Wargame--European-Escalation Wargame: European Escalation

   10/04/2012 at 23:05       Stuart       2 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - Wargame: European Escalation, Strategy, PC, Eugen

When R.U.S.E. was released in 2010, many felt Eugen Systems had come close to achieving RTS greatness, with the only let down being the innovative but ultimately shallow deception mechanics. Since then Eugen have been busy, ditching the DRM-laboured shackles of Ubisoft in favour of Focus Interactive and transplanting a whole new flavour of real-time-strategy into the capable Iriszoom Engine.

Wargame: European Escalation is set during the 1970s and 80s, pitting NATO against the Warsaw Pact as the Cold War escalates into full-scale warfare on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Mission briefings have appropriate military zest and are shot through with flashes of real-world period footage, adding a hefty dose of plausibility to the proceedings. 

And then you’re into the game proper, the Iriszoom engine showing you a sweeping view of the battlefield before coming to rest in beautiful close-up over the myriad units awaiting your command. You gleefully use up your starting reinforcement points to bolster your force with tanks and infantry carriers, maybe even some Apache helicopters, ready to sweep towards your objective. Your plan is perfect, and your mechanised battalion roars majestically into action.

Only to be obliterated. ATGMs lance out of nearby treelines, detonating tanks in an eyeblink. Somewhere further back Shilka anti-air vehicles pour fire into the Apaches, downing two before the remaining pair rout in terror. On the ground things are getting worse; your heavy tanks have been de-tracked in the forest and are now pinned down by PACT reinforcements, while the infantry you sent towards the left flank in a clever manoeuvre are suddenly incinerated by what can only be flamethrowers. The rout spreads along your entire front line and you lose control, units scattering. Tanks in forward positions attempt to retreat, but run out of fuel before they can escape the enemy bombardment and are picked off in short order. Soon little is left but smoking ruin, and your still retreating units catch glimpses of a large enemy tank build up, heading fast down the road towards your base.

Wargame (I refuse to refer to it as WEE) thoroughly punishes you if your strategy is lacking. Every unit uses fuel and ammunition and must be resupplied to remain effective – your defences will fend off the first assault, but if they’re not resupplied before another attack hits, they’re just cannon fodder. Units have front, side and rear armour values, forcing you into flanking manoeuvres where a frontal assault would prove too costly. Attacking actions against a well fortified enemy are very dangerous, and assaults must be supported by artillery or rocket bombardment to suppress the defender, or there’s a good chance your attack will fail.

Scouting and recon are also important – as in much modern combat, it all comes down to who gets the drop on who, and the loss of a scout unit can cripple a battle line or swing a fight in minutes. Reinforcements are managed by capturing control zones with command units, with each zone providing a steady trickle of points to spend on units for your conquest. Command units are very vulnerable, and only a foolish commander leaves one undefended.

The single-player side of things is robust, with 22 missions spanning several years and both sides of the conflict. Success in these missions (and accompanying secondary objectives) grants command stars, the game’s currency for unlocking units. Cunningly, any losses suffered in the campaign follow through to the next mission, leading to some tense decisions as you’re forced to take a longer term view of the battles you fight, conserving valuable units and unlocking new ones as you deplete your stock.

And boy, are there a lot of units. 300 in total, across NATO and PACT sides, each with its own stats and performance. Once unlocked, a unit becomes available in the single player campaign and for use in multiplayer – and multiplayer is where Wargame really shines, thanks to the deck system.

Decks are comprised of a maximum of 25 units, and you can only have five units of any one type. The varied classes (Logistics, Recon, Tanks, Support, Vehicles, Infantry and Helicopters) allow for a wide variety of combat roles, from the standard all-rounder for 1v1 games to more specialised air, tank or support decks for co-ordinated multiple-player matches of up to four players a side. You gain experience whether you win or lose, and levelling up unlocks more stars with which to buy more units.

Maps are large, well populated with features and of decent visual quality, as are the unit models themselves, even at high levels of zoom – though it would be nice if there were more of them for the multiplayer mode. While there isn’t a huge amount of variety in the terrain, the fields and woodlands of Europe are certainly pretty to look at, with some limited destructibility. Explosions and other effects are particularly meaty, and the sight of a hefty mortar barrage coming your way is genuinely unpleasant, causing me to grumble frequently into my coffee as I’m forced to fall back again.

Lack of a co-op skirmish mode at release is a big black mark, though there is a single player skirmish option which serves well, and there is only one game mode -  a straight up brawl where victory is determined by points (unit cost) destroyed. Fortunately, Eugen have stated on their forums that a co-op ‘comp-stomp’ mode is on its way, along with more maps, game modes and the all important map-ping for multiplayer – neatly solving all of my complaints with a single announcement.

Minor annoyances such as the lack of an explicit ‘reverse’ move order (units will automatically reverse if told to move only a short distance behind them, but this is cumbersome), cluttered unit listings and bare-bones tutorial do mar the initial experience, and newcomers to the genre might be put off by the difficulty of the single player campaign mode. Long time strategy fans, on the other hand, will relish the challenge and rumours of mod tools are already circulating.

With Wargame: European Escalation, Eugen have taken the well worn RTS template and honed it into a much tighter strategic game. Veteran strategy fans will love the depth of tactics and the huge list of unlockables, and though newcomers to the genre may find the learning curve steep, with patience they will find a game with an awful lot to give. Wargame may speak softly, but it carries one hell of a big stick.

Stars
User Comments:

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frod - on 12/04/2012 at 20:38 wrote:
 
Sounds good. 40% off on Steam this weekend as well.
 

Trip SkyWay - on 14/04/2012 at 16:06 wrote:
 
Sounds ace!
 


2 comment(s) in total.
        
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Better late than never, eh Ror?
 
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Enjoyed this, cheers!
 
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