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Best for Unit-Based Tactics: Company of Heroes 2 at Amazon
"Focuses on unit-based tactics in battles in the Eastern Front theater."
Best for Squad Management: Men of War: Assault Squad 2 at Amazon
"The intricate detailing of the game makes for a real-time strategy experience."
Best for Scale: Order of War at Amazon
"You can command a force of multiple unit types containing up to 1,000 soldiers, tanks, artillery, aircraft, and more."
Best for Complexity: Hearts of Iron IV at Amazon
"You will be in charge of millions of people, hundreds of factories, and dozens of battles around the world."
Best for Turn Based Tactics: Combat Mission Anthology at Amazon
"Gives you a more focused feel of the decision-making process of combat orders."
Best for Deceptive Tactics: RUSE at Amazon
"You will get the chance to pull off creative misdirections that vary up the gameplay."
Best for Alternative History: War Front: Turning Point at Amazon
"Offers an alternative history where Hitler dies early and the world powers get their hands on experimental technologies."
Best for Tanks: Codename: Panzers, Phase Two at Amazon
"Its main focus and fun is its extensive tank warfare."
Courtesy of Amazon
Company of Heroes 2 is a tactical-heavy World War II real-time strategy PC game that focuses on unit-based tactics in battles in the Eastern Front theater. Despite the small group of armies you’ll be commanding, the game lets you focus deeper on controlled management that’s methodical and gives a personalized experience of gameplay.
Every controllable unit type in Company of Heroes 2 has an associated construction cost and recruitment time with a range of varied fighting abilities; you’ll want to assess the battlefield, the weather conditions, and your foes carefully before making a move.
You’ll aim to move your soldiers to rush capture points and increase the flow or resources while gathering near bonfires to beat frostbite or bunkering in a building for cover, all in the hopes that no one flushes you out with a flamethrower or grenade.
The game builds on its legendary predecessor with a line-of-sight feature, a system that better emulates troop visibility in real combat so you’ll need to take into consideration the vision of your units in order to anticipate incoming forces as well as accounting for the sight of your enemies.
The skirmish Men of War: Assault Squad 2 for PC focuses on a more squad-based management style gameplay with tactical maneuvering as opposed to full-blown, large-scale warfare. The intricate detailing of the game makes for a real-time strategy experience where nothing is off the table and variables come in the form of everything from unit inventory systems to dynamic tank armor.
There is no base building in Men of War: Assault Squad 2, instead, you’ll be in charge of managing around 250 different vehicles and 200 unique soldier types, each with their own equipment packages, strengths, and weaknesses. You’ll control squads (eight-man teams, single snipers, or armored escorts) that either protect or attack various objectives while diving in trenches, running through buildings, and securing pillboxes.
Aside from its versatility, the presentation of Men of War: Assault Squad 2 is found in its earful of sound effects and visuals, capturing the chaos of constant gunfire, crumbling buildings, the clanging of steel, and the screams of your soldiers.
Order of War covers the final year of World War II, giving you the option to push back the Axis of Evil in France or play as the German army to try to defeat the Soviets in the East. The strategy game operates on a large scale, showcasing an overhead view of your war zone, but allowing cinematic angles, so you can get up close and personal to see every moment of the action.
The massive playing field of Order of War is a treat to the eyes, having you operate a dynamic camera overlooking vast and detailed terrains of fields and pastures from a bird’s eye view as you conduct massive armies to do your bidding. You can command a force of multiple unit types containing up to 1,000 soldiers, tanks, artillery, aircraft, and more while executing strategic attacks based on actual operations during the time.
A striking orchestra builds up the ambiance of impending destruction as you bait an enemy tank squadron for a frontal attack while preparing your ambush with a strategic flanking offense in order to capture command points and push your army to victory.
If you are up for a challenge, Hearts of Iron IV offers a complex World War II real-time strategy game that can take many hours to master but make you feel like a genius general. You will be in charge of millions of people, hundreds of factories, and dozens of battles around the world (all on a micro level) that may require you to study up on the game’s Wikipedia articles to get a grasp on the game.
Hearts of Iron IV is developed with huge comprehensive scenarios based on an ingeniously detailed strategic simulation that covers every aspect of World War II. The in-game world map is made up of 11,000 provinces, sea regions, and air zones, each with their own climates, terrain, day-night cycle, and supply lines that all have noticeable effects on decision making, movement, and combat.
