Theatre of War 2: North Africa 1943 is a good, descriptive name. You know what you're getting. Not only that, you know when and where you're getting it.
The North African campaign of World War 2 is no stranger to the world of videogames, but it's been a while, and that almost makes it fresh again. Developers 1C have certainly done their homework, too. Every unit, be it a tank or an individual soldier, has its own stats, that lend not only an air of historical verisimilitude but coupled with the experience system, a reason to keep them alive - Corporal Higgins is a great shot, you'll want to see him running round and doing his thing in the next mission, not smeared thinly across this one.
It's fairly lovely to look at, all those evocative stone houses and marketplaces to squash with your tanks. Of course, it's mostly set in the desert, so there's only so much you can do scenery-wise. The system requirements let you know all about these nice graphics, though:- they're not insanely bad, but considering it's mostly tanks and sand, they certainly make heavy use of your system.
There's a learning-curve to end all learning-curves to this game - the ‘tutorial' gives you mission objectives then just kind of stands back, hands on its hips, shouting "well, go on then!" Tutorials are sort of supposed to actually tutor you through it, you know.
This stat-heavy approach and obstructive tutorial system, not to mention the mass of troops you're given in some of the early missions, make this a tough game from the offset. Even on a more forgiving skill setting there's still a lot to manage at once.
Make no mistake - this is one for the serious armchair general. If you can't tell one end of a Sherman from the other, forget it - you'll be mercilessly ground into the sand double-quick. If you're looking for a ton of realism, and are willing to grapple with the sometimes unclear mission objectives, super-accurate enemies and imperfect AI both for your own men and the enemy, there is gold in the middle. It takes some digging, but for the right person there's a solid RTS here.