It is one of the darkest times in human history. It is a time of war; it is a time of suffering. Countless people are dying for their countries. Terrible stories and images of unbelievable cruelty will be with us for decades. This is a war we may never forget. A black stain in human history…
But it is also a time for heroism and bravery. It is a time when people rise and fight for their beliefs. In the midst of all the terror, this is a war where we can also find stories to inspire us for many years. Stories of survival, perseverance, resilience, and unfaltering determination… The year is 1941. It is the time of World War II.
Moscow to Berlin: Red Siege takes us to the Russian front of World War II. Split into three campaigns Moscow to Berlin covers the story of the war from the perspective of both armies. The game begins with the initial advances of German troops into Russian territory in 1941. The Nazis have already invaded much of Europe. The invasion of the Soviet Union is about to begin. The first campaign focuses on Operation Barbarossa, recounting how the German army rapidly advanced through Russian territory only to have the massive assault fail within sight of Moscow.
The second campaign focuses on the battles that took place across Russia between 1942 and 1944. Players will get a chance to see how the German army attempted to continue to advance but ultimately failed to defeat the Russian troops. The second part of the campaign will have you take control of the Russian army in a series of important battles as you fight to reclaim the lost territory.
The last campaign takes players to 1945 as the Russian army completely turns the tide and starts advancing towards Berlin. As the German army continues to lose battles, you will take Russian soldiers across Prussia, Hungary, and Poland before finally reaching Germany and the conclusion of the game. Through the twenty missions of Moscow to Berlin, you will have a chance to experience many parts of the Eastern theatre of War.
Moscow to Berlin is a real-time strategy game that focuses on tank battles. Rather than building up a base and producing units at the battlefield, you will be limited to a certain number of tanks and infantry units in each mission. You will not have to worry about gathering resources and creating an army stronger than your opponent’s. Instead, players are expected to use the available resources carefully to accomplish challenging objectives.
The fourth installment in a series of strategy games from Monte Cristo, Moscow to Berlin’s appeal is in its intense tank battles. Players will have access to a series of authentic units from World War II. Many different models of tanks are available to wreak havoc upon your opponents. However, the limitation on the number of units available in each battle will mean that you will have to use your resources conservatively. After all, even the most heavily armored and destructive tank will eventually succumb to continued bombing.
Successfully completing a mission might often depend on trying to determine where the enemy is located and identifying weak spots in their defenses. Carefully exploring the map without revealing your presence might be an important factor in some of the missions. In addition to looking for any potential weak spots, you will also have to identify targets that make sense to take out first. For instance, while they can inflict very heavy damage on your tanks, artillery units have relatively weak armor. If you can manage to approach them and destroy them first, battling enemy tanks can become easier. Your strategy in utilizing your units and maneuvering them across the battlefield will be critical to your success. You will have to learn when to push forward and when to withdraw to repair your available resources.
Moscow to Berlin does not allow players choose which army they will be controlling. Rather than focusing exclusively on the German or Russian perspective of various parts of the war, Moscow to Berlin’s campaigns and missions are grouped by the chronological order of events. This gives the game more of a focus on the history of the war rather than the side you are controlling during any given mission. The chronologically ordered missions are also an effective way of retelling the story of the war without any confusion as to the order of various missions and how they fit into the greater war.
However, this design choice also hurts the game in several ways. Due to the way the missions have been grouped, you will have to switch sides between Germany and Russia as you proceed through a given campaign. This makes it very difficult to have an attachment towards your troops or the side you are controlling. Just when you are getting used to leading German tanks, you will be in charge of Russian troops in the next mission. Besides being somewhat disorienting, this structure also prevents the game from having as engaging a story as it could have. You will not get to meet key characters or experience a storyline from the perspective of a Russian or German commander. Instead, you will just play one mission after another with nothing but a historical background provided during the briefing to immerse you into the underlying setting or make you care about the side you are controlling.
