Submitted by: Matthew Aston
Herzog Zwei (Duke Two in English) is I think a bit of an RTS gem, perhaps it could be described as the progenitor to all the other more well known real time strategy tiles such as Dune, Command and Conquer and Total Annihilation. It certainly has the same game play goals as those games, build an army and destroy your enemy’s base. To accomplish this task the player is able to construct an assortment of units, including tanks, anti-aircraft guns, attack boats, infantry and armoured cars. When purchased these units could be programmed with certain predetermined behaviours, like “patrol this area,” “occupy base,” “attack without moving,” and other simple commands, and once positioned on the field they can be left to their own devices.
It’s kind of bizarre that one of the most popular genres of PC gaming should start life on a console. Herzog Zwei was released in 1989 and came to Europe and North America in 1990. It was made by a Japanese company called TechnoSoft who was better known for their side scrolling shooter series Thunderforce. Herzog Zwei was the only game of its kind they made, and they never followed it up. It makes you wonder what they were thinking when they made this unique Mega Drive title, was it an incredible fluke?
Herzog Zwei does things a little different to modern real time strategy titles, rather than command units with a cursor type control, the player places units and issues commands from a Mech unit. This Mech can either be a carrier aircraft or turn into a robot and engage ground units on its own.
Like modern RTS games, the player orders units to be constructed with resources, these recourses are gathered from indestructible bases which must be captured by your forces, very much like the Command and conquer series.
Like many early RTS games, the computer AI is pretty lacking, its attacks are predictable, and it is pretty easy to come up with a strategy to trap it. Once done, the rest of the map can be exploited while the AI just beats itself to death attacking the sample place over and over. This problem is negated slightly in the later stages as the computer starts with more units, but it’s still not difficult to beat.
Where Herzog Zwei excels is in its two player VS mode. This splits the screen in two and plays the same as the single player but obviously without a computer opponent. This was the game I loved to play. I used to play this back in the day with my best friend Dave, we used to play it to death, but Dave was miles better at it than me, in fact, I don’t think I ever won a game against Dave, he kicked my arse every time!
The graphics are really bright and colourful and the sound effects are rather excellent. Each map also has its own tune playing in the background which adds to the atmosphere. The only gripe I have with Herzog Zwei is that it can slow down when there are a lot of units on the screen at once, a minor issue really, it never bothered me or my mate Dave, we had some pretty epic battles on Herzog Zwei. I’ve played Dave on many other RTS and turn based games since then, but he’s always beat me, one these days Dave, one of these days…