Drawing a strong influence from the Commandos series, with its blend of real-time tactics with stealth elements, Partisans 1941 modernizes its predecessors with its rich strategy layer and unique characters.
Hailing from the studios of Alter Games and published by Daedalic Entertainment, Partisans 1941 is set during the height of the Second World War; The Soviet Red Army is retreating. Commander Zorin and his men find themselves stuck behind enemy lines and decide that the best course of action is to fight their enemy from within.
The gameplay loop should be very similar to those with experience on real-time strategy games. Stealth is your best option to dwindle the opposition down before you go loud.
You Need To Memorize the Quick-Save button In Partisans 1941
With a majority of the maps featuring very sparse cover, the developers incentivize ambushing way more than traditional firefights. Although, you do get tools for both. Tripwires, suspicious bottles left on the ground and throwing knives will result in some great guerrilla moments, while grenades and AOE abilities will improve your odds of coming out alive when you get spotted.
Early game you don’t have many stealth tools on your arsenal outside of your knife, forcing you to get close and personal. More often than not you will be extremely punished. Patient planning and ‘save-scumming’ your way to success is critical, as all it takes is a soldier that just walked in the edge of the screen to have an entire army swarming you like bullet sponges.
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Enemies have a very strict cone of vision, with a large blind spot on the sides to work with. There is also an auditory warning system that will alarm them if you are too loud on your approach, but it barely penalizes the player. Each character also gets their own skill tree. This is an intuitive and simple tier system that works pretty well and branches out the interactions with opposing forces.
Outside of the combat, you also have a tiny parcel of base management. You can develop your base with new buildings to: improve your offensive capabilities, send soldiers out to gather more supplies, or send out small teams on missions to spread propaganda and generally destabilize the region.
Scavenging is a priority and keeps you on your toes during the campaign: thin rations make your ever growing squad less efficient in combat or a lack of materials makes you unable to construct new buildings.
Ammo Is Sparse, So You Need To Plan Ahead
Despite the bleak colour scheme, the game looks great. A partisan force feet wet in demolished towns isn’t a great canvas, but Alter Games makes full use of it. The animations are rough around the edges but are generally satisfying. Sneaking through a building and juggling with a well armed officer before you usurp his life with a knife has never been this much fun.
The UI is generally clean and great, even though it has a tendency to bug out or to not respond the way you expect it to. This is especially the case when it comes to cover, picking items and base management. There are also some optimisation problems, causing your frames to dip on some missions. However, considering its a small developing team and we are still on the early days of the game, this is bound to be fixed.
In spite of that, you will generally understand the status of your squad and the opposition you are dealing with pretty well, leveraging your resources to puzzle through the levels.
It Looks Brown-ish, But Is Timeless In Its Style
The whole aesthetic of Partisans 1941 transports you to the era. The writing is also respectful to the time period, with no mercy for the fascist scum that you dispatch through your crusade to take the power back.
Even though it’s a little too naive at times, the dialogue gets the job done and pushes the narrative to the discovery of new characters and more gameplay opportunities. Sometimes you are left wondering why a Russian game that depicts soviet units is filled with people that sound rather British, but the quality of the voice acting is great and able to dodge further scrutiny.
Solving the puzzles presented by the game can be fun, with the helping hand of a tactical pause in the action, to consider your next moves. Once you get your hands on explosives and start developing more offensive abilities, everything becomes more enjoyable and cascades of problems become opportunities for a reactionary defence force capable of using its brain to beat brawn.
However, the early game can be off-putting for a lot of players. It puts a lot of hurdles in front of the player like a shallow set of tools for concealment, the AI knowing the locations of your entire squad once a partisan gets spotted, or simply having the enemy charge through a no man’s land. This shreds through your fragile squad mainly because of the sheer volume of unending flesh coming at you with nearly instant-kill weapons.
So, What’s The Conclusion On Partisans 1941?
If you are a fan of real-time strategy games, I’d strongly advise to try out the game, as it is a rich entry for that market, with a simple and yet comfortable gameplay that could attest to titans such as Warhammer 40.000: Dawn of War II.
While it doesn’t innovate on any aspects, it integrates a lot of systems into one ever growing product, that gets better as you play it. If you like guerrilla tactics and overcoming uneven-odds, Partisans 1941 is the game for you.