The real-time tactics genre may not be one of the most popular video game genres, but it has a pretty dedicated fanbase. On the surface the genre has a lot of elements that I really like. The games mostly focus on stealth where you try to take advantage of each character’s special abilities to complete your objectives without alerting the enemies. In a way this feels sort of like a puzzle as you try to figure out the best way of approaching each situation. Despite this I have to admit that I haven’t played many games from the genre. Recently though I have been trying out more games in the genre like Desperados III and have really started to enjoy them. This ultimately brought me to today’s game War Mongrels which applies a World War II theme to the genre. The game looked quite good so I was excited to try it out. War Mongrels is a fun real-time tactics game set in an interesting setting which is let down by a number of bugs.
War Mongrels takes place on the Eastern front of World War II. You begin the game as two Germans who desert the Nazis after they realize the atrocities that their former comrades were responsible for. As you advance in the game you are joined by members of a rebel group trying to fight against the German occupation.
At its core War Mongrels is a real-time tactics strategy game. In the game you will control a group of soldiers through a number of scenarios where you need to complete a number of objectives.
The game for the most part is based around stealth as you are usually better off dispatching enemies without anyone spotting you. This is because you are usually outnumbered and characters can only take a couple shots at max before they die. Each of your characters have their own special skills which you must use in tandem to distract enemies so you can kill them without being detected or to sneak past them. The game gives you a planning mode which moves the game into slow motion where you can plan out the moves of all of your characters at the same time. This allows you to coordinate actions and start all of them at the same time with the press of a button.
While you generally want to try and avoid being spotted, when you are spotted the game gives you the option to fight back. Usually you will fail, but you can at any time switch the characters into combat mode. In combat mode you can move the characters around like a normal top-down action game and fire your weapon to try and kill enemies as they enclose on your position. This is generally best used as a last resort as you have limited ammo and will likely be overrun quickly.
One of the main reasons that I was intrigued by War Mongrels is that it actually reminded me a lot of Desperados III which I really enjoyed. After playing the game I would say that there are a lot of similarities between the two games. I wouldn’t say that it is quite as good, but it is still fun. War Mongrels is pretty similar to most games from this genre. Probably the only area where it somewhat differentiates itself is the fact that you can at any time go into combat mode where the game plays like more of a traditional top-down action game. You can’t really go guns blazing as you will likely be killed quickly, but this mechanic does give you a chance to survive if you are otherwise spotted.
The game has a much greater emphasis on stealth though which is a good thing as that is where it is at its best. The game is a little rough around the edges at points which is the main reason why it doesn’t reach the levels of Desperados III. It is still quite fun though. The game relies on you figuring out the best way to use each of your soldiers abilities in order to complete your objectives. There are sections where you can deal with enemies with just one character, but you usually need to figure out a coordinated plan using several characters at the same time. There is just something satisfying about taking down the enemies that stand in your way without the other nearby enemies even noticing anything happened. If you generally enjoy these type of stealthy real-time tactics games, I think there is a lot to like about War Mongrels.
As for War Mongrels’ difficulty, I would say that the game can be pretty challenging. I ended up playing the game on the default difficulty, so if you want a harder or easier game you can adjust the difficulty accordingly. On the default difficulty you need to have a solid plan to approach different situations as you have little room for mistakes. Before you take any action you need to plan out what you want to do because you likely won’t be able to adjust on the fly. If you are spotted you will likely die as even if you kill the soldier that spots you they likely will alert others who will then surround your location. There are situations where you can abuse some of the game’s mechanics to easily get rid of soldiers, but most of the time you have to rely on trial and error as you figure out what will work and what won’t. This would normally be a little frustrating, but the game features a quick save and load feature where you can quickly save after completing a difficult section or load a previous save when you mess up. On top of this there appears to be no limit on the number of saves. Thus you can try new things and just revert back if something goes wrong. This basically offsets all of the problems that I generally have with games that rely heavily on trial and error.
Other than the satisfying gameplay I will say that I was actually surprised by War Mongrels’ overall atmosphere. There have been a lot of video games set in World War II so the setting is not the most original. I think the game does a good job with it though. I thought it was interesting telling the story from the perspective of Nazi deserters. The story is not highly original, but I thought it was interesting enough to hold my attention.
I was also impressed by the game’s visuals. Games in this isometric real-time tactics genre generally don’t have the greatest visuals mostly because they don’t need them as most of the game takes place from a top-down perspective. Despite this I actually thought the game looked really good where there wasn’t much more you could have asked for. The visuals along with the story create an interesting atmosphere that you want to explore.
