The first Wargames was pretty awesome, totally new. The second Wargames introduced some interesting stuff, but really could be best described as "now with airplanes!"
Red Dragon of all the series is least functional. It had a half-hearted "navy" layer added that was so comically broken that it was more or less left unchanged after it was terminally broken in the beta. There's such a lack of focus, while there's thousands of units, only maybe a few dozen are actually relevant, and frequently they're represented by marginal quality models clearly done by the lowest bidder. Worse, the developer itself refuses to change models that are 100% wrong, or entirely substandard quality because someone on their forums hurt their feelings once.
Please note the last statement is entirely 100% true. They call the no-updated-models thing the "UGBEAR" policy after said poster.
In terms of gameplay it goes more or less like the following:
1. Single Player:
Terrible. It's your more or less bog standard skirmish maps arrayed in a sequence, with a tissue paper thin "strategic" level. The AI is frankly too ♥♥♥♥♥ to do anything but "drive towards things!" which it will do with gusto. The key to any mission is successfully destroying whatever blob the AI has summoned forth before it destroys whatever much smaller blob you were allocated for the mission is destroyed.
Then pair this with some really stupid choices in terms of campaign design (Fact: Did you know South Korea's defense hinges on French and German intervention?), and just how many damned times you'll fight on the same map, doing the same thing, with the same units against the same total lack of objectives except "DESTOY TANKS," and it's really quite telling how few folks play singleplayer more than a few missions.
Which is rather a shame, the campaigns in the first Wargame were quite well put together, challenging missions with a wide variety of objectives and terrain.
a. This is the least Asian game to be set in Asia since video games were made. You basically have two terrain types, Europe with Pagodas, or the American Southwest with Pagodas. These two terrain types represent everything from the Russian far-east, to Tokyo.
b. Again, despite being a game oriented on events in Asia, most of the effort went into making the European countries in game larger and more full of weirdo stuff that never actually reached service. The Asian factions, the ones that you would think would command some attention in a game called "Red Dragon" are very poorly realized and hardly worth playing. The Chinese forces are a curious mix of equipment China never had, and total exclusion of several key systems they used extensively, the Anzac formations are pure crap, and the North Korean force, which arguably are pretty central to a game that spends so much time in Korea are....terrible. Not gameplay terrible, but poorly researched, poorly realized, and ultimately best skipped.
The best way to describe it is whatever broken cheesy tactic of the month on a loop. MRLS type rockets are powerful this week? STANDBY FOR ROCKET SWARMS ALL MATCH AND NOTHING ELSE. Super-cheap planes spammed out? It's going to be raining planes for a few days. Somehow crappy bottom tier infantry becomes way too cost effective? Waves of mans for forever.
You'll note a recoccuring theme. It's not even like "the heavy tank shuffle!" or some other weird tactic just works really well. From the first Wargame, to the last most of your games start with a spammy spam rush or artillery spam and end with same.
It's all right if you're playing with a friend, or folks you know aren't douches. But public matches are an exercise in pulling your own teeth out.
Which ties into a few subtopics on multiplayer:
a. There's only a handful of "good" maps, which is to say, ones that are not broken/unbalanced etc. And you'll play on all those maps within the first day of playing the game more than once. It gets old, fast.
b. Many of the maps are...boring. Like imagine a flat open field. Put a river through it. Add some trees. CONGRATS! I just described several of the maps you'll be playing on.
3. Eugen is a terrible company.
Here's things they do okay:
+You do not have to pay for any of their DLC.
+Wargames EE was pretty good!
+As far as I can tell, none of them are terrorists.
Here's things that make them marginal
-They do not deliver on promised features, and then lie/have really bad excuses why it's your fault those features do not exist. Examples:
a. Red Dragon was promised to have sufficent ships to fully flesh out the smaller combatants of all the factions that had Navies. This is several times over not the case. If you want to play Naval stuff (which you shouldn't do anyway because its pretty terrible), as NATO your force is an all nations dreamteam of Japanese, French....and really skip the American and British stuff because it's not like either of those countries had Navies anyway (and are represented by a bad frigate and a not really used in number missile boat, and a terrible frigate respectively).
b. A map pack was promised with the last major patch. It was claimed the maps were being withheld because...well either to give the dev team more time to work on fixing a HUGE exploit that went more or less un-fixed for a month or so, or because we're sinners and don't deserve maps I guess? Either way the maps have never showed up, and asking about them on the game's forums will get you either banned, or at the least the thread locked without comment.
c. Think of it like this. You know those Twilight Zone episodes, where the guy finds a Genie in a lamp, and he gets his wishes, but the wishes are some jacked up terrible version of what he wished for? That's Eugen in a nutshell. Folks who played mostly US forces were concerned that oddly enough, despite the USAF being the largest air force in the world, is having some major issues with air to air combat. Eugen's fix to this was to add in the PATRIOT missile system, which did not fix the US's lackluster air to air capabilities, but did totally break the rest of the air force part of the game as now there was a SAM site that could shoot down things over half the map. Broken part broken, and new game breaking element added in for giggles.
-Their community manager is pretty much the biggest troll on their forums. You have a problem with how things are balanced? Honhonhon, you watch too many movies. You say something unkind about France? He's going to be insulting as he can get away with, and then get you banned if you say so much as anything but stating a devout love of froglegs and terrible movies full of ennui.
- Things stay broken for reasons known only to God. You can shoot down helicopters in this game with artillery. Like seriously, here's Mr. Helicopter hovering along, and OH NO INDIRECT FIRE! helicopter is dead. This is stupid. This is also the reality of the game since the first one. This has never been fixed, or addressed. This is also but one of several brokey broke features that have remained with Wargames since 2011 or so. You get some vague answer about "the engine cannot handle it" but that's a bit like saying the Ford Pinto is designed in a way that causes it to catch fire, so drive safe! vs fixing it when you make a new one.
I really could go on. I'm still annoyed enough when I see this game on my list though to finally write this review. This really is not the game for you. If you want a good RTS, there's plenty of better ones out there. If you want a good cold war game? God avoid this mess, it's pretty much like if Tom Clancy was french and mildly mentally handicapped version of the cold war. If you want realism, this game is just as much not for you.
Perhaps you could instead try a nice game of chess?