Blitzkrieg II: The Finest Hour is a mod for the RTS game expansion pack Command & Conquer: Generals - Zero Hour and based on the events of World War II. The total conversion features 3 sides, the Axis, the Soviets and the Allies.
The foci of Blitzkrieg II: The Finest Hour are massive tank battles and a tech tree that progresses through history. Income is generated by a mixture of capturing houses to raise occupation taxes, defeating enemy units and by a base rate of production from the Command Center. Historical accuracy is relaxed, as the mod features units like the Panzer VIII Maus or the Tortoise heavy assault tank, neither of which were used in reality, and the Fat Man Atomic bomb, which was not ready yet before the end of the war in Europe. The mod differentiates itself from the bulk of World War II games by cutting out micromanagement and focusing on large scale battles.
Gameplay follows a chronological progression of technology and strategies based on real availability through the war. The opening stages of the game begin around 1939 with T-26s, Somua S35s and Panzer IIIs, and ends with the "wonder weapons" just coming into service in the final stages of the war. As the game progresses players will gain access to different units depending on their faction and tech tree choices. These include famous tanks like the M4 Sherman, Panther tanks and huge quantities of T-34s.
As well as fighting on the ground, the game features a full array of aircraft and super-weapons:
The Allied air force feaures weight of numbers and is geared towards strategic air power. It can call in three levels of bombing raids, and towards the end of the tech tree can unlock ground attack aircraft such as the P-47 Thunderbolt and fearsome Tallboy bomb strikes.
The Axis concentrates on high quality aircraft, and later on the tech tree can unlock jet fighters such as the Messerschmitt Me 262 and strikes from the Arado Ar 234 jet bomber. It also can choose to focus on developing the Vengeance weapons - the V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rocket.
The Soviet strength is in the USSR's massive production capacity. Soviet aircraft are cheaper than the Allied or Axis alternatives, although the Soviets' later fighter, the Lavochkin La-5 is easily a match for its Axis counterpart, the Focke-Wulf Fw 190.
In addition to fearsome production of T-34s and aircraft, the Soviets can rely on massive artillery barrages. Used en masse, their Katyusha Rocket Launchers become a type of crude superweapon, capable of sending vast numbers of rockets across a huge area and softening up the enemy for a crushing tank force.
The game uses realistic facts and figures in all aspects of its gameplay. Tank weapons and defenses are based on real data from test ranges. Production levels and unit costs reflect historic availability and cost of manufacture. It is often possible to reduce the cost of units over time, which gives the player the same types of dilemmas facing the leaders of the time: to focus on producing more of the existing, tried and tested generation of tanks, or to risk all on a new and untested design.
Using history to balance the game leads to different sides having the upper hand at different points in the game. The nature of the sides also develops. The Soviets begin with a weak army. They struggle to hold onto any land and their massive tanks are easily countered, but as their production facilities come online, they are able to build a bigger and bigger walls of troops. By the end of the game the Russian land army is easily the strongest. The Axis goes from a highly mobile blitzkrieg force, to a heavy army based around static defenses and massive firepower which relies on super-weapons to win the day. The Allies are the reverse, shedding their early defenses in favour of a late game army that is highly mobile and balanced. Their air power gives them the ability to hit production centers, starving the enemy while they build up their own forces.
This balance is integrated into the Command & Conquer: Generals - Zero Hour engine, and the core of the gameplay is still fast-paced Command & Conquer style tank battles. This makes Blitz 2 "WW2 done quick", with a whole year compacted into about 10 minutes of gameplay. Huge clashes featuring dozens of tanks are the norm, especially by the middle of the game, by which time all sides have ramped up their war production substantially.
Blitzkrieg II: The Finest Hour has had 5 official releases:
Released on November 27, 2003 for Command & Conquer: Generals, Release 1.0 featured only ground units and no single player missions.
Released on June 9, 2004 for Command & Conquer: Generals - Zero Hour, Release 2.0 added aircraft and special weapons, and also included a 5-mission Axis campaign.
Released on June 21, 2005, Release 2.5 added new models and some slight gameplay fixes.
Released on September 30, 2006, Release 2.6 added towed artillery and anti-tank guns, and also added 2 Soviet and 2 Allied missions.
Released on June 30, 2009, Release 3.0 was a complete overhaul of the game; a new campaign was added in addition to an all-new skirmish gameplay mode.