Eugen Systems has been making realistic military RTS’s for almost a decade now. What if the Cold War turned hot, with all-out war breaking out breaking out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations? Their latest series Wargame is a exploration on the what ifs of the Cold War. Wargame AirLand Battle is the second game in the series and introduces a single campaign plotline based in Scandinavia, new nations, the addition of fixed wing aircraft, tweaks to urban warfare, and adjustments to logistic units.
Wargame AirLand Battle takes place in 1985. The western liberal democratic NATO alliance is now engaged in combat with the communist Warsaw Pact. The war has now spilled over to Scandinavia. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway are now fighting for their very survival. The battle starts in Denmark and quickly spills over into the traditionally neutral country of Sweden. The Swedes are forced to join NATO in hopes of surviving the Warsaw Pact’s onslaught. It is important to note that the plot in Wargame AirLand Battle is not directly related to Wargame European Escalation, so do not be shocked when no “previously in Wargame” screen pops up to update players on the happenings in Wargame’s vision of the Cold War.
The plot in Wargame AirLand Battle is a possible scenario; however, Eugen System chooses the hands off route. Instead of meeting generals and building characters, Wargame AirLand Battle’s presentation of the plot reads more like a history textbook than a videogame. The plot is not the most gripping thing in the world, but it seems plausible.
Wargame AirLand Battle is probably one of the most realistic real time strategy games on the market. Battles are split between two modes, a turn based map and a real time strategy based conflicts. The turn based maps play like a small game of Risk. Players are able to deploy troops, hammer their enemy with a variety of abilities, and position their troops to get the best possible advantage going into the conflict. Each division is comprised of a deck, which represents the amount of units they can call upon during the conflict. Each deck has its own strength and weaknesses. For example, a mechanized infantry division fighting in urban areas and dense forests will have a distinct advantage against an armoured division of tanks. However, change the landscape to the open fields of Europe and the tables will quickly turn. Each division will have a moral and initiative ranking that will dictate how many resource points they will begin the conflict with and how many the enemy will need to accrue to win.
Based on the positioning of divisions on the map, conflicts between enemy divisions will break out. Players will start out in their respective sectors and will be able to spend their entire starting resource points on units that will be instantly deployed to the battlefield. Players will do battle over neutral sectors that will need to be controlled by a command unit. For each sector controlled, players will gain more resource points, allowing them to call in reinforcements that will slowly enter the battlefield. As players destroy enemy units, they will gain points towards victory, which will affect the overall battle map.
On the multiplayer side of things, players can opt to play traditional single map skirmishes with up to 19 other players in four different game modes or play campaign with the turn based battle maps either cooperatively or competitively. Players have greater flexibility to create decks that suit their play style, which emphasizes both smart deck building and RTS skills. The game uses a well-organized lobby system that is easy to navigate.
Eugen Systems takes great pains to make Wargame AirLand Battle as realistic as possible. All units have limited amounts of fuel and ammunition. They must be resupplied by returning to Forward Operating Bases (FOB) or by standing near supply vehicles. Decks limit the amount of troops that can be called into battle, forcing players to also consider their remaining reserve units when engaging in battle. To further improve realism, Eugen Systems bumped up their already impressive 350 historically accurate units to a mind boggling 750 units from twelve different countries in Wargame AirLand Battle.
Wargame AirLand Battle is an impressively deep game. The single battles are dynamic rock, paper, scissors match ups that require smart deck building and strong RTS skills. The campaign mode adds a completely new dimension to the game that will take hours to master. Unfortunately, its depth makes the game very difficult to learn. The tutorial only covers the most basic tactical movements and controls. Most RTS campaigns will slowly introduce a new unit type every level, allowing the player to master the unit’s role in small steps. In Wargame AirLand Battle, the first campaign gives a very rough tutorial on how to use the battle map. Once I was thrown into my very first conflict I was suddenly slammed with a huge amount of units when I had only been introduced to the most basic infantry, scout, armour, and airpower units. However, players who are willing to put the nose to the grind and learn the nuts and bolts of Wargame AirLand Battle are rewarded with a complex game that will please the military, history, and grand strategy nerds.
Wargame AirLand Battle is a visually impressive game. The game renders out a visceral intense war on the ground. Zoomed in close, players are treated to some impressive combat scenes. Combat gets hectic with explosions going off, tracers flying, and aircraft screaming overhead. It is a wonderfully chaotic scene to witness. It is incredible to see the attention to detail Eugen Systems developers possess. Individual soldiers in infantry platoons even appear in game. Zoom the game out or sit in the menu and suddenly the player is transported away from the chaos of the battlefield to a sterile far-away command centre complete with era appropriate buttons. The small touches really help create the full package in Wargame AirLand Battle.
Like any good war film, the sounds of war in Wargame AirLand Battle is backed up with an orchestral score. Wargame AirLand Battle’s music is subtle but imparts a feeling of epic depth that matches the games grand scale. The recording for sound effects are done well. There is a wide variety of gunfire, explosions, vehicle engines, and klaxon horns alerting to important events to breed the chaotic feeling of war and combat. The voice acting is decent, though the lines seem a little thin as I noticed some lines being repeated by different nations here or there.
Don’t let Wargame AirLand Battle’s huge learning curve scare you off. The game is one of the deepest RTS games I have played in a long time and it is a refreshing change to get out of space and into a less popular war in history. Though a little disappointingly weak in the story side, the game combines snappy visuals, an impressive attention to detail, a solid audio experience, and rewardingly complex gameplay in one package. The icing to the cake? Eugen Systems is releasing free DLCs for Wargame AirLand Battle like they did for the previous Wargame title.
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