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Classified: France ’44 – Fantastic Tactical Warfare

Key Takeaways
1. Tactical combat through Nazi-occupied France.
2. Interesting combat scenarios and a Morale system keep things interesting.
3. Make sure France is ready for D-Day, or things can go bad.

I am not a military history buff. War is a horrible and horrifying thing that I struggle to think about in a modern or historical context without falling into a well of anxiety. When those cataclysmic real-world events get turned into entertainment, I tend to shut down.

Having said that, I love moving little guys around on a grid. I love that a lot.

When I first saw the title of Classified: France ‘44, I moved right past it. Another game about war, ho-hum. In fact, the only reason I circled back to look at the game is cause I got a Steam Deck last month, and was on the hunt for games to try out on it.

When I saw little guys on a grid, I decided to jump in, and have been more captivated by this war story than any other I’ve ever experienced.

Behind Enemy Lines

Classified: france'44 fills in narrative with voiceover and sketchbook illustrations.

Classified: France ‘44 is an awkward-to-say title that tells you a lot about what you’re getting into. The game follows a rag-tag team of soldiers working to destabilize the Nazi occupation in France in advance of D-Day.

You start with a few Allied soldiers who drop between enemy lines and choose missions from regions across the country. Mission objectives range from wiping out all the enemies around a rural farmhouse to sneaking through a fortified bunker as you steal plans. The narrative plays out via text-based mission briefings, but also through interstitial voiceover as still images are drawn in on a sketchbook, and between mission chats between characters.

Whatever the goal, completing a mission in a region bolsters whichever of the three resistance factions is dominant in that region. Strengthening faction resolve grants benefits like after-mission rewards or increased recovery time from injuries, and opens up new gear you can buy to kit out your soldiers.

Better gear makes for easier missions makes for more rewards which all loops around to make France more prepared when the countdown reaches zero and D-Day arrives.

Creative Combat

The basic combat design of classified: france'44 is familiar.

The ongoing campaign is a really solid system, but it’s the in-mission combat mechanics that have me engrossed. Classified: France ‘44 utilizes a grid-based combat system where each character has an action pool that they pull from to move, use abilities, and attack with their primary weapon or a sidearm. At a glance, it will be familiar to fans of XCOM, Shadowrun, or even Mario + Rabbids.

Two specific twists make this system sing for me. First, missions have one of three starting statuses, drastically changing how to approach an encounter or which characters to bring.

An assault mission starts you in combat immediately, usually with your squad of four either surrounded or mounting an assault on a fortified position.

Stealth missions in classified: france'44 are tense affairs, especially if you don't let yourself quick save.

Stealth missions feel more like puzzles, in that you can work through the map avoiding enemy sight lines and stealth killing as many soldiers as you want on your way to the objective.

Finally, Ambush missions start in Stealth, but when you eliminate a certain number of enemies you activate an ambush turn, where enemies become aware of your intrusion but each of your characters gets one free turn before the Nazis start shooting.

Assault missions are fun, while Stealth missions usually involve me quick saving my way to a perfect (or near perfect victory). The Ambush missions, though, feel incredible. Planning out a squad to have one guy who gets a bonus action after a stealth kill, a commander with a skill that grants the assassin even more action, and two heavies to open fire when the action kicks off feels amazing.

Morale Matters

Your squad shows fatigue at basecamp between missions in classified: france'44.

The other twist that might make Classified: France ‘44 my favorite tactical combat game is its Morale system. Every unit in the game, both allies and foes, has a health bar and a morale bar. Like most tactical games, aiming your weapon at an enemy gives you a chance to hit percentage, and like most tactics games, it seems like shots with a 90% chance to hit miss every time.

But every shot hits morale.

Knife attacks in classified: france'44 are almost always lethal, but even when they aren't they destroy morale.

I’ve never been shot at, but if I ever was I can assure you that I would immediately poop my pants, whether or not I was actually hit by a bullet. And I can also assure you that said poop in my pants would severely limit my ability to do anything other than cower in fear while continuing to poop my pants when the shooting stopped.

This is exactly how morale works in Classified: France ‘44. Every time a unit is fired upon, whether they get hit or not, their morale drops. When it’s halfway down, they lose half of their AP on the next turn. If you drain their morale completely, they cannot take any action.

This system ensures that every single shot counts. This dulls the pain of missing what feels like a guaranteed shot, but it also makes you think tactically about every shot you take. In this game, even a shot with a 0% chance to hit can make the difference between a successful mission and a complete slaughter, making every turn exciting and interesting.

Steam Deck Performance

Classified: france'44 isn't the prettiest game on the Steam Deck, but it's perfectly playable.

It took me about 25 hours to play through the campaign of Classified: France ‘44. I was on the Steam Deck for the entire playthrough and mostly had a great time. The visuals are a little rough on the handheld, and the framerate wasn’t as consistent as I’d like. Thankfully, the turn-based nature of the game meant that none of that was overtly detrimental to the gameplay.

The only major drawback I ran into was that the game seemed to refuse to work with a controller. I get that these sorts of games are designed with mouse & keyboard in mind, but Classified: France ‘44 offers an official controller layout that should make it a breeze to play on Deck or hooked up to a TV. Unfortunately, I could never get the game to respond to gamepad controls, either with that official layout or with the default generic layout, using either the Deck's controls or an external controller.

Instead, I ended up mapping my mouse to the trackpad and a few keyboard keys to buttons and was able to play just fine that way.

Final Thoughts

There are multiple endings in classified: france'44... and I got the worst one.

Classified: France ‘44 isn’t built on a theme I’m very connected with, but its phenomenal combat system and interesting variety of missions managed to pull me away from Shadowrun and carry me through the whole campaign. I loved the morale system so much that I’m even pulling inspiration from it to try to make my weekly TTRPG game more interesting.

Fans of tactics games will have a blast with this one, especially if you are inclined towards WW2. Just make sure you keep an eye on the overall campaign progress as you go. I sort of lost track of the major objectives towards the end and ruined D-Day, extending WW2.

Sorry about that one, y’all.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stunning Shots

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Quick View
Title:Classified: France '44
Release Date:March 5, 2024
ESRB Rating:M for Mature
Number of Players:1
Platforms:Steam, Xbox, PlayStation
Publisher/Developer:Team17 and Absolutely Games
How Long to Beat:25-30 Hours
Recommended for fans of:Tactics, Period Pieces, and Character Chats
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.

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