Admit it. You've always wanted to be General Rommel! Okay, you probably haven't, but if you're the sort of chap who enjoys sending the odd tank or 50 hurtling into battle then CDV's forthcoming, standalone Blitzkrieg expansion Burning Horizon is probably already lit up brightly on your shopping list. And with the game due out in April, story-boarder and historical expert Ernst Stein has been outlining what to expect in a recent "developer chat" of indeterminate origin.
As you've probably guessed by now (or read here previously), the game centres around General Rommel, with a main, 18 mission campaign mode "spanning four years of his campaigns from the famous wooden tank decoys at El Agheila to the Normandy battles," and even reflecting his unit selections in specific areas, in battles from the Ardennes, El Alamein and Tobruk to Tripolis and Sicily.
The game also draws on the Pacific theatre of war for some of its eight standalone missions. Says Stein, "We did think about developing a whole Asian campaign, but as the war in the Pacific was mainly fought in the air and on water there wasn't too much scope for bringing in new vehicles or tanks, and we thought a complete campaign might lack the rapid action the Blitzkrieg gamers liked."
That didn't stop them implementing authentic Japanese battle tactics though, including their emphasis on aerial superiority to help weaker ground units battle through tough opposition. "The challenge for us was to see how clever we could make the AI of the Japanese troops, so that their small tanks with only 25 mm armour would still pose a real danger to the player's units," Stein reports.
We've already heard of the team's commitment to improved AI, with the promise that troops will seek out weak spots in the lines and clear minefields, and it sounds like it's been given an all round going over. "We wanted to write the scripts and AI so that the computer would react like a human opponent, who would panic and flee in the face of overwhelming odds, or who learns and becomes stronger." And yes, that does mean that under the right circumstances certain enemies will actually surrender, although you won't just be able to bluff your way in with a small division...
As you'd expect from the game's historical expert, Stein was also keen to back up the authenticity of the product, adding, "Those who are into historical detail won't be disappointed with Burning Horizon." Having spent some time with veterans, Stein learned specifics about troop tactics that you probably won't find in most history books, and adapted the game to compensate. "This veteran told us that they used the armoured Hanomag SdKfz 251 vehicle to drive through heavy machine gun fire right to the enemy positions, jumped off and stormed the positions," he recalls. "So we changed the Sdfz 251 to give it better armour and allow it to cope better with the terrain. And to make sure that the minefields of Tobruk and Bir Hacheim don't become an insurmountable death trap, it can now clear mines, too."
Burning Horizon is due out in April, with a further expansion planned for release later in the year.