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Partisans 1941 review - scrappy and fun

By Kyle Hoekstra. Posted

The genre and setting of Partisans 1941 recall the classic Commandos games, but Partisans fashions an original approach by blending real-time tactical combat with RPG skill trees and inventories, plus the meta-layer of base management.

This is an effective palate-cleanser between missions, where you optimise your preparation by procuring supplies and constructing equipment. The essential tactics are similar to those of Desperados III, but it is with a heavier dose of explosive dumb luck that you operate behind enemy lines.

Levels consist of patrols guarding objectives and lootable supplies. Enemies have vision cones and are as susceptible to lures as to a swift shank in the side. And when everything goes wrong, a slow-motion mode lets you plan tactics on the fly.

What makes Partisans different is the license you have to indulge in spectacular action. Combat is scrappy and fun. While you might mask your scent in tobacco or unplug the floodlights to stay incognito, you can often solve your problems with copious grenades.

Skill cooldowns and ammunition are rarely prohibitive. Of the lightly differentiated partisans you bring on missions, some, like Fetisov with his SMG burst, lend themselves to skirmishes.

Even when armed, partisans are vulnerable and outnumbered. If going loud is reckless, staying quiet requires patience. This tension between evasive and confrontational behaviour is always absorbing.

Unfortunately, Partisans is routinely frustrating to play. The reluctance to channel the player into particular strategies can be paralysing, while engagements have a trial-and-error nature dependent on save-scumming.

You will spend a lot of time hiding in a bush.

Partisans incentivises obsessive looting of levels to outfit your base which can drag, and the actual interaction, from inventory management to movement orders, is fiddly. Partisans have an upsetting habit of taking cover on the exposed side of cover and throwing grenades at their own feet.

Then there’s the maddening behaviour of enemies in an alarmed state, who become spontaneously omniscient of every bush where you’ve stashed a partisan. There are enough of these issues to form a wider impression of brokenness.

Too frequently, the player is grappling not just with the designed experience but the ambiguous systems of the game itself. Yet Partisans 1941 is compelling enough to keep me going for hours.

Having navigated past bugs and belligerents, I’m rewarded with a feeling of deep satisfaction. The messiness and halting gameplay is annoying, but the strong core experience at least recommends it to genre fans and Commandos nostalgics.

It’s a surprise combination of genres, resulting in a satisfyingly balanced diet.

Highlight

Moscow-based Alter Games treat Partisans’ themes with melancholy rather than chauvinism. In-game documents eulogise partisan valour, while the contradictions of Zorin’s doctrine of retaliation are suggested by news of punitive attacks against civilians by German police.

Verdict: 67%

Slick sandbox tactics in a solid setting, let down by fiddliness and drudgery.

Genre: Real-time tactics
Format: PC (tested)
Developer: Alter Games
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Price: £25.99
Release: Out now

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