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Desert Rats Vs. Afrika Korps Review

Wartime strategy heads to the desert in this historical real-time strategy game.


Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 18th April 2004

Desert Rats Vs. Afrika Korps

  • Developer: Digital Reality
  • Publisher: Digital Jesters
  • Release Date: 8th April 2004

Many real-time strategy games seem to put more emphasis on your management skills then actual strategy. Take the Command & Conquer games for instance; you start each mission with a small number of troops who in turn build up a base that enables you to collect resources so you can build up a massive army in no time at all. Don’t get me wrong, the C&C; games are good but there’s no real strategy involved as you can simply create more and more units and don’t have to worry about the hundred or so you just sent out on a suicide mission.

However, Digital Reality’s Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps differs from the majority of real-time strategy games by ditching resource management and base building in favour of focusing on battlefield tactics. Set against the backdrop of the conflict in northern Africa during World War II, Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps tells the story of the conflict from the viewpoint of several fictional characters rather then historical figures, before each mission their respective stories are told through journals and the occasional cut-scene.

Before each mission you are taken to a planning menu that lets you select the units to use in your next mission. You are given a set number of points to use for each mission with each unit having their own point value which is deducted once a unit is selected. It’s a good system that makes you think twice about the units you select, although sadly it doesn’t really work that well because you don’t know what enemy units you are going to be up against so it’s usually best to stick with the default selection of units.

The game also features a prestige points system that gives you access to enhanced or super units, these units are usually more powerful variations to the games standard units. Once you have earned enough prestige points by completing bonus or hidden objectives in missions you will be given access to these super units, it’s a good system that rewards the player for completing task that aren’t necessary to progress through the game.

The game features two main single player modes, First and foremost there is a story mode that lets you play the games 16 missions in chronological order, in this mode you will firstly play through the Axis campaign followed by the Allied, you will also play some additional missions that help carry the games story. Other modes of play are pretty standard and include a campaign mode, scenarios and several multiplayer options.

Vehicles play a large part in Desert Rat vs. Afrika Korps and there’s a pretty large variation of them available to you ranging from jeeps, trucks, tanks and planes. Although, the game puts a large emphasis on vehicles the game still provides a wide selection of infantry units ranging from basic riflemen, snipers, grenadiers and machines gunners and so on, however despite this you don’t ever really get to use the capabilities of these units to their full potential because of the games heavy use of vehicles and the micro management that it would require.

Missions in Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps vary in difficulty and style, in some mission you will be defending areas you control while in others you will be required to go deep behind enemy lines with only infantry units at your disposal. Luckily though in Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps you can salvage enemy vehicles and load your men into them.

Gameplay throughout is generally solid, the game is pretty accessible with an easy to use command menu and interface, there’s no sifting through endless menus to find the command you’re looking for as it has all been nicely laid out in front of you. That said though there are some pretty annoying flaws that can lead to the odd spell of frustration. Firstly path finding in the game is pretty poor. If you select a group of units they have trouble getting to where you want them to go if it involves anything more than a straight line. If they come across obstacles they will split up with some heading in one direction and others taking a large detour, this can throw your tactics up in the air as units will often wondering enemy units and simply get wiped out.

Enemy AI also isn’t at its best although the game does provide a good challenge when you can take out a small group one by one with one unit without other units in the group noticing, you can tell it’s not firing on all cylinders.

Graphics in the game are good with some nice effects. The game is presented in total 3D with each unit accurately recreated to represent their real world counter parts. Maps in the game are quite varied which is quite an achievement seen as they are all set in the desert. They also have a nice amount of detail which includes craters from explosions, destructible trees, buildings etc and a rather good sand storm effect that can hide units from sight.

Sound in the game is generally good, music is fitting with the theme and sound effects such as weapons fire, explosions and engine sound are all pretty authentic. The only downside to the games sound is the voice acting which is questionable at times.

Despite my complaints Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps puts in a good performance and is worth a look, especially if you like strategy games that require you to think fast and react quickly to events on the battlefield.

Review Score: 7.6/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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