Towards the end of last month, I got my hands-on in The Great War: Western Front. You may recall that I checked it out (hands-off) at Gamescom earlier this year, and was more interested in playing it at the time. Aside from the technical issues (I hate Parsec and the fact that it freezes on me every bloody twenty seconds), what was I thinking about working on a WWI trench warfare strategy game?
Since its announcement, The Great War: Western Front has been a game on my radar. For good reason, Petroglyph Games has veterans of the Command and Conquer and Company of Heroes series. As you can expect, their solid history of strategy games is on display here, but with something added to make this stand out from the rest. As you can imagine, with the setup, this is Trench Warfare.
My work on The Great War: Western Front put me in the Second Battle of Passchendaele (aka The Final Offensive of the Third Battle of Ypres). I was leading the Allies, British and Canadian, and trying to drive out the Central (German in this case) forces. The initial setup explained while not using my hands was missing here; Setting up trenches, artillery, etc. I was in attack but I still had a lot to play with.
Having a lot to play with certainly didn’t help me early on. I can’t blame all of my failures (just most of them) on Parsec and the many callbacks I’ve made causing time to run out. On a second attempt, she sent more men to their deaths than Mr. Reaper himself. Blue Öyster Cult didn’t write their song I Am the Reaper. As you can see, timing is everything in this game. Although you can pause the game to catch a break, you’ll still find yourself crammed in by Janus.
Taking the fight to your enemies, you must time things to perfection. This is especially true when the battle has an overall time limit, which can force you to make mistakes. One such mistake is sending men to the summit without sufficient cover—that cover being artillery. These can be smoke grenades, funnel-rolling grenades, and even direct artillery strikes. The problem is timing these things wrong and making them end too soon; Your men would be mowed down very quickly – which it took the Allied generals long to realize when they were going to do a massive barrage that ended some time before sending troops over the top.
So yes, timing is key to success in The Great War: Western Front. Success can also bring more success, giving you additional resources, troops, and types of troops. For example, completing the first objective – capturing the central position – allowed me to choose between two different types of units as a reward. The mission then moved to a general objective of capturing the German headquarters, with optional objectives of capturing the headquarters and trenches.
It was the excessive use of artillery and aircraft—either trying to shoot down enemy sighting balloons or trying to launch bombardments—that cost me the fight. I pushed the left wing, but often not hard enough. By the time I captured it, I had no resources to call in reinforcements. Another huge mistake was when calling for reinforcements, I would leave them in the open, with the German artillery picking them up – many were lost before I could get them into a trench.
It’s a learning experience as you need to look at the map layout, look at the obstacles like barbed wire in your way, and make sure you keep up with the units you have. Many strategy games will let you call in reinforcements and not have to worry about them right away; Let them work as a backup. Know that even behind friendly lines your units are not safe.
I watched and read a lot about World War I, so there is no denying how bloody and brutal the entire conflict was. Showcasing this in a strategy game will never be easy, but there is something to be said for The Great War: Western Front. Petroglyph worked on it, capturing (pretty much) what I fancy, and keeping the game fun enough. While this was just one battle, it bodes well for the future. The Great War: Western Front is set to be released next year.