By Joseph Luster

If everything goes the way developer the Lordz Games Studio is hoping, then this year will be host to something really special for fans of strategy games. Panzer Corps is a turn-based title that takes the bulk of its inspiration from one of the most influential and adored entries in the genre, Panzer General. Published in 1994 by Strategic Simulations Inc., there hasn’t been a game in the series since that quite matched Panzer General’s particular level of quality and resulting adulation.

Panzer Corps isn’t exactly a sequel, reboot, or whatever you’d like to call it, but Lordz are very open about the kind of strategic legacy they’re attempting to build on with their game. Lead Developer Alex Shargin posted a developer diary earlier this year on Slitherine Software’s site, and had a lot to say about General and the way they’ve gone about designing Corps. One choice quote succinctly summarizes their approach: “While we are big fans of Panzer General (PG) and believe that it was one of the greatest strategy titles of all time, there is no point in cloning it 15 years later. After all, if anyone wants to play PG, he can pick up a copy of the original game and play it under DOSBOX. So instead, our goal is to create a new game, which would fix most of PG’s problems/annoyances and add more new features and possibilities, not present in any games in the PG series.”

The principles they’re using to keep steady footing on this ambitious path include that of the “easy to play, hard to master” style of simple but deep gameplay. This is good news for players who tend to find the majority of PC strategy titles intimidating, if not impenetrable. Heck, I’ll lump myself in this category most of the time, as it’s often the initial dipping of the toes that can make or break the strategy experience. Lordz are hoping most players will be able to jump right into the game, pick up the ropes, and then gradually develop their skills over time. A method like this should also appease the more hardcore veterans of the genre, who will still be faced with a very hefty title to master.

Panzer Corps comes loaded with 400 unit types across 19 unit classes, and 17 types of terrain to diversify the campaign’s 26 scenarios. The various levels of victory and defeat in Panzer Corps carry with them the possibility of branching out along different paths of the campaign tree, and core units that stick around for the ride gain experience and the ability to be upgraded with new technology as their availability permits. That’s where the strong RPG component—another one of the development principles—comes into play. As experience, awards, and aces are added to individual units, battles that seemed entirely uphill at first will eventually become surmountable.

One of the most interesting aspects of the game comes packaged in its multiplayer. Anyone wary of twiddling their thumbs while waiting for their opponent to figure out what s/he wants to do next can rest easy knowing that Lordz have thought all of this through properly. One needn’t even be online at the same time as their opposition to keep a game going, and multiple wars can be waged simultaneously. Why stare at the screen (and your watch) until the next shot volleys when you can switch attention to another game and make some moves there? There’s also a tournament system in development for those ready to take their cunning to an even higher plane of competition.

As for those intent on fighting from all sides of the war—like Allied or Pacific Theater campaigns, for instance—will have to wait a bit for expansions and sequels, should Panzer Corps prove successful. As of right now Lordz are confident that this is the beginning of a new series, so there’s no better time to get situated in whatever fancy would-be general’s chair you’re rocking and start training for future battles.

Publisher: Slitherine Software
Developer: The Lordz Games Studio
System(S): PC
Available: May 15, 2011

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