October 15, 2020
Partisans 1941 is a real-time tactical strategy game developed by Alter Games and published by Daedalic Entertainment. Set in 1940’s Russia during World War II, the story of Partisans 1941 follows the game’s main character Alexey Zoran, as he rallies together people to form the partisans, a resistance group operating behind German enemy lines.
As soon as you boot up a new game, you’ll find yourself captured in a German camp. It doesn’t take long before the tutorial has you sneaking past guards, knocking out enemies, and hiding their bodies in the bushes. Skills and game mechanics are explained in quick and concise pop-up windows as you make your way out of the camp and escape into the forest.
I loved the fact the Partisans 1941 wasted no time throwing me straight into the action. Through an engrossing soundtrack with alarms and sirens blaring in the background the game easily draws you in, and it didn’t take long for me to be on the edge of my seat as I tried to sneak past groups of enemies. Once you escape the German camp, you’ll find two allies who transport you to safety. Together with the two of them, you’ll set up a resistance camp deep in the Russian forest. This base camp is where you’ll gather food, manage missions, and set up a weapon workshop where you can upgrade items.
While the blurb of Partisans 1941 touts base-building elements, in reality, your base is nothing more than a dedicated menu screen. You’ll come back to this menu screen every time you complete a mission. Once there, you can take time to heal characters, gather food, and craft weapons and explosives in your base’s workshop. You can also assign party members to specific missions and upgrade their abilities in skill trees.
The gameplay in missions feels reminiscent of games like the Commando series, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, and Desperados III. There’s a lot of stealth involved, and the game’s top-down maps are beautifully realistic and varied. The graphics in Partisans 1941 manage to convey the grim nature of World War II without sacrificing any of the game’s beauty or visual appeal. The environment, enemies, and characters are beautifully rendered, and, combined with the great soundtrack and sound effects, Partisans 1941 has created a visually engrossing world.
For this reason, I found it unfortunate that the game’s dialogue and story often included story beats that were so stale and clichéd that they completely pulled me out of the game. Not to mention that there were several lines of dialogue that I encountered in-game that made little to no sense. At one point I was crouching behind some bushes, right near a group of three NPCs who were blissfully unaware of my character and his party. A few of the one-liners from their conversation included ‘I got my eye on a hot bimbo’ and ‘Why are chicks so aggressive?’. While it made me laugh at the time because it was so utterly absurd, I found it striking that the clunky vocabulary in these sentences wasn’t ironed out before release. Especially when relying on an engrossing historical setting in a game, unrealistic dialogue can make or break players’ immersive experience.
Luckily, Partisans 1941’s RTS combat and stealth mechanics make up for a lot of the strange dialogue and predictable storyline. While most aspects of the game’s combat are fairly standard for a real-time tactical strategy game, the developers have added a lot of different factors to combat to mix things up. The result are some truly engaging missions that easily steal the show.
“The result are some truly engaging missions that easily steal the show.”
Each mission is essentially a contained map with a list of mission objectives. Every mission map comes with plenty of obstacles, hiding places, and enemies, and goals can vary from anything to do with sabotaging vehicles, to saving prisoners, to poisoning rations for German troops, and more. Some missions can be completed at your leisure, while others come with certain prerequisites, like completing them within a time limit or not triggering an enemy alarm.
The variety of objectives was one of the things I enjoyed the most about Partisans 1941; to reach your goal, you’ll typically have to find keys to locked doors, distract large groups of enemies, or set traps. The game encourages you to think outside the box by including plenty of things in the environment that you can make use of; I had characters hide in hay stacks, cellars, and outhouses, use cigarettes to distract sniffer dogs, and kill enemies by dropping loads of logs or barrels on them. This, combined with the rich variety of objects you can use on enemies during a mission – bottles, rocks, grenades, or traps – definitely makes for a thrilling ride.
Combat-wise, Partisans 1941 is pretty standard for a real-time tactical strategy game. Similar to games like Wasteland or Gears Tactics, you’ll have to position party members strategically on the battlefield and make sure they’re behind some form of cover. Once combat starts, you’ll be able to hover over particular enemies to see your chances of hitting them successfully. Each character also comes with a special ability; while some characters have stealth abilities – like being able to move longer distances without being detected – others have specific abilities that can be used in combat. Alexey Zorin, for example, has the ability to throw knives and take out enemies from a short distance away.
While here and there I found that things stuttered – characters not moving immediately after a click, or the AI sending characters on a really convoluted path when I wanted them to go from A to B – overall I found Partisans 1941 an engaging title. While some aspects of the game could benefit from a little more polish, overall Partisans 1941’s gameplay mechanics make for a dynamic experience that will appeal to fans in the tactical strategy genre. And if you’ve got a penchant for history, then the gorgeous graphics are a nice bonus.
- Lots of variety in missions
- Great use of the environment in stealth mechanics
- Beautiful graphics and soundtrack
- Clichéd story
- Dialogue needs more polish
- Combat stutters in places
Partisans 1941 offers some great combat and stealth mechanics that will appeal to fans of the Command series, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, and Desperados III. While it might not have the engrossing story of its counterparts and may lack polish in places, the gameplay mechanics still make for a thrilling ride from start to finish.