Step By Steppe: Men Of War

By Jim Rossignol on April 11th, 2009 at 1:01 pm.


I’ve been playing through a number of the Men Of War levels again for a second time, trying to feel like I’m somehow closer to mastering the game. I wanted to break down how one of the levels plays out to try and explain the game to people who haven’t yet played it. This afternoon my level of choice was an assault on a German hilltop entrenchment, before an attack on a fortified base. It takes about an hour to play through, and my first time around it was one of the most chaotic gaming experiences I have ever known. After perhaps fifty hours of play I should now be a veteran of the game able to breeze through this early challenge quite easily. Right? Wrong.

Just as in almost every attempt to complete a Men Of War level my initial attack goes completely haywire. Despite exhibiting the kind of caution a Manhattan Project scientist must have shown when arming the first atomic bomb, I fluffed it completely, and ended up plunging headlong into a sprawling moment-to-moment crisis management that would last for the rest of the level. This time I did manage to hit the gun emplacements that should have taken me down, but my first tank was nevertheless immediately destroyed.

So – as is so often the case in Men Of War – it was down to my infantry to make the first push. The plucky little guys got shot to pieces while making a dash for the first line of trenches. Nevertheless they got there – with a hint of sniper covering fire and a smidgen of direct control of individual units – and began to kill the heavily entrenched infantry. Getting grenades onto mounted guns is usually a good start – with as much flank activity as possible.

Soon I captured an artillery piece and began to make short work of the hillside defences. My submachinegun troops were going to assault the right flank and take the hill. I say were, because they had a little run in with this flamethrower guy:

Everybody died, and NPC soldiers were left to their own devices on that flank. Fortunately, Russian tanks are more resistant to flames, and by this time I was beginning to call in armored reinforcements. The map had begun to open up to the wider battle, making more options available to me. It’s worth remembering that all this time I’m fighting and picking my targets, and there are dozens of allied NPC units all conducting their own attacks. When things get really tough the only option is to resort to an airstrike.

My tanks, however, are still getting ripped apart by anti-tank guns, rocket launchers, and mortars. Like so:

We aren’t making much progress. The map is now a vast battlefront, in which I am only a very small player. Keeping track of what’s happening requires the processing power of around four human brains. Tanks were easy prey to the dozens of infantry pouring from the German lines, and so I had to resort to something fast-firing, yet tough. Enter the heroes of this particular battle, the bizarre 37mm mobile gun, the ZSU-37.

I spend my reinforcement allocation on three of these things and send them up onto the hill after a second airstrike. I’ve taken out the worst of the heavy armour, and if these things can hit the crews of the gun emplacements before they’re themselves exploded, I can make some progress. That’s precisely what happens, with the fast-firing 37mm cannons taking out multiple targets with each magazine, including picking off individual infantry at range. Mortar crews and mobile gun teams are shot to pieces as the ZSU spearhead moves. It’s one of those moments that must have happened in real warfare: the brutal tide turning of exactly the right tactic deployed at the crucial moment. The enemy base is now in sight. The ZSUs are killed off by mortar fire, and I reinforce for a final assault: two tanks, and as many infantry as I can afford. The heavy tank gets stuck on the side of the hill. Is it a bug? Or just too steep? It’s hard to tell, but the little men won’t get out to push.

Nothing will keep me from the enemy base how, however. And with a mixture of captured artillery and the firepower of my own tanks, we head down into the defences. A final line of Germans is picked off by my amazing surviving sniper (alive from the first moments of the game), as I ready my tanks to go in.

The final battle is fierce, but there’s no way we’re going to held at bay now. Tanks and guns bombarding from the hills, I send the infantry down to capture the trenches, and to kill-off the mortar crews. Two German tanks – weird, long-barrelled beasts that I don’t recognise – make a valiant defence and blast apart many of the approaching infantry. As ever in Men Of War, however, even this kind of last-ditch commitment is not enough. It takes just a couple of grenade-tossing soldiers to get into range for these steel beasts to be silenced. Soon thereafter, the Russians hold the base.

Finally, a fuel-dump goes up in a titanic end-game explosion. That’s all the punctuation it needs. The Germans are defeated.

While the scenario was identical to the first time I played through, the way I resolved it couldn’t have been more different. This is perhaps what’s most exciting about this wargame: diversity that leads to an organic, evolving experience. I only wish all the other RTS games we seen so far this year had as much scope for messing around, coming up with madcap plans, and clawing back victory from the brink of ludicrous, hyperbolic defeat.

