- Original release year: 1989
- Consoles: Mega Drive/Genesis
I personally had not heard of Herzog Zwei until very recently. It was named in a few ‘top x Genesis games’ lists, I checked out some reviews and I thought it looked like an absolute blast, so I picked it up off Ebay as soon as I could. From what I can gather, it was actually one of the first games for the system, but was unfortunately largely ignored, due to the popularity of games like Altered Beast (ugh) and Golden Axe.
What makes Herzog Zwei such an interesting title, is that it is a real-time strategy game, exclusive to the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis, that predates Dune II, coming before many of the features of real-time strategy games had become standardised and homogenised, to a degree. Herzog Zwei is a really interesting take on the genre.
Whichever level you play, the objective remains the same. You can either play 2 player split screen or simply 1 player vs the computer. Each person has a large base. It is your mission to destroy the opponent’s base, but doing so is not easy. In fact, if you’re playing against the computer, the game is hard as nails and there’s no hand-holding, no tutorials, no cheats and no difficulty settings. So you better make sure you read the manual and/or read an online guide if you get stuck.
I can safely say I have never played a game quite like Herzog Zwei and the gameplay is just phenomenal. The concept is fairly simple, but the strategy involved leads the player with plenty gameplay options. You control a mech that flies like a plane across the map. You can shoot the other player whilst in this state or, if you want to jump down to the ground level to get involved directly with the ongoing combat, then you can by transforming into a ground level, walking mech. Be careful though, because your fuel and ammo levels are limited, so if you run out (or get hit too many times by the enemy), you’ll blow up and return to your main base (thus wasting valuable time as well). To refill your fuel and ammo levels, you’ll need to either return to your main base or one of the many mini bases dotted around the map, once you have acquired them as your own.
The mini bases all begin as neutral (although in later levels, both sides may start with some already acquired) and to take over them you’re going to have to spend money on producing some soldiers. Directing 4 soldiers to take hold of a base will let you acquire it as your own, but watch out, because the enemy can take over it (and you can take over theirs). You can only spend money on your army and weapons by being in one of your bases and therefore it becomes a race to take over as many bases as possible (at least, this is one strategy) and create as strong a defence as you can. As for spending money, your money gradually grows at a steady pace, so you never need to worry too much about running out (it will happen from time to time), but it’s worth pointing out, the more bases you take a hold of, the quicker the rate that your money increases.
There are a number of weapons and types of troops that you can purchase, from rocket launchers to different tanks and cars and bikes etc. You can issue them all commands too and move them by flying over them, picking them up and then flying to another location to drop them off.
Herzog Zwei is really original and addictive. Real-time strategy fans and hell, ordinary shooter fans must give this go to see what a really early take on the RTS genre was like. The gameplay is really rewarding too, because of the high difficulty level. When you finally do beat a level, you feel like a god. The game is tough, but it’s never too frustrating and once you get the hang of working out different strategies, you soon really get into it.