Classified: France '44 combines X-COM strategy with WWII combat

This new turn-based strategy game aims to provide a challenging campaign that pits Allied commandos against Nazis in occupied France.

Absolutely Games

Classified: France ‘44 has lofty ambitions for a debut title from developer Absolutely Games. It seeks to modernize classic XCOM 2 turn-based gameplay in the familiar, yet not so familiar, setting of World War II’s Operation Jedburgh. This clandestine, lesser-known operation saw small teams of Allied forces dismantle Nazi forces throughout occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands using sabotage and guerrilla warfare in the lead up to D-Day. I had the opportunity to play the game at a private Team17 event, where I also spoke with the studio’s CEO James Brooksby, whose past experience as studio director at Wargaming and CEO of Edge Case Games shows throughout Classified: France ‘44.

Parachuting in, to save the day

Classified France 44 Hero Heroes Squad Team
Meet your motley crew of Allied commandos and agents.

Source: Absolutely Games

If you’ve played EA’s 2009 action-adventure The Saboteur or seen Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglorious Bastards, the premise of the game’s story will be familiar. The game has you control a small group of operatives from the British SOE, the US Strategic Services, the French Central Bureau of Intelligence and Operations, and other Allied forces as they destroy Nazi supply lines and disrupt Nazi communications. You have about two months, specifically 65 days, to take on missions spread throughout multiple regions of France to secure areas, forge alliances, and earn important perks. This will help balance out more difficult deployments later down the line in the single-player campaign when the Gestapo appears to thwart your efforts.

As opposed to other strategy games where units don’t have a lot of backstory, Classified: France ‘44 has you select a team from among a set of heroes. Various cutscenes, voiced dialogue, and occasional banter will show off each character’s personality and allow for a more accurate portrayal of soldiers who have to work together despite coming from different backgrounds. Most missions will have them face Nazi soldiers as the underdog too, so if you start having a vested interest in their survival beyond mere chess pieces on a grid, that's by design.

Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage

Classified France 44 Gameplay Stealth
Staying "unaware" as long as possible before you take out the Nazis is important.

Source: Absolutely Games

Since your squad tends to face unfavorable odds and can be easily flanked by Nazi soldiers if you’re not careful, having a keen strategy and a little bit of luck is key. As a smaller, tight-knit group, your operatives can start most missions in stealth so that they can scan patrol routes on the field and spot potential enemy soldiers who are ripe for the picking. You can usually take out about four enemies before the Nazis raise the alarm, but successfully getting through the stealth phase can reward your team with an ambush that increases accuracy for a turn.

Once your team is squarely in a firefight, you can then order them to use flanking tactics and cover an area with overwatch. These strategies will be familiar to X-COM fans, particularly when it comes to having units hide behind cover and positioning them in ways where enemies no longer benefit from cover. One notable upgrade made to overwatch, which is long overdue by the way, is that you don’t have to fire a shot against the first enemy that enters the region. You can save the overwatch for another opportunity instead, in case you think you might get a shot against, say, a higher-ranking soldier who might pass through the region later in the round. It's a risk, but one that may be worth taking.

More importantly, taking a shot is always a viable choice due to morale damage. Even if the only action your hero can take is hip fire at an enemy with very low accuracy, the target will suffer a hit to morale. At low levels of morale, the enemy will be pinned to a position and lose resolve, possibly to the point of not being able to act in the next round. That said, the Nazi soldiers can also use overwatch tactics and deal morale damage against you in turn, so it’s important not to get too aggressive with your tactics.

Get your Jed Sets ready

Brooksby estimates that a single playthrough will take 50 hours, with each mission taking about two hours, especially if you wish to earn the full five star-rating. There will also be a robust Mission Creator mode that will add user-created challenges, while supported modding tools will add new ways to play the game. Classified: France ‘44 is scheduled to release for PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PS5 in 2023 and can be wishlisted now on Steam.

This preview is based on a PC build provided by the publisher at a private media event.

Contributing Editor

Once upon a time, Nick's parents confiscated his Super Nintendo because he was "playing it too much." He has secretly sworn revenge ever since. Nick is now a freelance writer for various video game sites. Powered by iced green tea, he typically plays RPGs of all kinds like Shin Megami Tensei, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout. In his spare time, he follows the latest season of Critical Role.

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