While I enjoyed War Mongrels, the game does have its share of issues. Most of these come from the fact that the game has a number of bugs at this point. These bugs range from minor and kind of annoying, to bugs that are basically game breaking. I have only played through a portion of the game, but I have encountered quite a few bugs already. Some of the more minor are mostly graphical in nature. For example in one cutscene one of the characters were invisible and I think this was due to the fact that they were crouched when the cutscene loaded. This is just one example of these more minor bugs. These can somewhat distract you and can be kind of annoying. They don’t break the game too much though.
Then there are the more serious bugs. The game apparently has had issues with saves getting corrupted even though I never personally experienced this bug. Most of these type of bugs impacted the gameplay. Characters would sometimes get stuck in the terrain and it would take some time for them to find their way out. The enemy AI would sometimes get stuck in loops and not respond right away to distractions that I created to avert their attention. Probably the worst though was that there were quite a few times where I told my characters to hide in the bushes and they would move to the location I told them to go to. For some reason they weren’t hidden from enemy units though as they slightly moved outside of the cover which allowed them to be detected by enemies. I don’t know if this was a bug or a control issue. Sometimes I had to tell a character to move several times inside a hidden location just for them to adjust their position enough that they were completely concealed. This lead to characters being detected a number of times when they shouldn’t have been.
Most of these bugs can be overcome. When a bug makes you fail you can easily load a past save and try again without losing too much progress. The only thing that prevents this from even being quicker is that the game’s autosave can sometimes choose the absolute worst time to save the game. Sometimes it will choose to save right after you have been detected or when you are already being shot. You can just go into the menu to select an earlier save, but it would have been easier to use the quick load feature and sometimes it is hard to find the last save that you can load where you haven’t already been detected.
The bugs are a shame because they did have an impact on my enjoyment of the game. I really enjoyed playing War Mongrels, but these bugs prevent the game from being as good as it could have been. Hopefully the developers are able to fix these bugs soon as War Mongrels could then reach its full potential as a really good asymmetric real-time tactics game.
I generally like to give a good estimate of the length of a game, but I don’t know if I really can with a game like War Mongrels. Part of this is that I haven’t beaten the game yet and actually have quite a bit of it yet to play. The bigger reason though is that the length will likely depend quite a bit on how good you are at these type of games and how you generally approach them. Stealthy players that like to take their time to quietly pick off enemies will take considerably more time then someone that rushes through the locations and doesn’t mind being spotted occasionally. As I approach these type of games with a more methodical way, most of the missions took at least an hour or two to complete. Others that are willing to take more risks could likely finish levels quicker. The game apparently has 12 levels, so unless you can rush through the levels you will likely get quite a bit of time out of the game.
War Mongrels is a game that I generally enjoyed playing even though it has its issues. The game is pretty similar to your typical game from the genre. It doesn’t quite live up to some of the best games from the genre, but it is still quite fun in its own way. While the game allows you to get into shootouts, you are generally better off coming up with a good plan to avoid being spotted while you complete your objectives. Each character has their own special abilities where much of the gameplay is built around trying to use all of them together in order to deal with enemies without setting off alarms. This can be quite satisfying when you are able to pull off a complicated plan. The game allows you to adjust the difficulty, but the default difficulty does give you quite a bit of challenge as you need to use quite a bit of trial and error. War Mongrels atmosphere utilizes the familiar World War II setting, but it tells an interesting story and the visuals look really nice. I really enjoyed playing War Mongrels but it does suffer from quite a few bugs at this point. Most are pretty minor, but there are enough that will lead to deaths or can be even game breaking. I really hope these bugs can be fixed soon as I really enjoyed the game, but these bugs can distract from your enjoyment.
My recommendation for War Mongrels mostly comes down to your thoughts on the real-time stealth tactics genre and the World War II setting. If you don’t really care about the genre or setting, I don’t see the game being for you. As long as you don’t mind that the game is not the most original, I think you will enjoy War Mongrels. Whether you should pick it up now or wait a while depends on whether you are willing to work through the bugs or would rather wait for them to be fixed. Either way I think you should consider picking up War Mongrels at some point as you should enjoy the game like I did.
Note: I ended up giving the game a 4/5. This rating is based on the bugs getting fixed. As it stands right now with the bugs, the game would probably get closer to a 3.5/5.
Buy War Mongrels online: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Destructive Creations, Surefire.Games, and DMM Games – Asia for the review copy of War Mongrels used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.