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83 Comments »

  1. Serondal says:

    After trying to defend a Russian train station and faling in every way possible I have to say this is one of the few games where I can lose a battle and still have had a great time playing any way. Sure I lost but I got to watch an EPIC battle take place. I mean I was screaming and dubbed an entire squad of soliders as heros of the mother land! One squad managed to destroy about 5 tanks with anti-tank grenades, EXTREMLY heroic. After all the AT guns were destroyed and all the tanks were destroyed they were the only ones capalbe of stopping the hoard of german steel rolling my way. Of course when where gunned down like dogs by a sneaky team of nazi soliders I felt horrible :( Like watching a movie with a sad ending where all the good guys die.

  2. Web Cole says:

    Woo! More war stories, please :D

    Might just buy this, sounds pretty groovy.

  3. prowlinger says:

    Extreme Tank Graveyard –

    It was the final stand battle for Germany after the Tubruk battle…

    I had a nice secure foothold on the plateau, the British as they proceeded to push hard from the North… it was at night… everything I could do to manage survival… the flares went up… enemies in the wire… the front line trenchers filled with gunfire …. incoming Mk2 … boom… it took a glancing blow from my Tiger perched in the rear of the battlefront… slowly picking off the incoming tanks…

    Just then the enemy tank crashed into the trench… and was stuck at a 45 degree angle. Brave soldiers fled and tossed an AT grenade back… boom! The crew all jumped out on fire… lighting up the dark blackness that enshrouded my once again since the flares died out….

    It was then quiet and dark… one thousand fireflies appeared in the black void… hot molten lead flying at my frontline from the pitch darkness….

    My 2nd flare went up … 3 enemy mortar crews were fixed 200 meters past the battle front … Luckly my Italian ship was ready to lay down artillery… somehow I missed the mortar spots but created a vast tank graveyard… In coming British tanks melted in the falling artillery…

    The night progressed… so much blood was spilled… occasional flares… incoming rush of enemies… our front line was falling… in a brave attempt to spare uprooting my Tiger, I commanded him personally to pick off enemies in the distance of the shadows…

    What seemed to be an eternity, our front was gone… it was time to retreat…. as the last shell in the Tiger was mounted, I fired at a lone Brit incoming up the small hill from my overrun trenches…. The gory explosion and limbs flying was the only satisfaction I had left as my beast kicked dirt and uprooted its cover and started to retreat….

    That was the last time my brave Tiger got a kill…. the enemy came in a sheer wave… Mks and Shermans… we had no time to retreat…

    My Tiger, wounded and limping… knew there was now no retreat… Plowing full force ahead … through a small village and into the darkness…

    The Tiger died with pride….

    (Using the Blood/Gore Mod)

    Love it!

  4. Serondal says:

    From playing this game I am convinced the reason Germany did so good durning the early parts of WW2 is that they had so many diffrent types and variants of their tanks the people fighting them had no idea what they were up against 99% of the time. That and they had tons and tons of tanks that weren’t heavily armed but were quick moving and again, extremly varried in what they could do and where and how defended they were. Compared to the one or two tanks the US had and the few tanks UK and France used, they were predictable :P

  5. Stomper says:

    In Lagzero.net (a spanish site afaik) there is a giveaway contest where you can win a copy of Men of War.. to participate you need to design an alternate dvd cover for Men of War.. easy.

    The link:
    http://www.lagzero.net/2009/04/lagzeronet-regala-tres-copias-de-men-of-war-concursos/

  6. Maniac11919 says:

    This is by far one of the most difficult rts games I’ve ever come across… I think it’s the only one where I’ve ever really really wanted a co-op mode, just because I’d be perfectly happy manning 2 or 3 tanks manually, moving slowly to take the field. I’d love to have a partner to coordinate the other 200 units on the field I have under my command because there’s just so damn much to do in this game it blows my mind.

    The assault on the train on the easiest difficulty had me biting my nails and clawing tooth and nail at the german offensive to stay alive. It’s pretty epic to pull off an effective assault or defense though through whatever means you have left to you, and like Jim said that’s one of the most rewarding and awesome things about this game.

    Thanks for the heads up on this one, Jim. It was well worth playing.

  7. toni says:

    i ordered it a few days ago. should arrive soon. I played the demo, left it without finishing (and lack of manual/explanations since I’m a RTS newbie) but kept coming back to it. let’s try this, let’s move there, let’s give this guy another gun the other time…….addictive and surprising each time. must have played the demo already 10 times I think. after reading this I’m very anxious to see what will happen in the full game.

  8. Andrew Dunn says:

    Prowlinger, I just played that mission, the defence of Tunis. Ridiculously epic.

    If there’s one thing Men of War does well (and there’s more than one) then it’s desperate defensive missions.

  9. Serondal says:

    I just beat the first part of the defence of Tobruk (spelling?) mission and actually did pretty good. The first time I held off on ordering back up because mainly I didn’t realize I could :P Once I had some Panzer IVs rolling onto MY side I started doing pretty well for myself.

