Sudden Strike 4 Revived by Kalypso, Is Dangerously and Unflinchingly Difficult

As a publisher, Kalypso has a propensity for taking franchises that were popular in their heyday and bringing them back for modern times. Case in point: Sudden Strike 4. The original series of Sudden Strike titles developed by Fireglow Games helped solidify the real-time tactics/strategy genre, presenting World War II on an isometric battlefield with physics-based line-of-sight and cover systems. Sudden Strike 4 will be developed by Kite Games, based in Budapest, with ex-Stormregion members as part of the team, so this revival should be in good hands.

Kalypso showed an early pre-alpha build of Sudden Strike 4 at a recent event, and similar to past titles in the series, it will focus on three World War II campaigns: German, Allied, and Soviet. For this build, one battle each from the German campaign (Battle of Stalingrad) and Allied campaign (Battle of the Bulge) were available, both of which did not pull any punches. All three campaigns will leave some room for choice-based storytelling within each mission in the form of dialogue, but they will still remain historically accurate.

Before selecting each mission, though, you'll need to pick the right general or strategic officer to head your army. In general, each faction will have a choice of three leaders, one focused on infantry units, another on tanks and vehicles, and another that's more well-rounded and defensive. For instance, the Allied Forces have Bernard Montgomery, a British senior officer that gives infanty extra ammo, grenades, and vision; George Patton, who gives tanks more vision, acceleration, and explosion immunity; and Omar Bradley, who gives infantry smoke grenades and first aid and allows for faster supply trucks and vehicle repair.

The German Forces have analog tacticians—Johannes Blaskowitz, Heinz Guderian, and Fedor von Bock—and as you'll notice, the more notorious officers like Hitler and Rommel will not be selectable. Kalypso needed to make sure to abide by German laws and restrictions, so don't expect to see swastikas and the like anywhere in the game.

Regardless of which side you choose, you'll be able to upgrade each tactician by using skill points, which you earn by completing missions. Each battle will award you up to three skill points based on your war score as you finish objectives and make wise decisions. If you manage to get all three skill points, you'll unlock challenge variants of the mission, where you'll have, say, less fuel or fewer units to work with. Then with those skill points, you can select or deselect active bonuses from each tactician's tree, with the higher skills providing tank armor, vehicle camouflage, and infantry elite status.

If the pre-alpha build for Sudden Strike 4 is any indication, every mission will be a tooth-and-nail fight to the finish. Even the Battle of the Buldge, which was meant to be a tutorial level for the press, didn't pull any punches. After ordering a soldier to man an observation post, German tanks quickly came into view plowing through the snow. The rest of my squad tried to defend the position my manning a few turrets, but eventually they needed to retreat through the forest, where the tanks could not follow, down to the main American field HQ where several squads and tanks were waiting.

Unfortunately, I didn't have that much time to construct a defense. It took a while to figure out the mission's preset grouping controls, and figuring out which infantry units were riflemen, the only ones that can lay anti-tank mines on the field. Luckily, I was able to order the soldiers into the trenches before the German Forces arrived in just a minute. Before I knew it, I needed to prevent the Germans from taking over from two sides, making sure to have the artillery fully stocked with supply trucks and to throw anti-tank weapons from the infantry whenever necessary. Unfortunately, my mistake in sending some of the tanks and infantry, as well as air support, beyond the trenches. Whoops, my bad.

Pretty much the same thing happened with my attempt at the German campaign with the Battle of Stalingrad, which is of course should be extremely difficult, yes? I was able to avoid heading down a street filled with anti-tank mines due to the advice by the developers, and instead send infantry through the lefthand side of the streets for a slight pincer attack. Along the way to securing a factory, I was able to knock down a building, removing all of the enemy soldiers hiding inside, and ultimately reached a gate that spawned a tank that can't be attacked from the side. That was unfortunately my downfall, and my forces was essentially laid to waste. (Not that I minded so much given that was playing the Nazis.)

With time, Sudden Strike 4 will hopefully have a fuller tutorial for new players and have a playable build that will include multiplayer, of which Kite Studios hopes to have 4v4 with optional AI on either side. But the developers have plenty of time before the game's release for PC and PS4 in Spring 2017.