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Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943

Score: 85%
ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Graviteam
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Historical simulation games have traditionally been a fairly niche market. Players interested in this genre of games usually have a penchant for strategy and are interested in the historical value that a simulation provides. For many, it is this structure of gameplay and demand for patience that drive away the lighter-hearted gamers. There have been great games based on the largest events of human history that have transcended this pigeon-holed ideology, but mostly it remains a small dedicated gamer that enjoys them to their core. I like to think that I ride the thinnest line between being the player that loves the demands of historical simulation and just wanting something a little more quickly-paced and, let's face it, simpler gameplay. Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943 is a multiphase strategy game, with elements of both real-time and turn-based movements, about the Russian town of Kharkov. Kharkov was in contention many times between Germany and Russia during WWII.

I was visually lured into this game by seeing the models and marketing screenshots of the tanks. I was afraid that I was going to see very little of these models because it takes so long to get into a style of gameplay where you can actually see the individual units and manipulate them across the battlefield. Once you are able to see the individual units and the more real time aspect of the game, I was impressed to see the level of detail in each model. A game that concentrates heavily on strategic elements can get away with not having a huge amount of detail sometimes. I was glad to see they did not lean towards that direction.

There is a weird gathering of sounds and music here. You have the traditional dark compositions that I would expect to hear from a WWII war game. You know, that dark Band of Brothers-like sound with heavy, curt brass. Then they had a very modern and almost electric-sounding transitional music that took me away from the feel and immersion of the game just because it was out of character. What was very cool was their use of radio clips and sound bites from the era. This alone was enough to secure the feeling of immersion I needed to hang in there through the very long gameplay.


Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943 is in no way a game for the light-hearted or casual strategy gamer. This is actually one of the more intensive games I have played in a decade. They claim right off of the bat that there is a Quick Start to get you going. There is no quick play to hop into, and the tutorial is best described as a slowly-moving slide show of pop-ups. I was better suited learning through failure and at least clicking things to see what they would do faster than it could be covered by the pop-up. Even the hover-over descriptions took a while to display their information. They warn you ahead of time in the player manual that a full turn can actually take around four hours. Part of me thought that this was a bit of hubris, claiming to be longer to look more challenging. Nope, they really meant it. It often took at least this.

Once you enter a game, you begin with the first of two phases. The Operation Phase is guided by a 2D map covering large portions of territory, giving you an overall view of your armies and the territory you control. From here, you will move your forces towards key points and objectives in order to gain Victory Points. You will be able to see the statistics of each platoon and provide reinforcement and repair them. Of course, your ability to repair and reinforce depends on clear lines of access to your platoons. Do not get surrounded, or you will be cut off. Once you move, and your forces move into contention with the opposition, you will begin the Tactical Phase. In the first part of the Tactical Phase, you will be given an opportunity to deploy your units. Terrain means everything, so use it to your advantage. This is where all the magic happens, so you are going to be here for a very long time.

For the most part, there are several limitations that prevent you from venturing outside the bounds of historical accuracy. There is a Quick Battle Editor that will allow you some freedom to play around with personally-created scenarios and battles. Though you can actually get into a fight within minutes, it took me hours to really get everything that was happening in the game. Though I cannot really recommend sitting through every second of the drudgery they call a tutorial, I do recommend reading the manual with a fine-toothed comb.


Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943 is a hard and cruel ride through the Russian countryside. The game's Artificial Intelligence (A.I. ) made me feel like a monkey trying to work an abacus, in the beginning. Being successful may actually depend on how much knowledge you have about the original events leading up to the battles for Kharkov in 1941 and 1943. This fact makes it even more difficult to eke out a victory by just running and gunning. The controls are solid enough to make you think that the game is an easy one to get through. If you don't learn how to use the terrain, it is going to be a quick and easy game, because you will lose. My hat's off to you if you found every victory an easy one, or if you can jump right in to the game without learning by dying.

Game Mechanics:

Several factors add up to Achtung Panzer: Kharkov 1943 having a near impossible barrier of entrance. The game's A.I. is unforgiving. The rules are extensive. The game's pace is tedious. You will, however, walk away from any victoriously completed battle with a true sense of pride. Though you may not pay a blood cost, you will pay a time cost. Troop movement is very smooth and watching the action can be quite cinematic.

Just on the pure merits of the game mechanics, the game is rock solid. Once I actually knew what I was doing, the game reacted and provided me with everything I needed or wanted from the user interface. The fact the controls worked so well only made it more frustrating to actually play. It was frustrating because I just didn't have any fun playing even though it played well. I have spent so many times with this very scenario being switched around.

I am not quite sure what the best way to enjoy this game is. You will be spending a lot of time in front of it. I suggest surrounding yourself with a stockpile of Mountain Dew and Pop Tarts. If you want to get overly immersive, you can still find old tins of C-Rations, but even if you did find them, I recommend not eating them. If obscure WWII battles are what you are into, this is your game. I am sure there is a greater significance to the battle, but it is lost on me.

-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

Minimum System Requirements:

Minimum system requirements

AMD Athlon x2 4200+, Intel Pentium D 3GHz, 1 Gb, ATI Radeon x1600 256 Mb, nVidia GeForce 7600 256 Mb, DirectX8-compatible, Windows XP SP2

Recommended system requirements

AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+, Intel Core 2 Duo 3GHz, 2 Gb, ATI Radeon X4850 512 Mb, nVidia GeForce 8800 320 Mb, DirectX8-compatible, Windows Vista SP1


Test System:

Dell XPS 630i, Vista, Intel Core 2 Quad, 6GB Ram, ATI HD4800

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