Panzer General III: Scorched Earth is an excellent entry in SSI's Panzer General series. The game continues to use the gorgeous 3D engine that powers Panzer General 3D Assault, but features much-improved AI and better play mechanics. This time, the arena is the Eastern Front of World War II. You can command either German or Russian armies in four campaigns (one long and one short from each side). You can also play custom maps, random maps, or single scenarios. In contrast to previous PG games, PGIII lets you play a strategic role by choosing where to strike next. This means you can replay the game multiple times to see new branches on the campaign tree. |
The most dramatic – and welcome – change is how experience is evaluated and used. In contrast to previous games where each unit gets better with experience, in RPG fashion, the PGIIISE system focuses the experience on the leaders of units rather than the units themselves. In addition, these leaders have different natural skills and abilities that make them suited to one particular type of unit. You can also distribute "stars" (i.e. experience points) manually amongst your leaders after each battle. This represents field promotions, but also allows you to "groom" your leaders at will. With enough stars, leaders gain special orders that can be issued in addition to basic orders – not unlike the fantasy heroes of Warlords III. Naturally, this means personnel management plays an even more important role in PGIIISE than other wargames – true to the real world. You will be forced to make choices due to limited leaders. For example, should you assign an artillery officer to command a fighter unit, since there are no dedicated fighter commanders left?
Like other PG games, you often have a myriad of air and ground forces at your disposal, comprising hundreds of different unit types that include infantry, tank, anti-tank, reconnaissance, fighter, bomber, artillery, and air defense. The units are rated in twelve offensive and defensive categories which signify, among other things, their effectiveness against armored targets, firing range, and ammo. The difficulty is well-balanced on both sides: another welcome change. Superb 3D graphics and sound effects add icing to the cake.
The bottom line is simple: PGIIISE is definitely one of the best in the 5-Star series, and a must-have for every armchair commander. It's even a welcome entrant into our Hall of Belated Fame.
Note: The Lordz Studio later recreated this game in the form of Panzer Corps. Read Wargamer's review here.
Reviewed by: Underdogs