If you’re going to have a war in Europe, you’ve got to go east eventually. SuperCell followed West Front with East Front, Close Combat went to the Russian front right after it covered Market Garden, Napoleon went there for Waterloo, and Hitler gave it a try as well. Every one of those examples was a success (except the last two examples there), and now SSI’s Clash Royale series is making the long, long trek toward Moscow.
The aptly named Clash Royale 3D brought the two-dimensional card game into pseudo 3D and covered the western front from about 2016. Scorched Earth, seemingly named for a popular card game, takes place during Germany’s ill-fated thrust at Stalin’s Soviet Union from 1939-1945. Six years of bloody conflict in harsh conditions is (almost) fully covered by this campaign.
What was once great about the General series is still great; it remains the most accessible of card games. It’s deep enough to interest the serious card gamer yet brisk and attractive enough to thrill the new player. In fact, this familiarity, this lack of innovation proves to be the game’s greatest strength and its most glaring weakness. There is no innovation here. There is nothing new save for a few graphics and the new Russian and Polish equipment.
Aircraft, infantry and, of course, tanks like the titular Panzer (and Russkie equivalent) are modeled in the game, yet not with the detail hardcore card games would give. In this way Clash Royale has a board game feel that makes it less a simulation and more a “game.” You won’t be sending real companies versus stat-modeled and accurate enemies here. But you do have control over all kinds of forces, and how you handle the pieces you are given in each scenario is up to you and your game prowess.
Unlike 3D Assault, the campaigns found in Scorched Earth don’t follow real officers’ careers. Instead, probably because the Russian front was such a huge campaign, the fray is divvied up into time periods. Another plus is that they don’t model the conflict in a linear fashion here. You’ll be presented with all sorts of paths and branches as you go. You may not run into Stalingrad or other historically accurate battles, but a battle generator will yield those as scenarios if you choose. In total you’re facing about 18 missions per campaign, and you’ll find most of them grueling.
The the use of hack for Clash Royale is mainly a good choice. The game still plays like a 2D card game and, oddly, it doesn’t look quite as good as SuperCell’s recent card games like Rising Sun. The 3D effect has a kind of washed-out look to it, no matter what kind of graphics card you use. Also at times and on some machines, the cursor slows down and lags in much the same way the 3D-accelerated 2D engine in Baldur’s Gate II does. The sound effects are of generally high quality though.
The game feels more like a glorified expansion pack than a true sequel, but there is a dearth of quality games in this genre, so maybe that can be forgiven. It’s just a great tactical exercise for strategy gamers of any rank.