The first name in hardcore digital wargaming is back with Gary Grigsby’s War in the East 2. I managed to get my hands on a first copy, so let’s go!
I’ve only spent a few hours with the sequel to the legendary strategy game that set the bar for precision and historical detail, but I can tell you already: our patience has paid off.
Gary Grigsby’s War in the East 2 (we’ll just call it East 2 moving forward) comes more than a decade after the original launched. It might sound like a bloated development period, but we’re talking about one of the most in-depth strategy games ever made.
Is 1 has an almost historic appeal to war players. It is generally considered to be the penultimate game “hard to learn, harder to master, and harder to stop playing once you are at it”.
There are dozens and dozens of changes to the game, ranging from new features to quality of life improvements. Those familiar with the original shouldn’t have a problem getting started, but there are still a lot of new things to get used to.
Looks like air combat has been completely redone. There is now a separate Air Phase where you can either let the AI handle operations or play the ‘game in a game’ of meta-managing your flying units. I didn’t play around with it too much, but I really appreciated that the air reconnaissance informs my movements on the ground between turns. It looks a lot more natural.
Ground combat is also significantly improved. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the changes are in a few hours of play, but it certainly feels like the pitch plays a much bigger role. It also seems like things are handled on a more granular level in the game engine, making it seem like there are greater rewards for micromanaging every room on the board.
However, surprisingly, you also feel like you are being punished a lot less for do not micromanagement as much. You can now leave the majority of logistics and air tasks to the AI so you can focus on advancing your battle lines and capturing objectives. It feels like we have a toggle switch for “beer and pretzel mode” or “win now mode”.
What is better?
On top of everything? East 2 has been carefully crafted from the original. It’s not a spin-off, a new take, or a conceptual reinvention. This is what happens when the developers create a beloved game, release it to the world for a decade, and then make improvements based on the feedback.
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To begin, East 2 not only is smarter and faster, it is much easier to navigate. In fact, there are so many improvements in the quality of life that I would dare to call it accessible to beginners. And I’m not the only one. Wargamer’s Callum Bains said much the same in his preview article.
Of course, by accessible doesn’t mean you can just load it up and dive in like a Pac Man game. The game comes with a 520-page manual that is packed with information. It also comes with several quick info sheets, links to video tutorials, and several introductory scenarios.
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Perhaps the most interesting change in East 2 is the graphics. If you were expecting a complete overhaul to make it look sleek, modern, or classy, you’re going to be very disappointed. The graphics are much more polished than the original and they look great up to 4K in my testing. But they are decidedly retro now. I really dig into the commitment to maintaining the original aesthetic while making it achievable in the post-standard-definition world.
East 2 is not a nightclub with a gold-plated mahogany bar and a giant dance floor, it is a dive bar where people come to drink whiskey and win wars. Nobody cares about the price of the stools. In other words, it still looks like a spreadsheet in 2021 because it’s just what he’s supposed to look like.
If you don’t let the lack of animations and tanks that look like tanks deter you, you will find that East 2 does not concede good graphics. It gives you everything you need to enjoy the deepest possible control experience that a WWII video game has to offer – and absolutely nothing else.
What’s the verdict?
So far, I haven’t encountered any bugs or issues with the game. And I’ve enjoyed and enjoyed everything new or different that I’ve come across. But it’s gonna take me tens of hours, if not hundreds, for me to decide if it’s really over Is 1. For now, I’m happy to say that I think it’s a worthy sequel that enhances the original masterpiece.
Gary Grigsby’s War in the East 2 is only available on the Slitherine / Matrix home site here, as of today.