Fortunately, while the storyline might disappoint some players, Moscow to Berlin can still be a great deal of fun to play. The tactical aspects of the game do occasionally become very engaging. Having the opportunity to control authentic units from the war can also be a treat for history and real-time strategy buffs. But the strongest asset of the game lies in the design of some of its levels. While every single mission in Moscow to Berlin is not shining with brilliance, the game does have a number of very well-designed and especially engaging levels.
For instance, there is a mission that takes place at the Sebastopol harbor. Controlling a small group of German units, your task is to take out a series of Russian bunkers in the area. Carefully exploring the location to find all of the bunkers gets quite intense as you also try to survive against Russian tanks, artillery, and mine fields. On a different mission, you get to control a sizeable force of Russian units on a major offensive against Germany. The mission has multiple objectives and a time limit. Starting at different parts of the map, your troops have to capture a series of flags. As soon as you complete one of the objectives, the timer resets and you have to move onto the next one. Before the end of the mission, you have to cover a large area and close up on the final set of flags from all sides of the map. Seeing your troops successfully move towards the center is quite engaging and instead of becoming an annoyance, the time limit serves to make the mission very exciting.
Moscow to Berlin also has a few devious missions with multiple objectives that can become quite challenging. One of the early missions in the game will have you capturing a number of Russian flags as you command a small German attack force. As soon as you capture the last flag however, you have to pull your remaining units together around the central flag and defend it for fifteen minutes against a sizeable Russian counterattack. While you get a few reinforcements to help you out, your battle-torn attack force may still have quite a difficult time holding their position. And don’t expect the mission to be over after you survive the fifteen minutes. You will also have to push forward and capture one last flag with whatever units you have left on the field.
During a different mission, you will be in charge of a Russian attack force. The idea behind the mission is to inflict heavy damage upon German units and then rapidly pull back to protect your own army. As such, your initial objective is to move to the opposite side of the map and assault a strong group of German units. Once the initial objective is completed, you have to complete a difficult retreat as German troops flood the area. The challenging missions with multiple objectives and rapidly changing battle conditions go a long way towards keeping players interested.
While Moscow to Berlin does not allow players to construct their own units, the game does feature some interesting ways in which you can command your army. The use of infantry units in the game is of particular interest. In a game that focuses on tank battles, your riflemen or officers may initially seem useless. However, Moscow to Berlin allows players to enhance the vehicles under their control through the use of infantry. Players have the ability to dictate which units control a vehicle. Putting different types of units in charge of a vehicle can result in bonuses that might help turn the tide in your favor. For instance, you can replace one of the riflemen in a tank with a machine gunner. Doing so will increase your tank’s rate of fire. Similarly, putting an officer or a scout inside a tank will give you additional bonuses that are not available when you use regular troops. As such, the game encourages players to take the time to assign the correct troops to your vehicles.
Players also have access to infantry units that can be useful in certain situations. The simplest example is the medic that can heal your soldiers during battle. However, the single most useful infantry unit is the sapper. The sapper’s ability to detect and disable mines can be crucial while you are moving through certain areas. Sappers also have the ability to use remote charges to remove certain obstacles on the battlefield which can greatly aid your tanks in navigating certain areas.
In addition to managing their infantry units, players can give their tanks some special commands. One command that is particularly useful in defending an area is ‘dig’. When you click on this command, the selected unit becomes immobile. However, the soldiers inside the unit immediately deploy sandbags along the front side and the front corners of the vehicle. These sandbags greatly improve the tank’s defensive ability against attack coming from the front. By carefully arranging your tanks and using the dig command, you can create an effective defense line that is easily able to withstand heavy attacks from the enemy.
Players also have the option to order their units to target a specific portion of an enemy vehicle. When you are fighting tanks, you can attack their caterpillars to render them defenseless. Similarly, you can attack the weapons attached to a tank to cut off its firepower. One benefit of using these special attacks is to potentially get the enemy infantry to abandon the vehicle. Soldiers inside a tank that can’t fire its guns might step out to challenge you directly. If you manage to take out the troops however, you can claim the empty tank for your own army. This will be invaluable when you have some means of repairing the destroyed weapons or the caterpillars on the captured enemy vehicle.