    For those of you stil on the fence about this one. If you find a sniper rifle and equip it your solider becomes a sniper. Now the weapon doesn’t just give your sniper better accuracy or longer range, it MAKES HIM A SNIPER! This means that he will aim at enemies, a small red circle slowly surrounding his aiming point. When it is full it is a sure shot where ever you are aiming at.

    What this means is when you’re directly controlling a sniper you can head shot solider after solider from VERY long distance. There are certain levels where this makes a huge difference, other levels where there are so many enemies that you’re not really doing a lot of good wasting your time killing one person at a time.

    For example on the defence of the train yard level you have control over a lot of snipers who are standing on smoke stack cat walks and on top of buildings. They do a lot of good killing enemies on their own but soone or later they’ll probably bite a tank round :P Also you can hitch AT guns and AA to various trucks and toe them around to where they are needed, which I’ve never seen in any other RTS before. I’ve seen this in turn based games like Steel Panthers but never an RTS :)

  10. Andrew Dunn says:

    I was expecting the gun-towing to be fiddly and horrible but it’s actually really well done.

    The developer’s come a long way since Soldiers, which I loved at the time despite the severe user unfriendliness it had going on.

  11. autogunner says:

    i love the way MoW works, you dont have to play it, just command the way a commander would by initiating flanking attacks or retreating units.

    also THAT allied mission where you have the armoured jeep is a total blast

  12. Serondal says:

    I was expecting the same thing, and I did get a few guns stuck in trenchs but that is really my fault not the games :P I love the way tanks roll right over most trenchs while wheeled trucks get stuck most of the time. I got to watch an entire squad of infantry get crushed as a run away British tank rolled randomly right down the trench killing the entire bunch of them :P I think maybe one of them jumped out of the trench for cover.

    Like autogunner said I often find my infantry squads have taken on a mind of their own and advanced even when I didn’t tell them to. I think to myself “I need to move this squad forward” I go to look at them and they’re already there!

  13. Serondal says:

    I think more needs to be said about the Dynamic Campaign Generator! I downloaded and installed it last night and WOW!!!

    Okay for those of you who have Men of War but not this mod, get it ! You get to pick your location and time (for example Western Front 1940-1946) Then pick what army you will have and what army you’ll be fighting against. Then you have so many points you can use to buy your army.

    Next to get a big map with a bunch of diffrent maps on it and move your forces around either attacking or defending. When you click done you get a map of the map YOUR unit will be fighting on and you deploy your units from there. Then you click done and load up the game, selecting a new 5th option Dynamic Campaign Geneator missions. You play the mission and when you win you save the game. The out side program detects this and loads up your results from the save game, tracking who survived and what is in their inventory (so if you steal a tank and repair it, you get to keep it for the next mission, but if you lose your tank and leave it behind you lose it for the next mission. If you find a flame thrower for one of you guys, he has it next mission!) You get a few points and get a chance to buy some more units to replace any you lost or to get better units as the case may be and then do the whole thing over again. The best part is once you deploy your units you just click back over to Men and War (which doesn’t mind alt Tabbing for me) and click restart while you’re still in the mission you just beat, and it will load the new mission for you to play! AWESOME!

  14. jackflash says:

    @Serondal – sounds very cool, I will check it out for sure. Can you play it co-op, as with the underlying game?

  15. Serondal says:

    I don’t think so no. Since it is kind of creating the map and mission on the fly it only works single player for now. That would really be awesome though if they could get it to connect up for Co-op play. Most of the campaigns have 2 units , one for the player and one that is AI controlled I supose so it’d be neat to have another player fighting for that second unit but I guess it’d get pretty complicated to code something like that : )

    It does have a two packages that add more vechiles and more soliders to the game. The one that adds more soliders actually claims that EVERY solider in your squads will be diffrent looking and if you zoom in enough you can actually see their rank based on their physical insigna!

  16. Vinraith says:

    @Serondal

    That sounds absolutely fantastic. I’ve been hesitant to pick up MoW because of the story driven campaign and the lack of single player skirmish play (am I right about that, btw? There’s actually no single player skirmish outside the campaign?). This, however, sounds like such a great mod it might justify buying the game. Thanks for letting us know about it!

  17. Andrew Dunn says:

    There isn’t a skirmish mode, but the campaign can hardly be described as story driven. It’s really just an excuse for various battle situations, and I’ve found most of the proper battles to be very replayable.

  18. Serondal says:

    There are two kinds of battles, one where you’re attacking and ones where you’re defending. The attacking ones are very much like a skirmish mode since you have total control over how you want to go about doing your job. They leave weapons, supplies, and various vechiles scattered all over the place so it is up to you how to want to go about it. Snipe your way through? Use a howliter for 40 minutes to lighten up the defensive line of the enemy, that’s fine too.

