Tactical strategy games are in again, and the best part about that in 2020 is all the genre hybrid and subgenre mashup experimentation within that framework. Developers are taking inspiration from games like Final Fantasy Tactics or Xcom, then finding new ways to twist that formula around or add different elements. That’s exactly what’s happening in Alter Games’ Partisan 1941, which brands itself as a “tactical stealth” game set during World War II. But the reality of this game is much more complex than that, and if you’re looking for something nice and dense this might be right up your alley.

We were given access to an early preview build of Partisan 1941, which is set to release sometime later this year. We won’t go super in-depth here for preview purposes, but I would like to say that just from some early play I’m impressed! It can sometimes feel reductive to boil games down by genre bits and pieces, but here it seems needed! The tactical stealth part is fairly self-explanatory, as you guide a group of Russian soldiers out of German captivity and eventually into a greater part of the war. Sometimes being spotted is an immediate fail state, while other times it’s a short trip to one. 

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As your party grows you get to direct your soldiers around a variety of ways, and at first it’s all real time! It almost looks like a small-scale RTS instead of a “tactics” game. You can move your party as a group, give individual orders, and make small tweaks to their AI behavior. That said, you can also slow down time, giving you an extra buffer to make more detailed orders in the middle of or to prepare for a firefight. But this is a survival game on top of everything else, so not only can your characters get severely injured, you also need to keep them fed. But hey, the base-building element gives you plenty of opportunities to build people and resources.

The stealth and real-time tactical combat is definitely my favorite part of what I’ve played so far in Partisans 1941. The stealth is satisfying, even when you’re making small orders and movements from on high. You can analyze enemies’ lines of sight, hide in bushes, and even pull off quiet takedown maneuvers with weapons other than guns. If you spend the time and get really good, I imagine there’ll be opportunities to go loud with one group of folks, while using your knife-wielding commander to score extra kills, quietly, on a different part of the map. Meanwhile, with so many ways to approach a situation, build your units’ skill trees, and the intuitive, useful, (and, well, lifted from modern Xcom) cover system, firefights are fun too. Well, unless you walk away too beaten and injured to survive the next encounter.

As I put more time into Partisans 1941, I find myself looking the most forward to seeing how my units can develop as fighters in spite of the game’s harsh conditions, as well as seeing how stealth scenarios develop as the game goes on. I’m also curious about what the game’s storytelling brings to the table, as having the perspective play out from a small group of Russian POWs could get interesting despite the common setting. For a game marked as “indie” on its Steam page, I felt like I was instead playing a hardcore PC game, the kind that gets a dedicated fanbase but evades the console crowd. Partisans 1941 has polish, intrigue, and creativity all going for it. A great first impression for sure.

If you're curious, you can check out a demo for Partisans 1941 on Steam right now! If you do, let us know what you think over at the Prima Games Facebook or Twitter channels!