You would think that the chances of commercial and even critical success in game concerning itself almost exclusively with Pacific-based naval-transport mechanics would be rather slim. Slitherine Ltd. had different plans for Order of Battle: Pacific, however. If you want an idea of what the game’s about, think Panzer General, only set in the pacific theatre. With gameplay steeped in tactical-level decisions, turn-based mechanics, and hex-grid maps, this title quite surprisingly managed to impress its critics upon release, and this review takes a short look at the features and content that made this critical success surprising and impressive in equal amounts.
The gameplay mechanics here are pretty much perfect for fans of traditional wargaming. The gameplay consists of turn-based combat which arises in a multitude of tactical situations, all played out on a hex grid. There is a stupendously long list of units available for your command, a ridiculous 500 in total. Essentially, if the vessel, aircraft, or unit in general existed in the pacific during the Second World War, then you’re going to find it cropping up here. The M3 Stuart, A6M Zero, F4U Corsair, Super Yamato Class battleships can all be found, along with, well, pretty much any WWII pacific unit any stickler for historical accuracy can recant.
You are introduced gently into the game’s various processes through the Boot Camp campaign, which consists of four scenarios designed to impart you with sufficient knowledge to tackle the rest of the game’s action. If you’ve played Panzer Strike or Panzer Corps, you’ll notice the usual traits of this style of gameplay, as well as stipulations like units having a max strength of 10 and the vital role that terrain plays in the game’s proceedings, no matter where you’re fighting, be it jungle, open land, or where land meets sea.
More Impressive Mechanics
Once you get to grips with the general mechanics of the game and are a few levels deep, you are able to experience Order of Battle’s more specialised mechanics. Upon completion of certain scenarios, you’re able to choose between some special abilities for your units. For example, completion of the Pearl Harbour scenario imbues you with either the Bushido Code or Banzai Charge ability. Each ability has its advantages and drawbacks, such as Banzai Charge, if utilised in an attack, will devastate the enemy but also result in a large portion of your own health suffering as a result.
Direction and leadership is also a significant feature of the game, and this is carried out by special Generals, Captains and Commanders. These have the benefit of earning additional combat bonuses for your units.
One of the take-home aspects of this review if you’re looking for a few points to mull over is the way it looks. Order of Battle: Pacific is a remarkably well-presented game. Its interface is complex enough to give you the power to make split-second tactical decisions down to the last detail for your units, yet intuitive enough for beginners to be able to pick up the skills needed to enjoy the game to its full potential after just a few taster campaigns. The graphics are sublime, with particular credit going to The Artistocrats for the unit animations, the design of the terrain, and the dynamic, ever-shimmering water, all of which makes the game incredibly wonderful to look at and even better to play.
So if you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing the largely naval-based tactics of Order of Battle: Pacific, it is recommended that you ease yourself in with this game. Its graphics and presentation are sublime, and its Panzer Corps-like gameplay mechanics will be familiar for many and a welcome surprise for the rest. Specialist mechanics also ensure that the game has variety as you’re progressing through it, and there is a decent quantity of campaigns to fill up your time.
One of the drawbacks however is that once you’ve finished the provided campaigns you’re somehow left wanting more and more of that same action. Other missing features include the lack of an undo/reverse function for when mistakes are made, and the sheer quantity of units somehow isn’t made more presentable with a menu or list showing which units are available to you. Still, the up-to-four-player multiplayer may very well make up for the loss felt when the stock campaigns are over, and the graphics are just the icing on a very well-made cake.