Since players are restricted to a relatively small number of units, repair trucks play a critical role in the game. In many of the missions, if you can catch a calm moment, you will be able to pull your forces back and have them patched up by one or more repair trucks made available. It is great that Monte Cristo has made sure the repair times are relatively short. As such, it does not take too long to slow down your progress and fix your equipment. The real challenge is making sure your army is truly in a safe spot so you do not get bombarded by artillery while you are trying to get your tanks ready for another skirmish.
Without a doubt, Moscow to Berlin has a number of positive aspects that can make it an entertaining game. Unfortunately, the game also has a series of problems that seriously take away from the overall experience. Chief among these problems is pathfinding. Your units, particularly your vehicles, have a considerably hard time navigating the map. Especially when you order them to traverse a long distance or go around certain obstacles, they frequently get stuck and cause you no end of frustration. Getting larger groups of units to cross bridges is particularly cumbersome. Unfortunately, the design of the levels can sometimes compound the effect. If there are a lot of trees and buildings surrounding the road, your units might have a harder time finding a path. To make matters worse, if you ever happen to give your units orders to move in opposite directions and cross each other along the way, chances are pretty good that they will run into each other and get stuck. Moscow to Berlin would have immensely benefited from some improvements to unit navigation.
Viewing the battlefield can also lead to some, but thankfully relatively minor problems. Just like many other real-time strategy games, Moscow to Berlin allows players to pan the camera as well as adjust the zoom level. It is possible to close in on the battlefield and see things in great detail. This makes certain effects like trees falling over or phone lines collapsing a lot more fun to watch. Unfortunately, players are rather limited in how much they can zoom out. While this is not a big problem for the most part, it would have been very helpful to be able to see more of the battlefield in certain situations. It is occasionally difficult to manage your troops when you can’t see them and the available targets on your screen at the same time. Sometimes your units may destroy enemies before you even have a chance to find them by moving the camera. On occasion, attacks coming from enemy units that are off the screen can also catch you off guard.
Another aspect of the game that might frustrate some players is the artificial intelligence of the enemy units. More often than not, their strategy seems to consist of holding their ground. Even when they are on the offensive, the enemy units frequently enter firing range and just stop. They do not try to outmaneuver your tanks. They also do not seem to try to attack from the sides or the back as often as they should. While their numbers and firepower alone is usually enough to give you a challenge, it would have been very nice to see the enemy units occasionally employ clever tactics or at least attempt to retreat to a safer location when you overwhelm them with your troops. Thankfully, since the game is already fairly challenging on the normal difficulty level, this does not make the game too easy by any means.
However, if you do not want to deal with tough missions, it is possible to attempt campaigns at a low difficulty level in Moscow to Berlin. Setting the game on an easier difficulty makes the enemy much more vulnerable to your attacks, making your job very easy. In fact, a mission that can easily take an hour in the normal difficulty mode can be completed within a few minutes on easy. The noticeable variation makes the game accessible to beginner strategy gamers while still offering a decent challenge to experienced gamers.
Overall, while Moscow to Berlin does deliver some entertaining moments, it falls short of becoming a great strategy game. Some of the missions are quite engaging and the battles occasionally do get pretty intense. However, problems with navigation and the view of the battlefield hurt the experience. The game could have also benefited from a somewhat different mission structure as switching sides throughout the campaign tends to take away from the atmosphere and the overall feeling of immersion. Nevertheless, playing through the twenty missions and participating in key World War II battles on the Russian front can be a fun experience. Especially given the bargain price of the game, real-time strategy buffs can consider giving Moscow to Berlin a try. Just don’t go in expecting the next big thing since Dune, Warcraft, or Command & Conquer.