    The defend missions are very hard for me, you get a set number of troops, sometimes you can call in help after a certain point as well, but you have to hold a posiiton for a certain amount of time. These can certainly be fun and aren’t story driven either. The voice acting is so bad it is funny so I pay no attention to the story itself ;P

    As far as the mod goes it is really awesome. Just remember the first time you play it to take good care of anything that costs a lot of points :P You don’t get that many after you start and losing a tank can be a huge loss. You got all the time you want for the battle so if you tank gets damaged repiar it before you save if you can. ALSO, you get to keep anything you’ve captured so try and repair those enemy tanks so that next round you’ll have more. ^_^

  19. Vinraith says:

    Thanks for the information guys, I’ll probably pick up a copy here in a bit.

  20. Serondal says:

    Don’t be put off by the bad voice acting and how hard it may seem at first. I also suggest trying down the amount the view scrolls in the options, it was a little herky jerky for me ;P

    Pretty end lets you take control of people and tanks and drive/walk them around with the arrow keys. While you have units selected hit space to make them jump to the ground for cover! (not sure what it does when you’re in a tank lol) If you left click on an enemy it will show you a red zone that is this units view range.

    In SC craft ect tanks can see perfectly 360 degrees. In real life and Men of War the crew inside can only see out the view ports and anyone riding onside the tank can only see where they are looking. This allows you to sneak up on a tank and throw a anti-tank grenade on it! Try this in Comany of Heros I dare you lol

  21. Vinraith says:

    The more realism the better. I’ve been lamenting the death of the Close Combat series a lot, lately. This sounds like it might scratch that itch nicely.

  22. jackflash says:

    @Vinraith -

    I only ever played the demo of the original Close Combat (man, remember when Microsoft made games for the PC? Those turncoats), but Men of War is the closest game I’ve ever seen to it since.

  23. Serondal says:

    Oh man, I LOVE close combat. It is very very much similar. However I actually believe the company that made close combat is still making games in 3d. they’re not very good though :P

    The units use cover without you telling them to , like in close combat. Artillery is insanely effective, like close combat, anti-tank guys can destroy tanks if well placed, like CC. Flame thrower guys can waste entire squads in seconds, like CC :P Units can hide inside pretty much any building and shoot out, like CC, cover makes a huge difference if used correctly. Sadly there is no morale as far as I can see, but your guys can be heroic at times and do things that amaze you. Like run out of a trench, throw a tank grenade while being shot at by the entire german army and 2 tanks, destroy the tank, throw another one at the other tank, then run back into the trench damn near dead all the while you’re going YEEESSSSS!!!! :P

  24. psyk says:

    Only problem they cant kick or blow up doors as far as I can make out.

  25. Andrew Dunn says:

    On replaying that Moscow Is Behind Us mission yesterday, my two anti-tank infantry (one on each flank with a PTRD each) survived every single wave and took down dozens of tanks. I made a point of keeping them alive when we retreated from the first line (with about 25 men left).

    Also, on the Seelow Heights mission, I had a tank crewman destroy three Panzer IVs, a Wirbelwind, and two Panthers by himself, scavenging AT grenades off the dead, after his tank was blown up. Absolute hero. He died after taking out the second Panther. :(

  26. Jigahaganaga says:

    Just gave the demo a shot because of this article. I love it, Now I gotta work out where/how to purchase it.

    Thanks for bringing this game to my attention.

  27. Sunjammer says:

    I know it’s vain, but the downright hilarious voice acting really removes a tremendous amount of weight from the situations you play through. A lot of it reminds me of that japanese Akira dude from Battalion wars 2 on the Wii, and that’s a very very bad sign.

    Direct control is fantastic, and i love the general weighty, meaty feeling of the game. It’s definitely solid. But it tries its damnedest to turn you off

  28. Serondal says:

    Yah you have to ignore the horrible voice acting and replace it with some of your own internal story :P At least that is what I do. I listen to it once to get what is going on then I ignore it from there on

  29. Cypher says:

    About those mysterious “long barreled German beasts”:on hard,you will have TWO King Tigers in the base,and an extra panzer IV.Wasted my entire battalion assaulting the base.

  30. Johnny Go-Time says:

    I recently discovered this article, and bought Men of War as a result. I find all of the glowing, wonderful things written above to be true.
    I’m no wargamer, and am mostly bored by RTSs, but this game is fantastic, deep, cool, and brutally hard (without being unfair.) I love it!

  31. samy adel says:

    thanks
    but i want to know how to pass the mission called the road to victory

  32. cheap ghd says:

    A boaster and a liar are cousins-german.

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