Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism Review

Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism by developer Starni Games and publisher KlabaterMicrosoft Xbox Series X review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism reminds me of those really intricate tabletop wargames I grew up playing, like Axis and Allies. Ported over from the PC game, this console iteration is a deep strategy game that offers a unique perspective on World War II. What it does not offer is AAA presentation or accessible gameplay, but for those who enjoy deep tactical games, there is fun to be had if you fight through the early learning curve.

The entire premise of Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism is a different one than I am usually used to. Most World War II games are told from the perspective of the West (at least here in America). Given world events, being put in the role of the Soviet military could be a bit uncomfortable, but there’s no denying the historical significance of their involvement during this period of time. This series leans heavily into historical accuracy, both in units and the bigger events that took place. There is an element of fiction injected as you attempt to win all of your battles, but the framework is rooted in facts.

As far as the story goes, it’s nothing great. It sets the stage for the events that occur, but the real meat of Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism is found in the combat itself. Because the presentation is rather lackluster, especially in the cutscenes, it’s probably best not to focus on those aspects of the game. The voice acting and the character models are stiff – borderline goofy at times to look at. They do little to serve the story – this is an instance where the engine is built for the combat gameplay and the devs might have been better served sticking to static images with a skilled narrator reading over them than the provided intermissions.

Thankfully, the most important part of any strategy game is the combat gameplay, and Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism holds up well here by and large. Unfortunately, this is by no means an approachable title. Having played some of them (including the more naval-focused The Pacific) on PC, I already had a good idea how the game worked. However, these titles were designed on PC and the UI and controls can feel a bit rough in the console port. Combine that with the lacking tutorial features, and there is a steep learning curve here.

Now to its credit, Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism has a ton of information available on the units, and that gets shared with you when new units are introduced, so you have a pretty good idea of how the various units are meant to be leveraged. Here the game’s depth really starts to shine through, as this is a hex-based grid system with turn-based combat that is much deeper than many others in the genre. This of course can be seen as both good and bad, as many games focus just on movement and combat interactions.

Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism also has you monitoring ammo and fuel. Some units do not travel well on their own (like large artillery), so they often rely on transportation vehicles to move them about more quickly. If these run out of fuel, you lose a great deal of your military mobility and leave yourself open to enemy tactics. Even worse is when you are using airplanes – you need to be mindful of where they can refuel and how far you send them out, or they may do some damage to the enemy only to find themselves stranded and crashing to the ground below afterwards.

There is a lot of meat on these bones for those who enjoy the genre. The presentation holds up a bit better here, as the action zooms in on units while they move about or fire at one another. It’s a neat enough effect but only sort of masks that the engine is still not a pretty one. Units and environments can get a bit muddled, with a lot of ‘samesy’ colors at play. The detail that goes into how the different units operate doesn’t always translate visually to the battlefield itself, especially when I found myself often zoomed out to better examine the battlefield itself so I could plan my next moves while trying to anticipate what my enemy was going to do next. The music here is pretty solid however, and the sound effects while a tad on the repetitive side serve the gameplay well enough that it the audio comes together pretty well – except the aforementioned rough voice acting during cutscenes.

Strategic Mind: Spectre of Communism can be purchased separately or as part of the Fight for Dominance package that recently released, but neither selection is likely to bring new players to the genre. For those who like their realistic strategy games with a ton of depth and care more about the tactics than the presentation, the Strategic Mind games are going to be well-received. More casual tactics fans however, will likely find the unwieldy controls and mediocre presentation combined with the steep learning curve to be a bit off-putting.

Score: 6.25 / 10