Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon – Game Review (PC)
Lead the Afrika Korps to victory in World War II’s battles of the Western Desert!
I watch as my Afrika Korps units mass on the edge of the Libyan city of El Agheila. Our mission: sweep across the desert and take the towns to the east. In this opening phase of Rommel’s 1941 North Africa offensive, I have few heavy forces; however, I do have good air support. I dispatch a Storck recon aircraft to fly over the area where my enemy is deployed. Simultaneously, I command armored cars, panzers and infantry to recon the terrain ahead. Heavy artillery and 88 mm flak guns offer added support.
Suddenly, my Storck spots enemy infantry. After calling in artillery, I watch the shells arc across the desert landscape and crash into my adversary’s positions. Close by, my Mark II panzers engage some British scout cars. Mark IV panzers support the attack and quickly turn the scout cars into smoking hulks. The enemy infantry retreat to the east. More artillery is on the way as I send my panzers in pursuit. Time for my support units to come forward to resupply artillery and repair damaged tanks.
Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon is a real-time World War II strategy game that follows the campaigns of Erwin Rommel, placing you in the role of the Germans fighting under the great "Desert Fox." Though called a strategy game, the focus is actually on tactics. There is no resource management component; although between battles, you do get a chance to upgrade units based upon performance and historical availability. Once the action starts, you issue orders through a well-organized system of key strokes and clicks.
Units are comprised of tanks, armored cars, guns, trucks, infantry squads, crews and snipers – all of which are beautifully detailed and accurately modeled. Combine these with the picturesque terrain and eye-catching combat animations, and the result is an absorbing game with an engaging visual effect.
As was the actual case in World War II, combined arms tactics are a must. When employing air support, you do not have direct control of the aircraft. Rather, you select the mission type: ground support with Stuka dive-bombers, recon, air transport, fighter escort, or level bombers. The enemy can also possess aircraft; therefore, judicious placement of your anti-aircraft artillery is crucial. An interesting aspect of the combat is how the enemy artillery is portrayed. When firing, the general location of the enemy guns is indicated on the minimap by concentric orange circles, giving you a target at which to aim counterbattery fire. Likewise, it is not unusual for your own guns to come under enemy fire. Details such as these, combined with the wide variety of units, lend a texture and depth that makes the game engrossing.
The scale of the game is somewhat skewed, so you must move in very close to the enemy to see and shoot at him. This, however, just makes the play more intense. Unit combat capabilities and results are simplified approximations but detailed enough to add a historical flavor.
The artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled enemy is adequately challenging. You will find yourself on the attack much of the time – just as Rommel did. Since AI is typically weaker on offense than it is on defense, this works well. One caution: When contact is made simultaneously at several widely spaced areas of the battlefield, the level of intensity picks up rapidly. Therefore, in addition to applying the correct tactics, you must focus on controlling how and when your units become engaged. Fortunately, the action can be paused or slowed to help keep the situation from getting out of hand.
While Blitzkrieg offers a glimpse at the tactical situations, terrain and types of units Rommel faced, it does not touch on his operational challenges. However, the scenario introductions do a superb job of providing the historical context for the engagements. Overall, the craftsmanship is excellent, just as one would expect from a German developer like CDV.
Blitzkrieg: Burning Horizon is one cool game that is fun to play. What a thrill – watching your tanks blast enemy-occupied buildings, marveling at that the destructive force of a rocket barrage, and maneuvering your forces around the enemy’s flank to deliver the knockout punch! Like the Desert Fox, you have the power of the Wehrmacht at your fingertips. The question is whether you can master the same tactical situations he faced.
Released June 2004
Developed by Nival Interactive
Published by CDV Software Entertainment
MSRP approximately $30
Burning Horizon home.
Originally published in the July 2005 issue of Armchair General magazine.
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Jeffrey Paulding is a lifelong student of military history and science. He has been playing wargames since he was nine years old.