Strategic Mind: Fight for Dominance Review

Strategic Mind: Fight for Dominance by developer StarniGames and publisher KlabaterMicrosoft Xbox Series X review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Strategic Mind: Fight for Dominance takes a pair of releases previously available on different platforms and puts them together on the Xbox. The Strategic Mind games are not to be taken lightly, and are dense tactics titles that may not be the most welcoming title to the strategy genre, but for those who are willing to put the time in to learn the controls and appreciate the depth of strategy here, will likely come away feeling rewarded for the time they put in.

To start, Strategic Mind: Fight for Dominance is a combination of the two games Strategic Mind: Blitzkrieg and Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism. Essentially what you do in Dominance is pick which of the two campaigns you want to play. Both titles are history-driven World War 2 settings, but as you could likely discern from the name, puts you in charge of either German or Russian forces. I’ve played some of the other Strategic Mind games on PC, and this campaign is much more focused on the ground units than Strategic Mind: The Pacific, which was centered on naval combat.

In general, I’d say that the Strategic Mind: Fight for Dominance stories are basically adequate, but far from riveting. There’s important historical figures like Stalin and Hitler that help set the tone for the objectives, but the visuals and voice acting during the cutscenes are pretty rough. Character models are stiff and the mouths aren’t even close to being synced with the speaking parts. While many of the scenarios make an attempt at historical accuracy while setting the table for your skirmishes, there’s obviously some liberties taken with stages as well, as you are basically leading one side to victories that they did not always achieve.

From a presentational standpoint, things get a bit better once you’re in the game itself – but not much. This is a hexagon-style turn-based strategy. For fans of the genre, a lot of games come to mind that fit this description, and honestly… most of those other ones probably look as good if not better. The biggest issue is that in order to avoid the sort of ‘sameness’ from one hex to the next, you have to be pretty well zoomed in, but that makes deploying units – especially across larger maps – rather cumbersome. There’s a pretty nice zoom-in effect that often takes place when units are moving or engaging in combat, but it’s nothing special.

There’s not much in the way of a tutorial here, though the initial campaigns are meant to sort of walk you through the basics. The first time to choose a unit, you get a pretty detailed audio description of how it’s best used, which is nice enough. You start to get a feel for managing fuel and ammo, understanding how you can provide cover for your ground forces using aircraft and large artillery guns and more. Each scenario presents primary objectives and secondary ones. Most of the achievements are tied to secondary ones, so for achievement hunters you will find yourself moving at a slightly slower pace to the end-game of each scenario as your primary objective might be to take a string of cities in a specific order, but the secondary asks you to assist with rebels in some side-city you wouldn’t otherwise have ventured towards or to use your new tanks a few times to make sure they’ve been properly ‘tested’ on the battlefield.

The other complaint that needs to be brought up is in the interface and control scheme. These titles were initially designed for PC, and the port to console feels rough around the edges. Cursor movement and selection even in the first map when trying to apply custom settings had me accidentally starting the campaign twice before I figured out how they wanted me to interact with those sliders on the right-hand side (spoiler alert: not with any of the face buttons on the controller). Even then, moving around the screen and choosing units while playing is just easier if you go to the bottom and click on each unit as shown there, so it jumps you to where they are on the map, as opposed to trying to find the units on the map due to the aforementioned rather muddy textures to everything. There were times my cursor wanted to jump to the upper right of the screen for what seemed like no apparent reason. All of these things make it a bit of a slog to really get into Strategic Mind: Fight for Dominance, and could likely scare newcomers off from really playing it.

Which would be a shame, as the actual tactical depth here is really quite good. For starters, credit to the developers for having some customizable difficulty settings. I played some of these titles on PC previously, so I had a pretty good idea what I was getting into, but these options can really help players get the feel for the combat. You have multiple types of units – naval, airborne, anti-aircraft, carriers, recon and more. Some have very specific purposes both on offense and defense, while others such as tanks might offer a bit more of a well-rounded set of uses on the battlefield.  

There’s all sorts of layers to how the strategy unfolds here. For example, the longer a unit remains in place, the more of an entrenchment bonus it receives. There are some scenarios where this is hugely helpful as you try to fend off attacks. You start to get a feel for how to protect your ground units by using long-range cannons and airborne units – but you need to be mindful of things like their fuel. Those planes can only control the airspace for so long before they need to head back to refuel, so you need to learn to operate them in waves. Recon units are immensely helpful to avoid ambushes. Those aforementioned planes won’t be of much help if you accidentally fly them right into antiaircraft guns.

The progression elements of the units you use is pretty strong as well. They can gain experience. You can provide them with equipment upgrades (which can have a tremendous impact on combat depending on how you tailor them) and by and large new types of units are historically accurate. This means that as you progress through the timeline, you’ll gain access to new types of units that are period appropriate.

Strategic Mind: Fight for Dominance is an above average pair of strategy titles bundled together into one package. The presentation across the board fails to impress, and the UI suffers from this series having been designed for a mouse and keyboard, not a controller. There’s a lot of hurdles to get past with the control scheme, rough cutscenes and little to no handholding when you start to play. However, if you work past those issues, you’ll find a pair of lengthy campaigns with a high attention to detail and some truly interesting strategy gameplay. 

Score: 6.5 / 10