Frontline: Road to Moscow Review (PC)
key review info
- Game: Frontline: Road to Moscow
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: No
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Just as my armor, still weak and lacking experience, was starting to feel the power of a soviet infantry and armored car force, I managed to move my own AT troops around the flank of my enemy and I finally got my artillery into position after a lot of moving around.
Frontline: Road to Moscow is not a complex title but it can deliver tense moments and some interesting tactical challenges based on the German attack against the Soviet Union.
StoryFrontline: Road to Moscow takes gamers to the very familiar World War II period in order to allow them to control a range of German units as they attempt to close in and then capture the capital of the USSR during the initial phase of the Operation Barbarossa invasion, which took place in 1941.
The development team has chosen the most important battles of the campaign and has tried to recreate as many of the historical circumstances as possible, while making sure that the scenarios are well linked to one another and give the gamer a clear sense of progression.
The biggest problem with the game is that it does not even try to do something different with its subject matter and instead only focuses on delivering a solid set of scenarios and gameplay mechanics that have been tried and tested before.
I would have liked the strategy title to try to add some more context for World War II, in order to appeal more to newcomers to the genre, or to simply explore the tactical importance of some of the included battles in some more detail.
GameplayFrontline: Road to Moscow is a rather classic hex and turn-based strategy game, which gives both the player and the Artificial Intelligence plenty of time to decide on their moves and has a set of location-based victory conditions.
The gamer has access to a number of units, including infantry, artillery, tanks, and more specialized troops at the start of each scenario and he needs to use them in order to break through the lines of the enemy and occupy his cities.
As the game progresses, he also gains access to a number of points that can be spent on extra forces or to deploy resupply columns in order to bring those that are already on the field up to their original strength.
A number of powers, including air strikes, can also be used to soften up the lines of the Soviet forces and some scenarios include special weapons inspired by the real world hardware that Germans brought to the Eastern Front in 1941.
Each unit can move once and also fire during its turn and those who manage to take out an enemy can perform another strike, which means that it’s very important to focus fire and try to take out all the forces piecemeal, without allowing them to resupply and get back into the fight.
The player also needs to carefully consider the order in which his units will move and to make sure that the one that delivers a killing blow is able to take another solid attack during the same turn.
Units also get access to experience based on their performance, so it makes sense to try and keep the best ones alive for as long as possible, and they have two special abilities, based on their class and their normal use, which can be very important as the Germans get deeper into the Soviet territory and resistance of the Communist forces stiffens (although why paratroopers are good snipers is a mystery to me).
The Russian Artificial Intelligence is not particularly bright but it understands how to pounce on an unprotected flank and how to take advantage of tank speed to retreat and reinforce when it is threatened with destruction.
Frontline: Road to Moscow can be played without knowing too much about Operation Barbarossa or World War II military hardware, which makes it a good introductory title for the world of military turn-based strategy.
The biggest problem with the title as it stands right now is that some weapons seem to be imbalanced, with tanks often too vulnerable to infantry even if they are described as able to hunt it down, and with artillery sometimes entirely unable to execute its main task, the suppression of enemy forces before other units strike.
The fact that most battles also feature at least one well-defended chokepoint adds a level of challenge but can also feel unfair as the campaign progresses.
Graphics and audioFrontline: Road to Moscow uses the same overall art style that has been a staple of the genre since the days of the first Panzer General, an isometric perspective that aims to show gamers the layout of the battlefield, the position of their troops and those of the enemy, and with plenty of extra space to reveal statistics and other info.
The graphics are not impressive by any means and I tend to zoom out in order to get to look at as much of the battlefield as possible, but there are some nice touches that differentiate the various types of units and I like the way some of the Russian designs reveal the sometimes weird profiles of their real world inspirations.
Frontline: Road to Moscow could have used a little more attention to the presentation and to the way text is placed, especially when it comes to popups, because at times it is simply impossible to read and some gamers might miss important information.
The sound design of the strategy title is well suited to the World War II theme and features some soaring battle songs, probably designed to spur the player on as he takes out enemies on his road towards the capital of the Soviet Union.
The only problem is that it’s pretty much interchangeable with the soundtrack of plenty of other titles set in the same period and fails to be engaging in the long term.
- Solid turn-based strategy mechanics
- Fidelity to real history of World War II
- No innovation
- Some weird unit choices
Frontline: Road to Moscow is a solidly built video game that has some good core mechanics and a presentation that’s both familiar and a little bit barebones.
Operation Barbarossa is a very intriguing moment in the conflict and delivering a solid strategy title about it is an achievement in and of itself, but the game could have offered so much more than it currently does.
The development team at Slitherine can surely try to push the turn-based strategy genre forward rather than focus on the same old and proven ideas, but Frontline: Road to Moscow is a little too content to play things safe and to simply offer the public an experience that it’s accustomed to, without challenging the community in any way.
Panzer General is a better game in many ways, even if it is much older, and that tells us something about the lack of progress in the military turn-based space.