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Gameplay #3 – Realistic combat behavior

First thing first, some news from the pre-order Beta which was launched last week: your feedbacks are very encouraging, with mostly positive reviews about Steel Division: Normandy 44. Our team is working very hard on many technical improvements which some of you encountered and we would like to thank the community for its patience. Two patches already fixed some launch issues and our devs are still working to resolve all the crashes and to optimize the game.

New maps and divisions, as well as new features, will be added very soon to the Beta, which should renew your gaming experience. To learn more about this, don’t forget to watch our stream next Thursday on our Twitch.

If you want to buy the game, normal or deluxe edition, visit our Steam page.

In today’s Gameplay article, we will focus on combat behavior. In Steel Division: Normandy 44, our objective was to create a captivating Tactical RTS, not only through the pace of the battle (check our previous articles) but also by way of detailed & realistic units. All our tanks, planes, infantry units and so forth are historically accurate, and they all respond to a deep, realistic combat behavior.

Suppress your enemy before he pins you down

The new suppression system we implemented in Steel Division: Normandy 44 is a great example of these realistic mechanics. It was designed to depict the stress which soldiers could feel under enemy fire in a real battle. Every time a unit is getting shot at, its stress level increases while its accuracy declines. If the shot hits its mark, the unit takes a full suppression penalty. If the bullet or shell misses its target, the suppression damages he receives is calculated according to the distance to the point of impact, as if the soldiers feel that a danger is more or less near their position. The thing with the suppression system is that every shot is effective, even if it don’t hit the target.

Units don’t react the same way to stress. Infantry will be “pinned down” when it reaches its maximum suppression level. This unit will go to the ground and stop firing to protect itself. The soldiers will ignore your orders unless you press the “R” key to make them retreat. If so, they will make a dash for the nearest cover away from the enemy, and if they’re not killed, return to normal after a few seconds.

A motorized unit such as a tank will be “shaken” when its suppression gauge is half-full. Without any order, it will start to drive backward, away from the danger. You can still give orders when your vehicle is “shaken”, but when it gets “panicked”, it will automatically fall back inside your territory.

Finally, air units will leave the battlefield automatically when they reach their maximum stress level.

Steel_Division_SuppressionThis screenshot shows different stages of suppression. In the right corner of the Interface, the player can see the status of the selected unit in the building and click on the fall back button to retreat.

Make them kneel!

You will need to be extra careful with your unit’s suppression gauge. If it is in the enemy zone with an enemy nearby (100m) when its suppression gauge is full with no calm ally (100m) or any leader squad (200 to 300m depending on their experience) around, your unit will surrender.

When a unit surrenders it gets captured and white flags appear. Captured units will be removed from the game permanently, apart from supply trucks which aren’t transporting/towing any unit, which the enemy will be able to use.

Steel_Division_Normandy_44_SurrenderA German infantry unit surrenders after taking too many casualties.

This gameplay mechanic has a huge impact on the game. A talented leader knows that he doesn’t need to chase down and kill every enemy units on the battlefield. Capturing a unit will save you time, men and resources. Your main goal is to gain control over the battleground. If you stress your opponent’s units enough and make them retreat or surrender, you will increase your influence area and your victory points. Do note that units can still be destroyed and killed, but you will need to make a perfect shot or several ones until getting there.


How to master the suppression system

Now the good question is: how to avoid getting your units captured by the enemy? Well, to start with, choose your troops carefully.

Some German infantry units are more sensitive to stress than others: the “disheartened” squads are made up either of raw conscripts, war-weary or unwilling soldiers. Cheaper, they will deal the same damages as any other but will take +25% suppression damage than regular troops.

The Ersatztruppen from the 91. Luftlande and the Osttrupen
from the 716. Infanterie-Division are two disheartened units.

On the contrary, some units are more resilient than others. A dogfighter is faster than a bomber for example and it will evade anti-air units more easily. Note that anti-air fire isn’t primarily made to destroy planes (or if, it’s a lucky shot) but to scare them enough to make them retreat! Powerful tanks also have more armor and can resist longer under fire.

Your squads are also more vulnerable when they are on the move: being hidden or at least stationary will limit their suppression damages. Be careful not to get them too close to the enemy fire! Using smoke with your artillery will blind your enemy and may help your infantry to move safely. Leader units are also good to have around as they increase their troops’ resistance to stress.  

