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Developer: Koios Works
Publisher: Matrix Games
Minimum requirements: 1.2 GHz processor or equivalent; 256 MB RAM (512 MB for Windows XP); DirectX 9 compatible video card with 64 MB RAM; 550 MB hard drive space; Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista
Release date: Available now
Review by: Michael Smith
One of my fondest gaming memories was not of PC gaming, but of a night spent in a friend’s home playing Milton Bradley’s classic 1984 board game, Axis & Allies. My friend had gone beyond the call, creating an expanded version of the game board that covered his entire dining room table, complete with 3D topographic features and hand-painted action figures to replace the smaller ones included with the game. Technology has improved considerably since then, but that level of passion and attention to detail lives on in Panzer Command: Kharkov, an obvious labor of love from Koios Works and Matrix Games.
In June of 1941, Adolf Hitler sent three German battle groups into the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa, a plan designed to secure a quick and decisive victory over the Russians. The force’s objectives included the capturing of numerous manufacturing centers, including the Ukrainian city of Kharkov. Four major battles were fought there from 1941 to ’44, resulting in devastating loss of life and materiel on both sides. The second of these engagements, taking place during 15 days in May of 1942, as well as several campaigns leading up to it, are simulated in Kharkov, a third-person strategy game that gives gamers the chance to take charge of giant armies and guide them to glorious victory.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Kharkov is the copious documentation included with the game. Gone are the days when some games arrived at the stores with manuals in ring-bound notebooks; you’re lucky to get a jewel-case insert and a rudimentary printed booklet (if you buy a game at retail) or an instruction file on the disks of modern games. Kharkov bucks this trend by providing five manuals covering more than 200 pages of text, screenshots and data tables, all in PDF format. Also, the autorun menu offers links to several online info sites, including the game’s official message board, a valuable resource for questions that can’t be answered by the manuals.
Kharkov includes two basic modes: Campaign and Set Battle. In Campaign, players choose from five sequences of engagements, each encompassing from three to eight individual battles. The player is given an army that’s carried throughout the campaign; some destroyed units can be replaced at the end of each scenario. In Set Battle mode, each of the scenes from Campaign mode is available to be played independently, with two unrelated playable battles included. Also displayed are a detailed text briefing and the objectives that must be achieved.
Two tutorials ship with Kharkov to help the uninitiated wargamer. In the Set Battle mode, the player is given a small force of infantry platoons and is tasked with traveling across open ground to capture a church. This emphasizes basic movement, attack and defense strategies. In Campaign mode, a Boot Camp scenario gives the player six battles to fight, taking lessons learned in the Set Battle engagement and combining them with tactical concepts. A manual guides the player through the tutorials, which can be skipped by more experienced players.
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