You’ll focus mainly on logistics and control over resources as you balance your army needs in special areas, dabble in politics, manage factories, and steer the world in any direction (there are also alternative histories, including a Germany that never goes to war, America invading Canada, or even a communist takeover in Japan).
Combat Mission Anthology is a collection of the Combat Mission series, real-time strategy games that offer a mix to the genre using a turn-based system. Despite its slower and more thorough gameplay, the series gives you a more focused feel of the decision-making process of combat orders with comfortable silences in between.
The gameplay of the Combat Mission games are separated into a planning and execution phases where you first give orders to your platoons and reinforced battalions and then witness the conflicts that come as a result of the orders given. All while this is happening, you must account for the morale and leadership given to soldiers, taking in their statuses to see if they’re OK, routed, fatigued, and more while keeping an eye out for soldiers who cower in fear and become permanently affected by the choices you make.
The cleverly titled RUSE has you making multiple decisions covering many strategies, including developing ruses: Deceptive tactics to unleash on your enemies. You will get the chance to pull off creative misdirections that vary up the gameplay, including setting up decoy tanks (much like the Allies did in WW2), speed up units, spy on enemies to gain intel, and cause as much deception as possible while calling out the enemy’s bluffs.
RUSE is set during World War II in the European theater with selectable nations, including the U.S., UK, Germany, USSR, Italy, and France, and each has their own specific units, strengths, and tendencies. Players can jump into the main campaign mode that offers 23 different missions or dive straight into custom skirmish modes to battle against enemy AI.
RUSE shines with its creativity in combat, allowing for multiple combinations of tricky attacks that work in unison (like staging a fake invasion while dropping paratroopers behind enemy lines).
War Front: Turning Point is a large-scale strategy game that offers an alternative history where Hitler dies early and the world powers get their hands on experimental technologies. You will get to use everything from historical real world M4 Sherman tanks to more futuristic weapons such as exoskeleton mechs, jetpack infantry, freeze rays, and shield generators.
War Front: Turning Point resembles the traditional user interface layout of real-time strategy games like Command & Conquer and follows the familiar formula of collecting resources, constructing various building types, researching new prototypes, and swarming your foes with the appropriate unit type.
The game’s main campaign mode has both primary and secondary objectives that are intertwined with other missions, giving endless amounts of strategic choices that you can make to get the job done. You’ll even be able to jump into a skirmish mode that is unit-based and allows you to engage up to nine different AI in various game types while altering properties, including the time of day, weather, army limit, starting points, resources, and more.
Though Codename: Panzers, Phase Two has three different unit types, including infantry and artillery, its main focus and fun is its extensive tank warfare. The WW2 RTS game has a real-time feel to it with multiple solutions to each of its missions that send you off into unfamiliar territory, including the dusty dunes of the Sahara.
The detail in Codename: Panzers, Phase Two covers aspects of not only the commands you give but the management that comes with every action. Codename: Panzers, Phase Two will have you strategically moving and positioning your units in order to execute surprise attacks and flanks while also tasking you with upkeeps such as armor repairs and ammunition resupplies.
The more seasoned surviving units become, the more chances you’ll have to upgrade them, turning your rookies into elite tank crews and placing them into more powerful tanks, making them more dependable and lethal.
Rating - War games can be violent or disturbing, so be sure to check the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating before buying one. The ratings have three elements: Rating categories (“E” for everyone; “E10+” for ages 10 and up; “T” for teens; “M” for mature 17+; and “A” for adults only), Content Descriptors (Comic mischief, mild language, etc.) and Interactive Elements (In-Game Purchases, Users Interact, Shares Location, Unrestricted Internet, etc.).
Graphics - Graphics and sound effects will dictate how the game looks and sounds. Since World War II games are rooted in history, you’ll want a game with the most realistic graphics possible. This includes not only detail in your surroundings, but of characters, weapons, and machinery as well.
Level of difficulty - Gamers who are new to strategy games might want to begin with an easy game to dip their toes into the genre. It doesn’t take long to master war tactics and operations, but some games have more strategic gameplay than others. Luckily, most games feature a selection of difficulty levels, so you can level up slowly or quickly as you wish.