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|Platform(s)||MS-DOS, 3DO, Mac OS 7, PlayStation, Windows|
|Mode(s)||Single player or two player via hotseat or PBEM|
Panzer General is a turn-based game, set on operational level hex maps. One plays lone scenarios from either Axis or Allied side and against a computer or human opponent. In Campaign Mode, the player assumes the role of a German Generalissimus against the Allied computer.
Panzer General is an operational-level game, and units approximate battalions, although unit size and map scale from one scenario to the next are elastic. While the names and information for the units are reasonably accurate, the scenarios only approximate historical situations.
Its novel feature was to link individual scenarios into a campaign spanning World War II from 1939 to 1945. Units are able to gain experience and become stronger, where success in one battle would award the player prestige to upgrade units, acquire additional units, and select a better scenario for the next battle.
The game requires the player to use combined-arms tactics, where each unit is strong against some unit types but very vulnerable by others. Dug-in enemy positions must be softened by artillery, which is vulnerable and needs protection. Before attacking the infantry and anti-tanks, one needs to destroy the artillery which protects them from behind. If no tank can slip there, one does this mostly by bombers, but then it is advantageous to destroy the air defense units first. The fighters have a dilemma between destroying enemy air force and protecting the bombers.
One must carefully observe the road system to speed the advance, or he/she can use Bridge engineers to cross the rivers. The game rewards a Blitzkrieg strategy - penetrating deep into the enemy positions while postponing destruction of some of the encountered enemy units for later.
The performance of units is affected by their experience, which takes very long to collect. Particularly in Campaign mode one then has to protect the experienced units as the most valuable asset.
Panzer General has 38 scenarios based on real or fictitious battles from World War II. The player can engage in a single battle or a campaign mode.
In Campaign Mode, a series of battles unfolds as a campaign heads to victory. There is one long campaign as Germany, with five starting locales:
- Poland (1939); from Poland, through Norway, to the West with possible amphibious landing in Britain.
- North Africa (1941); from North Africa to the Middle East.
- Barbarossa (1941); from the initial crossing of the Soviet border to Moscow.
- Husky (1943); from Allies landing on Sicily to the end of the war.
- Kharkov (1943); from the German spring offensive to the end of the war.
The task in most scenarios is to take all objective cities in a given number of turns; taking them at least 5 turns earlier is considered a major victory. In scenarios from later stages of war, the Germans try to hold positions against a stronger enemy. A typical task is then "hold at least two of our objective cities for 20 turns; for major victory, hold at least five."
All campaigns branch out and end either by the general being sacked for incompetence or end of the war. In Campaign Mode, a major victory could possibly change known historical events. For example, after a major victory over France the player invades Britain. Later in the game, after a major victory in Barbarossa, the player can convince the German High Command to attack Moscow immediately (which costs him or her much prestige) rather than diverting to Kiev before Moscow.
If the player achieves a major victory both in Britain and in Moscow, he or she is allowed to invade Washington. In any other case, he/she must fight well in many battles to get another chance to attack them. If either Britain or USSR survive this attack, they drive the Germans all the way back to Berlin. The best the player can do is to fight well in each battle to have enough prestige for the next one - and to achieve a major victory in the final defense of Berlin.
The design of Panzer General was based on the Japanese wargame Daisenryaku. The Strategic Simulations team had played a Japanese-language version of the game's Sega Genesis release extensively, and were inspired by its streamlined design. The company's Graeme Bayless later wrote of Daisenryaku, "The genius in this game was the fact that it took the highly complex subject (WWII conflict on land) and boiled it down to the pertinent parts."
Daisenryaku would go on to serve as the inspiration for the entire Panzer General series.
Panzer General was a commercial success. By November 1995, it had sold over 100,000 copies in the United States and 50,000 in Europe. According to William R. Trotter of PC Gamer US, it was particularly popular in Germany. By August 1996, sales had surpassed 250,000 copies. Describing the situation at the time, Computer Gaming World columnist Terry Coleman wrote, "When you consider that a new Windows 95 and Macintosh version has just been released, it seems fair to say that PG will be incontestably the best-selling historical wargame of all time". The following year, T. Liam McDonald of GameSpot reiterated that the game had sold over 250,000 copies, and noted that 60,000 of these sales came from its PlayStation release. McDonald declared Panzer General "the best-selling wargame of all time" in September 1997.
