Let me cut to the chase in this post about upcoming indie strategy good time Unity of Command: I love that it’s simplified.
Simplification in the modern gamer lexicon is usually interchangeable with “casual”. Casual games are simplified, so making a game easier is synonymous with making it for casuals instead of core gamers. This causes shitstorms on the internet, like it did with Skyrim removing skills and stats from it’s nightmarish leveling system.
But here’s the thing. I’m pretty much the corest gamer you can find. I love tower defense games, but I love the tower defense games that beat up others and steal their lunch money. I love Dark Souls. I love complex RPGs with lots of moving parts, and I definitely love turn based strategy games. I like complicated things.
And I’m also an idiot. I can’t get into most complicated epic turn based strategy games or hex-based wargames. I want to. I’m just not smart enough. I adore Fire Emblem and Advance Wars as wargames precisely because I can figure out what’s going on in my tiny Earthling head. I love Rome: Total War because things make sense—I disliked Empire because it was long-winded and complicated.
And traditional hex based wargames? Can’t do them. Too many things. I tried Hearts of Iron and I think I suffered brain damage from it. And that’s probably the most mainstream, most accessible one. I want to love the genre, but I don’t have the brainpower.
So we get to Unity of Command, a strategy wargame focused on the Battle of Stalingrad during World War 2. It’s got a delightfully European aesthetic and, from the looks of it, looks simple yet deep enough that people who can’t understand how to construct supply lines for their armies in the field could manage. It looks less bogged down in realism and options and instead focused on creating the feeling and emotion and strategic relevance of the battle. It looks like it boils battles down to what’s fun about them, the drama and the difficult choices, and leaves out the stuff that alienates people who don’t also love constructing spreadsheets of unit stats.
Complex games certainly have their place, but it takes difficult genres like turn based strategy and roguelikes to make me realize that casual titles have theirs, too. Sure, I could play an ASCII roguelike with a million options, but I get the same style of experience from Desktop Dungeons, and I don’t have to spend four hours learning to have fun there. That’s the trick these casual interpretations of serious genres show us: that it’s okay to not have to study to have fun.