My thoughts on the game.
#1
I would like to share with you my thoughts on Sudden Strike 4. I hope you will find this to be useful feedback so that I'm not just talking to myself here.

I've played for 4.1 hours according to Steam and I've finished the first two missions in the German campaign. I loved Sudden Strike and Sudden Strike 2 when I was a kid and I even enjoy replaying them now. I will make many comparisons to these two games -which I will collectively refer to as "the originals"- and their features. Sadly, I have not played Resource War or the third instalment of the series. I didn't get the opportunity to get Resource War back then as I never saw it in stores and I only found out about it long after. I tried a demo of the third game but felt it was too slow and boring. Perhaps making you play the British with their slow Churchill tanks in the demo was a bad idea? Tongue

I have both positive and negative feedback on the newest addition to the series. I'll say right now that while this post will contain a lot of negative feedback I am mostly positive about the game and enjoy playing it.

Let's get started then:

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Mission briefings
I looooved the mission briefings in the originals. I loved everything about them. I loved how they were written. I loved the animations on the maps. The second game introduced that you could click different objectives to replay certain parts. And I loved the accents the Generals spoke in when briefing you.

Needless to say, I find the mission briefings lacking in this game. First you get the historical background for the mission, which albeit interesting isn't what I'm looking for when I want to feel like a Field Marshall in WW2. That kind of thing could be kept to the extras where you are giving historical information anyway.

What I want is what I got in the originals: I'm briefed by a General about the current situation. What needs to be done and why? Do I have anything special at my disposal or does the enemy have anything special to be aware of? What manoeuvres can I reasonably expect the enemy to counter with (this doesn't have to be accurate as the enemy should be somewhat unpredictable, as you noted in the videos on Steam). And finally, I want atmosphere! In the originals, at least the first game, the briefings were played against a backdrop that was unique for each campaign. The map looked like it was laying on a table next to a lamp, a peaked cap and some smoking cigars in an ashtray and the voice over spoke with a heavy accent. I don't know if it was a fake accent, but I don't care. It did so much to set the mood.

So what do I get from the briefings in this game? Well, there's a map with animated arrows and lines. That's good, what else? A voice over speaking the objectives in what seems like an American accent. Wait? Am I not playing the German campaign? Why does the General not sound German? That was a quite a let down. So what does he say? He just speaks the objectives. Nothing else. I'm stunned and disappointed by its brevity. How did we get here? Why do we need to do this? What is the situation? I don't want to read the history of the battle. I want my General briefing me on the situation as we push the war forward. I want to be there, being an Oberst taking my orders from my General to then lead my troops into battle.

In short: I want a proper briefing. The accent is very important.

Another thing: In the first mission you are told to cross the river and then destroy the static defensive structures. There's no mention of taking the town by the bridge. However, I decided it was best to do so anyway and when I was done a voice said "Great!" and I earned a star. There was no indication whatsoever that this was part of the mission. Not even as an optional objective. I did it to be on the safe side and had no idea that it would earn me a star.

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Debriefing
I like the diary entries after every mission. It adds some kind of historical at-the-scene perspective that the briefings were missing. I still want the accent though.

In the originals every mission ended with nothing but a statistics screen. While that feels much more sterile than the diary entries it is still something I want. The statistics tells me how well I did. Did I manage to keep all my infantry alive? Did I do better or worse than expected? Statistics are gathered after every battle in the real world because that's how you keep track of the strength of your forces. A simple statistics screen would do, but if you could make it look like an after action report then that would be golden.

I saw in the videos on Steam that infantry will sometimes surrender. Right now they just fade away, but if you can see how many POWs you've taken in the statistics it would feel like you got something out of it.

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Infantry
I like how infantry is handled. I like how they get incapacitated but can be brought back by the medics. It makes the infantry last longer and is fun gameplay. More than once did I, after doing a quick fall back, turn my forces around to push the enemy back just to save a single injured man. I have a suggestion regarding the medics that's not very important, but I think would be a nice addition. That would be if you could be humanitarian and heal your enemy's wounded soldiers as well. If you implement a statistics screen for the debriefing then healed enemy soldiers would show up as POWs instead of kills.

I love that infantry can hide in vegetation. When I played the originals I tried making some stealthy commando missions in the map editor, but it's hard as you couldn't really sneak around. When you saw the enemy they usually saw you too. There was one "Single Mission", as they called stand-alone missions without a campaign, where you had a single rifleman on an island and had to sneak around to gather intel. This worked surprisingly well, but only because all the enemy had was SMG and HMG troops and officers, so you easily outranged them and riflemen usually killed with a single shot and had 100% accuracy, at least at full experience. But I digress. What I was getting at is that this new mechanic opens up new possibilities. Maybe commando missions will be much easier to make now?

I find that so far there has been quite a lack of infantry. I feel that unless the mission is on the open fields of Kursk the infantry should greatly outnumber the tanks. The medic mechanic does make the infantry last longer and thus fewer are needed, but it feels wrong when you have about 10 tanks and only about 4 squads of infantry to support them.

