History is a subject that has found itself in the middle of all kinds of media. We have documentaries and mini series on almost every historical event that has occurred over the years and video games have found many ways to get us immersed into this historic battles through various systems. Some games, such as Call of duty and Battlefield opt for a first person shooter approach where we normally fill the shoes of a soldier on the front lines. Of course, these are dramatized versions of what happened but that is to keep the action high and the player invested in the game. There are other games that take a different route and prefer to put the player in charge of large armies and are tasked with not just fighting the good fight but also winning the war through strategy and next level thinking. The Great War:Western Front is a World War I strategy game that has us taking control of different armies so that history can be told once again.
Instead of opting for the more popular war, this game turns its focus to the battlefields of World War I. Taking place from 1914 to 1918, we are able to witness history unfold first hand through a series of campaigns. The focus is less on the boots on the ground action and instead more towards the military history viewpoint. For those who struggle with history and keeping themselves invested, this can certainly be a long and dry experience but those who love historical accuracy will find that there is a lot to appreciate here.
Gameplay is similar to that of most RTS games which means you will be tasked with moving units to different points on the map to either prepare an attack or set up a defense in anticipation of the enemies moves. There is a lot of information that is delivered all at once but thankfully the tutorial is there to help ease you into the way things will unfold. Unfortunately, this may deter some people from playing any further than that since there is a huge information dump and most of it feels necessary to succeed in the game.
While there is a multiplayer aspect to the game, I will solely be focusing on the single player portion due to the fact that I was already feeling lost and overwhelmed by the information presented. As someone who doesn’t play a lot of RTS games, this could simply be an issue for those like myself while others will be prepped and ready to dive right into the multiplayer.
Both Skirmish and Campaign modes will see players trying to defeat the opposing side by either depleting their national will, which is done by defeating enemy troops and squads, or by capturing their capital. Capturing the capital required a lot more work due to the fact that you have to deplete their stars and since their capital can be located a good distance away from yours, this means that sending troops out there while also keeping your own capital defended was a major resource drain.
Fighting it out between troops felt like a better approach but this also meant that you are constantly putting your troops in harm’s way. All my victories were won by what felt like mere inches so there was never this feeling of overwhelming joy. This made it hard to want to continue to play since there was no feeling of personal progression. While this is a wonderful portrayal of what the war was like, it doesn’t lend itself to a fun gameplay loop.
Outside of the gameplay, The Great War: Western Front does a wonderful job of giving you all the information that you need to make a decision. The map is full of both caricatures of the soldiers and vehicles from both sides so each decision that is made can be made knowing what is going on in the area. Although we are given all of this information in a HUD that is clean and understandable, it still felt overwhelming to have to account for every little thing before heading off into battle. This is definitely a game catered towards those with experience in the RTS field and while the tutorial does a good job of explaining the basics, it does not prepare you for when its time to apply that knowledge to a real game. The Ai had me rethinking a lot of my moves and actions and there were multiple times where I felt like restarting the game from the beginning would help eliminate some of those issues.
The Great War: Western Front: is a wonderful treat for those who have experience with the RTS genre and an intense interest in history. For those like myself who have no experience with RTS games however, this can be a major struggle to get through and has the potential to be just another game in a backlog that won’t be touched again after the initial hours.