What a fruitful year turned out to be for connoisseurs of the tactical strategy genre, which is not so generous with releases! Most recently, the excellent Desperados III came out, and here is Partisans 1941 from the studio Alter Games — a tactic dedicated to the partisan detachment, which gives battle to the Nazi occupiers in the midst of World War II. Running a little ahead, I would like to note that the plot of «Partisans» is a sensible military action movie with organic characters and pertinent dialogues, and even without the popular political interpretations of the events of that terrible and heroic time today. But what kind of game it is — let’s take a closer look.
Behind enemy lines
In the middle of 1941, Nazi Germany carries out a lightning blitzkrieg, moving uncontrollably towards Moscow and Leningrad. And in the occupied territories, meanwhile, dulags (concentration camps) are being erected, where the main character, commander Zorin, turns out. The suddenly jammed bolt of the executioner’s rifle saves the life of a Soviet officer, giving him a chance to escape and hide in the forest. From here he decides to start his feasible struggle against the invaders. Not alone, of course.
This struggle brought together completely different people: military of all kinds of specialties, a local boy, a forester, a nurse, a criminal and even a special agent of the NKVD. Everyone can offer the squad something of their own: Zorin is the classic protagonist of tactics, a master of throwing a knife and raising morale; excellent shooting Belozerova is able to eliminate several enemies with a skillful series of shots; the medic Valya is not only the best at stitching, but also shoots with a surgical precision from a sniper rifle; the local resident Sanyok can freely move around the area and distract the attention of enemy soldiers with idle conversation; and the recidivist Morozov skillfully wields cold weapons and deftly overcomes high obstacles. Partisans also have unusual skills: an NKVD officer, for example, owns martial arts techniques (which, by the way, is dramatically justified — he participated in the conflict on the Chinese Eastern Railway), effectively deals with any number of enemies in a given zone with cold steel, and can use a gaping Nazi as a human shield.
The characters have both unique skills and abilities available to several heroes: accuracy when shooting from a certain type of weapon, strong hands for quickly moving lifeless bodies, and so on.
You can only take three for one mission. One place, as a rule, is assigned to Zorin, less often to other characters necessary for a specific mission in the story. This opens up a lot of space for solving tactical puzzles. You can choose a strategy of methodically cutting out enemies one by one — luring them with a whistle around the corner or into tall bushes. You can surround a fair amount of enemies and give a cross-fire, mowing out most of the enemy fighters. And there is also a more sophisticated method: to put a mine or stretch, and then start an imaginary confrontation, luring the «ubermen» into a deadly trap.
True, it will not work out the same template every time — Partisans 1941 constantly shuffles the types of tasks. Some missions require an extremely quiet approach, otherwise it will fail, while other operations can make some noise. But at the same time, do not forget that cartridges and explosives are not endless, and the priority is still not cleaning the level, but completing a combat mission.
Harsh partisan life
Weakening the Wehrmacht’s military machine will have different ways. A classic partisan explosion of a bridge — on the spot, there are covert penetrations into the enemy’s camp in order to poison food or steal classified materials. There are also missions to eliminate high-ranking officers of the Reich and defectors. The authors also adapted the scene with the rescue of those sentenced to be hanged for the entourage of partisan warfare, which is more characteristic of Westerns. But the most memorable mission, in my opinion, is the task «At any cost», where it is necessary to keep the defense at the crossroads with all available forces while civilians are hiding from the enemy. Tactics briefly turns into military strategy — tense, entertaining and beautifully diversified gameplay.
In general, each mission is well designed. The duration of the levels is verified optimally and none of the sorties has time to get bored, but at the same time it does not seem too fleeting. However, the life of the partisans is not limited to combat missions!
Sometimes you can find interesting additional materials: real newspaper clippings, a guerrilla handbook, combat reports, or photographs. Sometimes they are directly related to the context of the assignment.
Between operations, there is work to keep the partisan camp in order — no less delicate. To begin with, the fighters must be provided with food, because a war cannot be won on an empty stomach. Send someone fishing, hunting or mushroom hunting — you will get some food, but it will not last long. Better, having saved a little resources, build a field kitchen or smokehouse in order to open up the opportunity to prepare food for future use.
The game implements the mechanics of morale, giving combat bonuses at high rates, and vice versa at low rates. It is acquired by successes on the partisan front, lost by immoral acts like theft …
Components for construction are obtained both during missions and on sorties — mini-tasks that take place without the participation of the player. These are raids on garrisons, suppression of round-ups on civilians, searches for hiding places in the forests, sabotage, and so on. Each such activity has a probable success rate, which increases in proportion to the number of fighters you sent to it. A successful sortie will bring not only valuable materials, but also ammunition, new weapons, experience for pumping skills and even morale (for example, if the sortie was successful to disrupt Nazi propaganda posters). Failure will bring nothing but annoyance … Also in the camp you can heal injured fighters (with an injury the character significantly loses in effectiveness), improve weapons, make homemade explosives and medical kits.
In the summaries, you can see notes about the actions of the enemy. The proposed outings will be directly related to this information, and if you ignore them, then the next day you will receive a summary of the consequences of the player’s choice.
The mechanics of managing the partisan camp turned out to be successful. This is both a good respite between tactical operations, and the opportunity to strengthen the squad, and a good way to present story lines to missions. But there are unpleasant tests in «Partizans»
Among the advantages of the game, I can single out a wide selection of heroes with various abilities; well thought out and balanced missions; simple but exciting military guerrilla plot; successful mechanics of guerrilla camp management. Otherwise, Partisans 1941 is an excellent simulator of Soviet partisans, conveying the events of the USSR at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. It is very pleasant that the creators dispensed with the now popular political interpretations of the events of that time.