Ubisoft is bringing back Panzer General, the old hex-based computer strategy game, as an online multiplayer game. But the new Panzer General Online isn’t the addictive strategy game that you, or your grandpa, played in the early 1990s. Instead, this one has a toy-soldier art style and a chess-like card game meant for fans of short-duration games.
The title is the latest remake of a classic older game, like Ubisoft’s Silent Hunter Online and Anno Online. I’m not sure what the official strategy is, but I refer to it as marketing old games to new players, or marketing old games to old farts (like me). The games remind us of the classic titles, but they’re reimagined for the online world. Ubisoft showed the game at its recent Digital Day event.
To my dismay, Panzer General Online is nothing like the hardcore war game made by Strategic Simulations, Inc. in 1994. I’m old enough to remember the original and was disappointed to see that the game wasn’t an online version of the classic game. But I’ll get over that one of these days — if Ubisoft commissions a real remake.
Meanwhile, this turn-based card game has a very basic approach that masks the complexity of the kind of tricks that you can play. It is a free-to-play game that you can play multiple times during a lunch break.
The battlefield is just a series of hexes, nicely drawn in 2.5 dimensions. There are three lanes for the combat. Your toy-like soldiers are arrayed in the rows against a number of enemy units opposing them. To move and attack, you have to play a command card. If it’s a simple maneuver card, one of your units attacks the enemy. But if you have a more valuable card, such as a two-move card or a special move, you can fire your whole row of units at the enemy. Your tanks, artillery, and infantry all have a kind of rock-paper-scissors value in combat. The infantry won’t really damage the armor, but the artillery can take out the tanks, said Marchiano Loen, the game’s associate producer, in an interview with GamesBeat.
I played a couple of rounds of the game where it looked like I was winning only to lose as the German player launched a devastating counterattack on me. In that sense, the matches are quite exciting, as you can win or lose based on whether you’ve got the right unit or the right card. The game has both a single-player campaign with historical-inspired battles, such as the American landing in Sicily or the battle of Monte Cassino.
The art style isn’t for everyone, but it is clearly aimed at fans of miniature toys. You can collect and trade realistic miniatures of tanks, infantry, and artillery to create a personalized army. The units include powerful ones such as the German Tiger tank and Nebelwerfer rocket launchers. You can purchase these units with points.
The browser-based, free-to-play game is built in Flash for the PC. It will launch in the third quarter of the year. The game is being built by Ubisoft’s Blue Byte studio in Germany.