Fabien Reiner, Game Designer at Eugen Systems, shared with us an effective tactic: “Try to use an off-map artillery strike to suppress units over a large area, it will make it all the easier for you to rush with light vehicles and force them to surrender“. Every weapon has a suppression value due to its caliber and rate of fire, but keep in mind that some units are very good to suppress the enemy: machine guns and flamers inflict more suppression damages than others for example.

The Crocodile from the 15th Scottish and the Fs-Flammenwerfer from the 91 Luftlande carry a flamethrower,
a weapon 
able to wipe out an entire squad in a moment ant strike terror in the heart of the survivors.


Combat behavior as a whole

Other realistic behaviors can be found in-game, such as the auto cover, which make soldiers go to the nearest cover to hide while waiting for your next order. You can always deactivate the auto cover in the control panel. With the auto-reverse maneuver, a tank will also try to protect itself after reaching 50% stress by showing its strongest side to the enemy, when at the same time retreating. Keep in mind that falling back is still an enviable fate when worse can happen: crew knocked out, lost track, … Best case scenario (for you), the enemy tank will “bail out” and will get unusable. However, the tank will keep its influence until you captured it.

The player also faces logistical issues, such as supplying his units with ammunition. When a unit is out of ammo, an icon appears next to its label and the player has to call in a supply vehicle to fix it.

Steel Division: Normandy 44 finally offers a wide range of orders to increase strategic opportunities. Tell your vehicles to “move fast” to a given point and they will use the fastest way to get there. Give your infantry a “hunt” order and it will move discreetly, shooting an enemy anytime it will see one. Activate the “riposte” order and they will open fire only if they are shot at. Remember that you can also deactivate some unit’s weapons at any time in the control panel, or press the “H” key to deactivate all of them.



  • Deny
    April 11, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    It would be correct route missiles ? These are too wide. In the game Red Dragon was the visual aspect of the game better.

    • Alexis
      April 12, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Yes, I agree with that. It looks like if infantry shot huge rockets rather than bullets. It is useful when the camera is far away from the ground, but gives an odd feeling of “sci-fi” warfare.

      • Jonathan
        April 15, 2017 at 10:57 pm

        Just disable unit scaling in the options.


  • Niels van de Wetering
    April 12, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Intesting, But u would like it when units would die faster than now. Because it isnt realistic and frustrating when i see 40mm bofors hit an light spotter plane and it only falls back, in real life it would het down in the first 2 or 3 shots.

    • Niels van de Wetering
      April 12, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Still an verry intresting and cool mechanic tho

    • Linkinparktoss
      April 18, 2017 at 3:36 am

      Would be pretty shitty in an rts. Reaction time is what gives you a chance. everything else would be rng game only.

  • toni
    April 15, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    When a tank is shaken and retreats it shouldnt drive into the line of fire of an enemy unit which position is known. It also shouldnt drive backwards for too long but stop when it escapes into cover.

  • Felipe
    April 18, 2017 at 7:20 am

    How will the campaign mode
    Let’s have a drive-through screen
    Similar to the board of close combat normandy or rome total war

  • Aaron
    April 18, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Can abandoned equipment be taken over? This was a common tactic in WW2.

  • Steve
    April 19, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Please consider adding, or having, a ‘sandbox’ mode of play. If you look at the forums, you will see many posts wanting a mode different from the conquest and destruction modes that are offered in the Beta. In simple terms, your game system is great, and would be great to create scenario-based encounters: not battles between the units you have created with the decks you have created, but battles (or individual scenarios) between forces created by players (ex: a pure tank battalion. An infantry battalion with no air. A force with some elite units and some green or untried units. etc etc). This would entail being able to create our own cards (I may want 3 Sherman tanks, but your deck only has cards for 2 tanks or 5 tanks, for instance). It would entail being able to create our own decks (if I want an all infantry unit, I may need more than 9 infantry slots-and no anti-air slots, as just one example). It would entail manipulating the map (say a narrower no mans land, or no no mans land. Or a friendly side being the left or right of the map-or the corner of the map-or a non-linear part of the map).

    Don’t restrict the game to the particular ‘tournament’ style that you currently have. Battles between decks of the specific divisions you have created are interesting, but there is a great deal more potential in this game system. Think of this as a computer version of a boardgame (computer PanzerBlitz, or PanzerLeader) to imagine what I’m talking about.


  • Liam
    April 28, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    I think this mechanic could use a little tweaking, infantry should still be able to fire certain weapons while under fire, like mg’s and AT weapons, I dont know, anything to make it better. Countless times have I been screwed over because my PZGR miss their first shot against a honey stewart and then get pinned down before they can do anything else, it’s dumb.

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