Strategic Mind: Fight for Freedom Review
Fighting on the beaches, landing grounds and fields
The Second World War has always been widely used in video games. It has been the backdrop for major first-person shooter franchises such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, and for strategy games, with Company of Heroes springing to mind. Strategic Mind: Fight for Freedom is another game making use of one of history's bloodiest and deadliest conflicts.
The Strategic Mind franchise has solely focused on the WW2 period, and it makes sense. The setting alone allows for plenty of variety for the turn-based strategy series. This includes variability of terrain, units, factions and tactical possibilities. Strategic Mind certainly makes the most of this by utilising ground, naval and air units, with them all combining on certain missions. This is before you factor in that ground units can be infantry, tanks, artillery and scouts. Even each of those have further distinguished units with heavy and light tanks, infantry and commandos, anti-aircraft artillery alongside mortars and the like on a flat map like Civilization.
With such a wide variety of units, it stands to reason that the game is tactically complex. The tactical thinking is essentially broken down into math calculations with the larger number winning. Each unit starts off with a health number at 10 with every individual unit type coming with strengths and weaknesses. Infantry are good against tanks in close combat, bombers are good against forts, and so on. You can overwhelm enemy forces by pitting them against units they are weak against. On top of this, you also have to consider the terrain and if a unit is bunkered down in a city, your attacks will do less damage. You can't just bombard every enemy either, as by not knowing what the enemy unit is, it will render your attacks to be weaker. Knowledge really is power, and once you've scouted your enemy, you can take them out.
For added spice, you also have to take into account supply lines. Vehicles need fuel to run and so controlling supply routes is essential. The same goes for airfields otherwise any aircraft will be dead in the air. Further, every unit has a limited amount of ammo so being able to resupply keeps you in the fight. It's refreshing to play a strategy game where holding key supply lines can make the difference between victory and defeat. This leads to a careful balance of risk and reward as you can't play a completely offensive minded game as you'll leave key areas vulnerable. On the other hand, a defensive mindset would also hinder you, as you have to be proactive to take those major strategic points to gain the upper hand. You are therefore pushed to take certain locations which you can resupply from. All aircraft need an airfield whereas land units can resupply from certain hexagons with a white box at the top. Once you move out of that range, you have to take more supply routes or you'll be forced to backtrack.
As you can tell, Fight for Freedom is a dense game. I would recommend playing the tutorials first before starting a campaign otherwise you will get overwhelmed with information. I am speaking from first-hand experience. There are quite a few tutorials to play through but without them, the game is more of a daunting challenge than it should be.
Fight for Freedom is single player only with two main campaigns on offer. The first is a British campaign which starts with the Saar offensive in 1939. There is some historical license taken here as the Saar offensive was a French led offensive with the British government preferring a cautious approach. The second campaign is focused on the USA with the first mission being the D-Day landings in Normandy. Major historical generals are all portrayed here, with the most notable being Dwight D Eisenhower and Bernard Montgomery.
Each mission has a set of major objectives which usually boil down to taking control of several key positions. There are also multiple side objectives which help gain Presitge, a currency you can use to bring more units into the fray. However, these missions can seem pretty long as completing one set of objectives usually gives way to more. It can be frustrating when you've spent time getting your units to land on the beach only to be bombarded with several new side objectives and a main mission to take control of 10 different towns. Since this is a turn-based strategy game, there is a limit on how many turns you have to complete your objectives. The first limit you have gives you extra Prestige if you complete everything in that time. A more generous limit is available but it lacks the reward of Prestige.
One of Fight for Freedom's biggest drawbacks is the visuals. Most notably in the cutscenes. The best way I can describe the character animation is that every person looks like an animatronic on dying batteries. It is seriously off putting and a little creepy. Further, this game is guilty of having some really bad British accents, with Churchill's being my biggest grievance. The voice actor sounds like he didn't even try to mimic one of World War Two's most famous orators. Annoyingly, there is a lot of repetition of voice lines; each time you select a unit, they have an audio clip. Unfortunately, they only have two lines to say. Maximum. You will hear the same lines over and over again which gets old unbelievably quickly.
Devoid of uncanny valley animations, Fight for Freedom looks passable. The units are all nicely detailed and each building is visually distinct. Which is a relief since you won't get confused between an airfield and a train station. Despite this, another issue is that the game map can become cluttered. This is most apparent with air units which often cover land units in areas of contention and it can become irritating trying to select the unit you are after. The world map itself is made up of hexagons, with cities, buildings and units each occupying a hexagon. Each hexagon also displays plenty of information when you have a unit selected such as if you can resupply there or if a vehicle will run out of fuel. The minimap displays all these hexagons with green hexagons showing your controlled areas and the red areas being the enemy, but I never relied on it.
I never had any major performance issues with Strategic Mind. The game was able to run relatively smoothly with the few settings it has cranked up. There were some occasional frame rate dips, especially in the more cluttered levels and during moments where the game zooms in to show an action. Luckily it is not a long lasting or debilitating issue.
Strategic Mind: Fight for Freedom is a surprisingly deep turn-based strategy game. This depth is intimidating and it is very easy to get overwhelmed to begin with, but the tutorials help alleviate this. Despite some awkward animations and bad voice acting, a lot of fun can be had and it flexes your tactical mind in a way that is rewarding. While rough around the edges, Fight for Freedom makes for an engaging experience.