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Men of War 2 is an ambitious WW2 RTS that may come at just the right moment

Ukrainian developer Best Way is going all out
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Ukraine’s game development industry has been disrupted by the Russian invasion of the country. Some of the young men and women working at these companies lost their lives fighting for their liberty, others went back to their craft once circumstances allowed it – determined to bring more funds into the country through making an excellent product. Best Way is a case of the latter, I’m told by a Fulqrum Publishing representative at gamescom 2023.

Unfortunately, none of the devs themselves could be in Cologne due to the war, but thankfully the team seemingly didn’t have to suffer any losses during the Russian onslaught. Work on Men of War 2, the RTS the studio is working on, had to be paused briefly a few times: First, when the developers had to relocate from their hometown of Sievierodonetsk in the early stages of the war to escape the Russian attack, and later when the Russians tried to knock out the Ukrainian power grid last winter, leading to power shortages in the country. Now, they are back at work to put the finishing touches on their product.

Men of War 2 key art.

Men of War 2 is Best Way's biggest title yet.

Men of War 2 is the continuation of a series of RTS titles the studio has done in the past and may best be described as a hardcore RTS – you’ll need to consider things like ammunition and fuel, the fog of war is very strict, and reinforcements are limited. You can’t produce more units, instead calling in troops from a limited pool of reserves. It’s a very tactical kind of play style, making you think thrice before committing your troops to a battle. You’ll want to scout thoroughly before doing anything drastic, considering all possibilities.

Set in World War 2, Men of War 2 allows players to take control of the American, German, and Soviet forces over the course of several campaigns and multiplayer modes. The scope of the game is quite remarkable: Several hundred infantry units, vehicles, and planes will be at your disposal, the visuals and destructible terrain look pretty great, and you can even take manual control of units like tanks and do the fighting yourself from their perspective.

This all comes at what might be the perfect time: Company of Heroes 3, the other big WW2 RTS, hasn’t stuck its landing quite as well as Relic Entertainment had hoped and the hardcore multiplayer community is feeling especially negative about the game. Fulqrum tells me that it was “very well aware of this” and wants to use this chance to convert some disenchanted Company of Heroes fans, which is why Best Way is doing everything it can to increase the approachability of Men of War 2 compared to its predecessors.

Men of War 2 screenshot of vehicles and artillery firing inside a tulip field.

The campaign features stories from the Western and Eastern Fronts.

As mentioned before, it’s a pretty hardcore game for someone coming from a title like Company of Heroes, so adapting is difficult. This is why the developers have added several customization options to its broad variety of multiplayer modes, allowing users to bring the difficulty curve down a bit. Those wanting the classic Men of War experience can still get, while others can play with the sliders and try out different modes until they find something that suits them.

One of those modes designed for approachability is Combined Arms, a 3v3 mode that lifts a lot of the restrictions on regular matches – players can customize their own battalions here, freeing them from having to take a specialized regiment, and the number of command points is boosted, so that everyone can have more units on the battlefield at the same time. This enables huge and chaotic battles over large areas. This Combined Arms ruleset can be applied to a number of the game’s modes such as Front Line, Assault Zones, and Combat.

Front Line is another interesting feature. In this mode, each team must push its own front line – a literal territorial demarcation line visible on the map – forward, giving the match a fresh spin since both sides seek to maximize their territorial gains above everything else. A PvE spin on this, Line Defense, provides content for those players who don’t want to face other humans.

Men of War 2 tank assault at night.

Players can test their mettle across several multiplayer modes with classic and modern rules.

Supporting such a variety of 1v1 and team-based modes for PvP and PvE is an interesting map system that dynamically adapts existing battlefields to the size of the mode that you’re playing – playing the Combined Arms rules, you’ll fight over a large area and see everything a map has to offer. If you’re going for one of the classic 1v1 modes, you’ll only fight over a part of the same map.

Together with the campaigns, which can be played solo as well as in co-op with another player, the amount of choice on how exactly you want to play Men of War 2 is staggering. Fulqrum also credits the game’s community for being very welcoming to newcomers and helping them find their footing.

This goes for play styles as well. While each of the three available factions roughly has the same types of units, as was the case in real life, they play rather differently – in a somewhat trope-filled way: The Germans field lots of expensive elite troops, the Americans are all-rounders, and the Soviets use overwhelming swarm tactics. Lots of features have been expanded, such as the ability to construct fieldworks: While base-building isn’t part of Men of War 2, players will be able to place down bunkers, machine gun nests, trenches, minefield, and anti-tank obstacles to slow down the enemy – you can imagine that this will be particularly useful in Front Line.

Men of War 2 screenshot of the Carpathians.

The maps can get quite expansive in Men of War 2 due to the scale of some of the game modes.

Mod support is another big aspect of Men of War 2 – previous Best Way titles have offered extensive modding tools, leading to some truly impressive creations. I’m told that some users have already created entire RPG campaigns while testing the tools for the upcoming game.

In the long term, mod support and – possibly – expansions will keep Men of War 2 fresh along with balance updates. Ideas for additional factions are already being explored, though naturally details are being kept quiet so far. It all depends on how well the game fares in the first place.

One thing can be said without a doubt about Men of War 2: It’s the biggest game developer Best Way has ever delivered, which is doubly impressive given the circumstances it was made under. You’ll be able to play Men of War 2 starting September 20, 2023, when it will be released on PC.