolling my eyes at too many cliches.
One thing that really threw me out of the gameplay was that all the Russian Partisans speak in an English accent. It was odd hearing all the Germans speaking German with English subtitles, and then our Russian comrades piping up in English. It would have worked better if they had Russian voice actors speaking English; I feel that it would have been more immersive for the player.
The gameplay is well put together in this game, with only a few technical issues that annoyed me. Stealth-wise all you need to do is move into a bush or keep out of the enemies’ line of sight. Your characters automatically go into stealth mode when an enemy is nearby, which is handy because knowing my trigger finger, I’d just start running every five seconds if I could. Each enemy has a clear cone of sight that you can view if you right-click the enemy.
Each mission can be dealt with in different ways. For example, the first main mission you attend with three of your Partisans, you are tasked with blowing up an enemy tank. Simple, right? Well, you have three ways of going about it: you can either go in all guns blazing, sneak in through a heavily guarded side entrance, or walk around the complex and stealth your way in through a hole in the back wall. Clearly, going in all guns blazing isn’t the best idea, as there are only three of your Partisans and at least 20 enemy soldiers. Cue instant death. However, sneaking around to the back wall proved to also be a challenge, as patience isn’t my dominant trait. I tried to take out a few enemy soldiers here and there, realising too late that enemy soldiers, upon seeing dead bodies, are apt to start looking for the perpetrators rather quickly! Note also that Alter Games have programmed their AI well enough to learn how to flank and not just come at you face first.
One thing I loved about this game was the sneaking aspect; it reminded me of Metal Gear Solid, and how I love that game! Although, this time, instead of controlling one character, you’re controlling four individual characters that can either move as a unit or be individually placed to set up an ambush. Sometimes I would muck up the buttons and accidentally send all four characters into one spot instead of placing them in their own hidey holes. Then all it takes is a bit of patience to wait for a solo enemy patrol and, boom, that’s one down. Just remember to hide the body!
My main issue with the sneaking and stealth is that it’s not always clear where your Partisans can be seen or not. There were a few times when I would place a character behind a building, only for them to park themselves on the wrong side in full view of the enemy! I would then be frantically clicking for them to move, but by then it was too late, and I would be in a full-blown firefight with multiple enemy soldiers.
The soundtrack to this game is, understandably, extremely morose. I mean, you’re in the middle of a Nazi invasion. It matches the overall mood of the game very well as it’s played in the background of each mission. The sound effects of the game are as expected, with the rustling of footsteps in bushes and the squelch of a knife going into a Nazis throat. Nothing sound-wise really stood out to me in this game.
The visuals are well put together for a top-down game, the graphics are crisp, and yet, they have an air of gloom to them. With a layer of foggy mist in the atmosphere, it gives a nice feel to the mood of the game. Partisans 1941 uses a very grey and brown colour palette which usually I wouldn’t be a fan of, but again, with the overall mood of the game being gritty and dark, it matches the game style well.
Partisans 1941 is a great game for a beginner top-down, real-time strategy war game player like me. The gameplay is easy to pick up but not so simple that it feels like child’s play. There are a couple of kinks to iron out, but it’s a game that keeps me coming back for more and retrying each time I fail.