Release Date: January 11th, 1990
Herzog Zwei is the game I wish I would have had as a kid. The Supreme Commander of our nation has gone a bit too far with totalitarianism. Now the world is ruled with an iron fist by Herzog Eins. You remember the good, free times, and as a high ranking general in the army have amassed enough support to launch a coup. So build your forces, destroy enemies, and take eight territories in four difficulties. This is the prototype of RTS games, which are high on my list of favorite genres.
You can choose to play any level in single player against the computer or enjoy multiplayer against a human opponent. You can also choose to play wide screen (only see your commander) or split screen, where you can see the enemy commander’s actions, as well. I played mostly on wide screen because I kept forgetting to check out split screen. I found myself more distracted by seeing the computer play, but other than getting bonus units to start, the AI seems to follow the same rules as the player. The top of the screen has four meters. The B shows the hit points of your base. G shows how much ammo the commander has left. E is the amount of energy for movement in reserve. D is the amount of health the commander has left. If E or D depletes, you explode and are sent back to your base with a small time penalty. Hovering over an outpost slowly replenishes your meters.
There are several outposts strewn across each level. You want to control as many of them as you can in order to earn money. Your bank balance ticks up 40 gold for each outpost you hold every second. In order to capture them, you have to press the C Button to go into the strategy menu. Here you see a map of the level and can scroll through units you can produce and set their orders. Different troops and different orders cost different amounts of money, so stockpiling cash is nice. You need to produce infantry and have four of them in an outpost together in order to gain its bonuses and use it as a place to pick new units up. If you set the wrong orders, you can pick the troop up and give new orders from the strategy menu.
Once you have taken an outpost over, it’s a good idea to defend it if possible. You can produce armored cars and tanks to sit stationary and attack anyone in range. Or you can give them orders to patrol an area. Mobile SAM units are used to attack the enemy commander and keep him from getting in too close to drop off enemy units. Your units can run out of ammo and require the Supply Truck to take care of them. It’s not just defense, but offense you need to plan. All of the units can be ordered to attack and depending on the order will go to the nearest enemy outpost or the main base. Gun boats can be made on water levels. In order to win the mission, you have to destroy the enemy’s main base before they can get yours.
The commander unit that you control has three forms. The first is the Attack Jet. You’ll be spending most of your time in this form flying between the outposts. If you press the A Button over a ground unit, you pick it up and turn into the Air Transport. When you’re in the air, you can only attack the enemy commander in a flying form. This leads to a lot of dogfights over contested outposts. To attack any ground units, you must transform into the Infantry Soldier. He moves slower and can’t maneuver over obstacles. Terrain matters and I found my guys in a ditch more often than not on the first map.
Terrain looks different and varied. The unit sprites all look different and you can tell them apart. Colors are a bit muted.
I love the music in this game. I finally found the inspiration for a remix by Joe Redifer that I enjoyed for many years.
Is it possible to get mixed up on your button presses? Yes. Can you get caught on the corner of bases? Yes. I wish I could carry more than one unit at a time, but the game is pretty balanced around one unit at a time.
The AI follows the same rules as you, which I find to be fair. Can it make decisions on the strategy screen quicker? Yes, but there lies the challenge, outsmart the AI to win!
Fun Factor: 4.0
I played a lot of this to form an opinion and I enjoyed every second of it. Finally winning the first level after having trouble with getting my troops into position was satisfying.
Overall Grade: 3.5
Herzog Zwei earns an A-. The first RTS is an amazing game. There’s plenty of great game elements and plenty of room for growth.