Panzer General won Computer Gaming World's 1994 "Wargame of the Year" and PC Gamer US's "Best Wargame" awards, and was a runner-up for the former magazine's overall "Game of the Year" award, which went to UFO: Enemy Unknown. The editors of Computer Gaming World called Panzer General "the first wargame since 1987 to garner the #1 spot on the CGW Top 100 poll—a fine endorsement for the most exciting wargame in a long time."
In 1996, Next Generation listed it as number 51 on their "Top 100 Games of All Time", contending that though the game's interface is simple, the complexity of the strategy is exceptional. In 1996, Computer Gaming World listed the Game Over scene as #8 on its list of "the 15 best ways to die in computer gaming".
In 1996, Panzer General won the Origins Award for Best Military or Strategy Computer Game of 1995.
Reviews for the 3DO version were generally positive. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly remarked that the game's high level of complexity makes it difficult to get into and unappealing to anyone but enthusiasts of the genre, but that the gameplay design is solid and there is a strong dose of variety to the campaigns. A critic for Next Generation argued that while the music and battle animations quickly wear thin, the game allows them to be turned off and "what it lacks in style, it makes up in substance." He made particular note of the impressive depth of the strategy and the ability to control nearly every land and air craft used in the World War II European theater. Sir Garnabus of GamePro complimented the accuracy of the 3DO port but otherwise panned the game, contending that war strategy games in general are poor due to their minimalist graphics and focus on thinking rather than acting.
In their brief review of the PlayStation version, Next Generation remarked, "One of the best PC wargames of all time and still highly thought of, this version doesn't miss a trick."
In 1996, Robert Mayer of Computer Games Strategy Plus argued:
In the years to come, computer wargamers may divide the world into two epochs, Before Panzer General, and After. Before Panzer General, wargames were supposed to be complex, intimidating things, accessible only by the anointed few, the grognards, veterans of decades of board gaming and masters of military arcana. SSI's Panzer General, however, shattered that view, with excellent graphics and animation, and sheer fun that drew in grizzled campaigners as well as green novices. Not surprisingly, there seems to be a rush now towards kindlier, gentler wargames.
Panzer General was the first game in the Five-Star Series, which grew in the years after its release. It was followed by Allied General (Panzer General II in Germany), which allows play from the Allied point of view and features four new campaigns. Other sequels include Fantasy General, Pacific General and Star General. Its mainline sequel, Panzer General II (titled Panzer General 3D in Germany), upgraded the interface to use an overlay of photorealistic terrain, and to display different unit facings, resulting in an improved appearance. In the April 2000 issue of PC Gamer, it was voted the 44th best computer game of all time.
The series continued with People's General, an upgraded version of Panzer General II based on a World War III scenario between China and the UN. Panzer General also provided a Play by Email (PBEM) system. Panzer General 3D Assault arrived in 1999, with fully 3D graphics. Panzer General III: Scorched Earth was released in 2000, with better graphics and a redesigned interface.
Panzer General was later followed by Panzer General: Allied Assault, an Xbox Live Arcade game that was released on October 21, 2009. Allied Assault was also released as a board game, using tiles to form a board and cards simulating military units and combat situations. The game was released the first week in January 2010. In early 2017 the StarniGames studio announced the work on new war game about WWII: Panzer Strategy: Blitzkrieg. According to the developers, the game is the ideological successor of the Panzer General. The game will use 3D graphics and Unreal Engine 4. In Panzer Strategy: Blitzkrieg the campaign tree includes about twenty various missions, arranged non-linearly. Initially, one campaign will be available - for the Wehrmacht.
Release date is still unknown. There is an pre-alpha video available here.
On August 19, 2013 Ubisoft announced that Blue Byte was developing a free-to-play, browser-based version of the franchise called Panzer General Online. This is a tactical turn-based game utilizing collectible card game and table top game elements, that allows players to command their own armies. On September 17, 2013 the game went into closed beta in Germany and the UK. Players can register for a closed beta key on panzergeneral.com. The open beta began on May 5, 2014. As of October 31, 2016, Panzer General Online has been shut down.
Open General is a clone developed from scratch with a new AI and featuring most important features from SSI Panzer / Allied / Pacific General series, plus adding many new enhancements in user interface and optional rules.
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SSI'S PANZER GENERAL Blitzes Through Wargame Boundaries
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