Radio General is an immersive yet relatively simple real time strategy game which takes place during World War II. You play the part of a Canadian general, leading your division from your command tent with a map and a radio. Unlike most strategy games, you don’t directly see the progress of the battle. Instead you hear reports from units in the field over the radio. You can also give your units orders with voice commands, but this feature is optional.
While many strategy games drown you with information, in Radio General your unit’s vague reports force you to rely on your intuition more. For example, a unit might report “We’re at Hotel Six engaged with enemy infantry at Juliet Five. Casualties are piling up fast,” or “We’ve spotted enemy tanks at Echo Three heading north west.” This makes the game all the more immersive– you feel like you’re a commanding officer, not an omnipresent being. Furthermore, the unit’s reports can be confused, contradictory or replaced by ominous radio static, leading to frantic scenes and difficult decisions. For example in one mission I didn’t know that two units had become separated, and assumed they were talking about a battle with the same enemy force. This caused me consternation and confusion when one reported victory, followed seconds later by “This is impossible! Requesting permission to retreat” from the other. But it’s not all thrilling action– there are just as many sequences of suspense and silence as you wait for scouts to report back, or for the first shots of the enemy counterattack. These moments add an element of suspense to the game.
The voice controls work reasonably well, and are quite fun to use. As of now they have two different settings for accent recognition, one geared towards Americans and Canadians with another geared towards various British accents. Depending on your accent, you may need to experiment with talking slightly differently to optimize results. For example, I need to place emphasis on the ‘e’ in the word ‘echo’ to avoid confusion with ‘alpha.’ Additionally, the program will be confused by incorrect syntax, or use of the wrong phrase. For example you need to say ‘cancel barrage’ instead of a more natural phrase such as ‘cease fire’ or ‘hold your fire.’ But despite any jankiness, the voice controls add to the immersion and challenge of the game. If you elect to use them, however, I would recommend keeping a water bottle at hand, because you may well need it.
One aspect of the game which is drastically different from nearly every World War II game I have played is how it hardly focuses on equipment, instead focusing on morale and character. For example you might choose to deploy one unit for a critical action over another because their leader is known for being very zealous, and will get the job done no matter what happens. Your decision will not be based on whether the unit has been issued the new rifles or tanks. While the lack of information about equipment is sometimes frustrating, I appreciate the attention put on each unit’s experience and their commander’s leadership style.
Finally, the game presents detailed historical context. Each mission features contemporary documents such as Canadian Army newsreels, historical photographs and newspaper clippings. It’s always interesting to see this history, especially because the game is about Canada, a secondary power in World War II while most popular media about this period focuses on the larger powers.
Overall, Radio General is an immersive and interesting game. It sets itself apart from many strategy games because it lacks instant feedback and exact statistics, forcing the player to rely on reports which may be vague, confused or flat out contradictory. It forces you to pick the best unit leader you can and trust your gut. It has a mix of action, decision making and suspense, and it brings to life a lesser known part of World War II.