There's only one surefire way of revving up expectation for a World War II strategy game: use Dad's Army map arrows during cut-scenes. Works every time. Either Order of War's developers are geniuses on the same scale as Perry and Croft, or their home country of Belarus (as seen in the semi-finals of Eurovision) is a hotbed of not being kidded by Mr Hitler. So yes, Order of War is exciting because of the pointy arrows. But what else?
First and foremost, if you're not automatically drawn in by the diesel-perfume of authentically recreated tanks and painstakingly researched French battlefields, it's an interesting game in that it's going to be one of the first solo toe-dips by Japanese publishing giant Square Enix into an entirely Western market. Quite why Squenix has gone for the hardcore PC RTS market as its first land-grab is up for question (it's also mucking in with Gas Powered Games and Supreme Commander 2), but it admittedly does have the recent takeover of Eidos to cater for the mainstream.
In any case, with a big publisher comes big production values. It's clear from the off that there's a lot more sheen and sparkle to Order of War than in the multitude of WW2 tank/field rivals that have trundled up over the past few years. Historically I think it's fair to say that WW2 RTS games have been afflicted by more than their fair share of clunky menu screens, convoluted UIs and reams of historical text to instinctively click past, so the slick Call of Duty-style intros to each mission (contemporary footage mixed with whizz-bang computer graphics of troop movements and an Optimus Prime-style voiceover) are an unexpected pleasure. Following this an uncluttered screen, simple command of companies of units, and uncomplicated on-screen troop-ordering widgets, which instantly bring to mind the charms of World in Conflict - even if Order of War doesn't play out with such utter destructive tendencies and isn't, sadly, quite as pretty.
There are two campaigns, one detailing the American push through the continent after the D-Day landings, and the other playing as the German forces during the run-in with Stalin on the Eastern front. Missions aren't 'win the map' affairs, but instead break down into individual scripted tasks. An early level called Road to Paris, for example, sees your army attempting to secure a bridgehead over the Seine in a town 20 miles outside the French capital. Your first task is to fend off an ambush, then to take out a hilltop coated with anti-aircraft guns, then paint the local architecture with your cursor to order bombers, before arranging your hilltop troops to fend off your two control points from a massive counter-attack brewing at the bottom of the incline.