EDIT: I would like to add that I find it hard to tell the difference between infantry types. In the originals it was usually very easy to see what type each soldier was, but it is significantly harder in this game. Every time that I want to select a soldier of a specific type I have to drag select a whole bunch and the pick the right type from the icons. If I want to select all of that type I have to find where the now selected soldier is and double click him. This can be a bit tricky if there are a whole bunch of infantry clustered in some bushes.

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Vehicles
It's an interesting mechanic to not be able to repair damaged vehicles fully. It makes you more careful about how you use them. However, I wish they would stop smoking when I can't repair them any more. It's quite annoying to have half my tank formation spreading lots of smoke. Since you only can repair them up to 50%, maybe they could smoke when they are at 30-40%? I would appreciate it very much if my tank formations stopped looking like they're ready for the scrapyard.

I like that you kept the mechanic from the originals where you can remove the crew from the vehicles and capture enemy vehicles. However, it irks me that regular riflemen can crew tanks. It makes sense that just about anyone can drive a truck, but tanks are far more advanced and difficult to operate. If anything, tanks crewed by regular infantry should receive penalties to speed, accuracy, reload speed and view range, or perhaps only one or a few of those if you have a mixed crew because you used infantry men to fill out a crew that was short staffed. The listed penalties would be for driver, gunner, loader and commander respectively. Keep in mind that sometimes a single crew member does multiple jobs. Or if that's too complicated, just do like the originals and don't let infantry men drive tanks.

I like that tanks can mow down trees. It annoys me that trucks easily does the same. In the originals forests acted as an obstacle where only infantry dare thread. Visibility was very limited and enemy infantry could be hiding anywhere, thus vehicles were easily cornered and grenaded to kingdom come. You weren't supposed to take your vehicles into the forest, but it was possible and it made it possible to sneak up on the enemy with a tank from an unexpected direction. However, if you wanted to remove trees you had to shoot them. There's good and bad in both systems. Moving a tank through a forest in the originals was slow as it had to circle around trees. It could only move straight for short distances before it had to stop and turn again. However, it makes sense for a tank to be able to mow trees down as they can do so in real life. Here's the kicker though: it doesn't seem to slow them down. Also, mowing down trees requires lots of weight and engine power. I had a truck move through a forest like it was nothing, pushing trees aside like they were hollow movie props.

Here's my suggestion for how to deal with trees:
1. Trucks should not be able to break vegetation. Either they have to find a path around the trees and bushes or they have to go around the forest entirely.
2. Light tanks should only be able to mow down lighter vegetation such as bushes or very thin trees.
3. Only heavier tanks can mow down big trees.
4. Tanks get severely slowed down when they mow down trees. If moving through a forest is a tactical option then it should come at a price. This is a realistic one.

I kinda miss the ability to build tank obstacles. It was a feature hardly ever used in the originals, but when you got the opportunity to use it it was very effective with proper preparations.

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The General system
This is my biggest gripe with this game. I saw the videos on Steam where you said that you didn't want General bonuses that gave +5 in some stat, but rather you wanted it to affect gameplay. Well, my opinion is that it's complete shite. It makes no sense and just removes functionality from units that should have them innately. Why do I have to upgrade a General to use grenades? What soldier was ever not equipped with grenades? I doubt the Generals got to decide the standard equipment like that, and why would a General need to unlock grenades for their soldiers? And why do I have to unlock having tank commanders stick their head out of the hatch? Tank commanders do this all the time! "Sorry, you can't peak out of you tank, because I haven't unlocked that feature yet"-said no General ever.

I would much rather unlock those +5 in some stat features that you said that you don't want. +5 in some stat means that my troops have gotten stronger -that they have become battle hardened- so it makes sense to unlock over time. It doesn't make sense that my troops get sent into combat without grenades because I haven't earned enough stars. That kind of feature can stay in lesser RTS games like Company of Heroes. I don't want to see more serious RTS game sullied by such bull. I sound like an elitist now, but it annoys me greatly that unlockable features have become mainstream in games, even at the cost of realism in games that you would expect to be more serious.

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The Extras
Yes! I love me some history education and historical footage. I appreciate of this feature very much.

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System requirements
On steam the minimum requirements are listed as following (I've trimmed the list to compare to my own specs):

Intel 2.6 GHz Quad-Core
6 GB RAM
NVIDIA GeForce 660 series

Well, I can happily announce that the game has so far run smoothly on my old rust bucket:

Intel 2.5 GHz Quad-Core
4 GB RAM
NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450

And that's while running on the following settings:
1920x1080@60Hz
100% resolution scale
Low texture quality
High overall quality

Despite the low texture quality setting I find that the game looks absolutely brilliant. I haven't tried with a higher texture quality yet. I figured the game had automatically picked what was appropriate.

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Well, there you have it; The good and the bad from 4 hours of gameplay. Take the Generals away from the quartermaster's office and put them in the briefing room where they belong.

The game is generally pretty good. I haven't played any of the big missions yet, but I look forward to it. I also look forward to see what you will do in the future. Hopefully the franchise will live on.
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