Panzer Knights Review

I got way too excited when I saw Panzer Knights come across my feed – at a glance, it looked like the Valkyria Chronicles-inspired military action game I’d been dreaming of. Then, on 2nd glance, I realised the gameplay had way more of a Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match vibe and was all about piloting and battling realistic military tanks. Two of my obscure Japanese faves in one big combo felt right up my alley, so I hopped on the chance to review it. Coming away from it, though, Panzer Knights isn’t quite what I expected – and isn’t quite as polished as I’d hoped either.

The trailers and store pages for Panzer Knights try to keep it vague, but this isn’t a fictional military-anime adventure. The game places you squarely in the German army during the height of World War II, realistically re-enacting the actual moments and large-scale battles that make up some of the more well-known campaigns of that time – all from the perspective of the German army. Now, direct nazi-related references are almost entirely absent – no mentions of Hitler by name, no black-and-red or iron crosses, and no discussion of what happened back then that didn’t relate directly to tanks fighting other tanks. It’s a sanitised representation, but there’s still lots of talk about the führer, lots of untranslated German phrases tossed around, and a whole lot of German patriotism tossed around.

For my tastes, I feel like Panzer Knights puts you a bit too deep into the shoes of these characters. It isn’t a situation like Wolfenstein, where the game is full of nazi characters but ultimately makes them the butt of the joke and the losers. You’re playing as these German tank officers, and directly piloting them to success in each of their campaigns. If you’re a history buff then there’s nothing offensive or problematic happening here, it’s just historical accuracy – but it’s just a pinch too much detail that makes embracing the games otherwise arcade-y atmosphere a little hard. Plus, with dialogue scenes full of so much flat exposition and awkward grammar, the narrative side of things is the weakest part of the package by far.

Gameplay in Panzer Knights is also pretty awkward and weak, but I want to use those adjectives lovingly when I talk about the floaty, silly way these realistic military tanks handle. If you come into this hoping for something on the level of War of Tanks in terms of hefty, slow, realistic tank controls – this ain’t it. Despite offering you dozens of real life military vehicles to pilot and upgrade, this game has all the military realism of Earth Defense Force when it comes to combat. Your aim in each mission is to fend off enemy vehicles with your limited supply of artillery shells, resupply beacons, and air-strikes – while also managing your own repairs and guiding your AI-driven tank brethren into battle.

The bouts are consistently challenging, and not just because of the mission objectives and map layouts. It isn’t always easy to tell where enemy fire comes from, what invisible-walls might block your own fire, or how to help your teammates when their AI gets stuck on bits of geometry. I couldn’t help but love and laugh with the inconsistent gameplay struggles, but at the same time, a few too many missions turned sour in an instant because either my tank or the tanks I was fighting didn’t behave the way the game led me to believe they would. The customisation options available still made playing through everything so worth it to me – you’ve got dozens of soldiers with unique art and gameplay boosts to assemble a team with, and almost every unlockable tank ends up feeling different from the last in terms of movement or weapon kits.

Ultimately, Panzer Knights is a pretty mindless arcade tank battler draped behind some surprisingly realistic narrative set-dressing. The two sides clash in an awkward way and make it hard to embrace the full experience – but if you want to gloss over some text boxes and spend an afternoon blowing up tanks, this is one of the best games for doing that I can think of that doesn’t involve a free-to-play grind or access to real-life tank operation manuals.

Summary
Panzer Knights has some fun tank combat and a wealth of customisation options, but it's ultimately held back by some frustrating gameplay quirks, and a story that takes itself far too seriously without the rich writing or polished grammar it needs to back it up.
Good
  • Sharp character art
  • Fun, mindless arcade-y tank action
Bad
  • Invisible walls and inaccurate enemy damage indicators
  • Story steeped a little too deep in reality
  • Flat, exposition-heavy dialogue
  • Some tanks massively outclass others
5
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.

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