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Wargame: AirLand Battle

By JcDent09-05-2013
Bobfish (editor)
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Wargame: AirLand Battle

The Defence

Eugen Systems
Focus Home Interactive
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Dual Core 2.5 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT
AMD Radeon X1800
2 GB
15 GB

The Cold War is the red headed stepchild of the RTS genre: of all the big conflicts, it probably has the least amount of games. Probably because “Cold” signifies the fact that while we were threatened by nuclear annihilation, in the end we persevered. Wargane: European Escalation was having none of this shit and presented us with a game where the forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact clash in a series of low level (nobody was nuking anyone) conflicts in Central Europe. Wargame: AirLand Battle takes the battle to Scandinavia and brings jet planes to boot.

I was able to spend some time with the Beta that pre-order customers got for their faith. Eventually the game will have a campaign, much like European Escalation had. It will take place between 1975 and 1985, but the game offers much newer - and way, way older - units too. New players should take note: in the last game, the first campaign was like an extended tutorial, so it might be the case in this one, too. Or not, seeing how so many people say they never played the campaign, they’ll put a big, bright TUTORIAL HERE NOOBS button for everyone to see. But the gist remains the same: collect an army, send them to their dea...er, victory.

Probably minutes before being destroyed by an enemy ground attack plane that dodged a forest worth of AA fire.

Probably minutes before being destroyed by an enemy ground attack plane that dodged a forest worth of AA fire.

They revamped the armory, where you can see every last unit, which I think can be classed as sort of pornography. Once you’re sexually exhausted, you can start building your own list - although you will want to play a few games with the preset ones first, to get the feel of the game! You won’t be able to mix Pact and NATO forces, of course, but within these factional boundaries (and selection point limits), anything is possible. Polish infantry backed by Soviet tanks, British armor covered by American airforce...anything! I mean, the game aims to have 750 combat units and 150 jets. It’s like armchair General heaven in here!

And now, there are three levels of optional bonuses to keep things varied. The first is nation - this locks the choices of units to one specific country, but at the same time gives you access to their prototype units (like the T-80U tank or BMPT for Soviets). The second level is type - this influences your army by limiting slots, lowering selection points prices and increasing XP rates. The third and probably least used is limiting the time period of your forces - the most severe being pre-1973 units, since you can and will go up against stuff from 20 years down the line. All in all, I already have experience with building heavy armor lists that spent half of the game in one place since the enemy has too much air cover (the enemy sits in place since my position is in a forest that has more AA missiles than trees). It’s a lot of fun - even though some factions are innately limited. You will never build an air-heavy East German army (which is best suited to having more cheap tanks than the enemy has anti-tank ammo) or armor oriented Scandinavian armies!

Even in those game prescribed limits you will come up with silly combinations. Like a Czechoslovakian Paratrooper regiment, which doesn’t have any tanks, support vehicles, helicopters or supply vehicles. It’s all planes and infantry (truck mounted infantry) for you brother! There are, as I already mentioned, national limits clashing with game limits. So while you may be sad that NATO got Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Canada while Pact got zilch, in truth the Scandinavian factions aren’t so different as to make much of an impact.

This is how most of your game will look like. Notice the distinct lack of up close unit model shots.

This is how most of your game will look like. Notice the distinct lack of up close unit model shots.

Still, you will have to climb a steep learning curve, because Wargame steers for the hardcore side. I know, right? With every bigger dev going the safest route possible and assuming their customers must wear an indoor helmet (not a farfetched idea, as sales of Black Ops 2 aptly illustrate), these guys are paying with armor values, detection, cover, armor siding, unit morale and so on. Tank armor values are important - as a rule, Cold War tanks rarely have side armor and every tank in the history of man neglected back armor. But even with a good cannon, chances are that its penetration capabilities fall too steeply to engage enemy at long range. Missiles don’t suffer these shortcomings and ATGMs might be the boogeyman of the tanks crews (that is, when the enemy is using them - your missiles barely hit the opening of the launch tube), but up close they can’t do anything while they also need line of sight to fire. Units not in cover can fall prey to uncountable horrors while even in cover your precious radar AA might be taken out by a SEAD missile.

Those are carried by the newly introduced airplanes. Yes, the real airpower is finally here and it takes some skill to use. While the planes can be set to patrol an area, they spend most of their time off screen, either waiting for your get go or rearming, refuelling, repairing and re-watching “Top Gun”. The most popular use of aircraft now is to kill enemy helicopters, especially of the “Recon” genus. Those rarely stray too far away from the enemy lines and the enemy lines are the natural habitat of AA emplacements. Another great use is to blunt enemy armor (it’s always armor) assaults with ground attack planes - especially with napalm which can also act to block the enemy route of advance. One of the rarest uses is using SAED planes to pick off enemy radar AA (you know, the best kind), leaving them with slingshot armed infantry and trucks filled with bowmen as the only air defense options. In the end, there are 150 jets here - try to use each one at least once!

But the historical lands of the Vikings means more than airplanes and new units - it also means new maps. The devs promised us larger urban areas and mountainous terrain and that’s what they gave us. Now, these aren’t “real” mountainous terrains - those would be hard to put in a map and would wreck hell upon gameplay - but the battle zones are now on different levels of mini plateaus - this means hard choices when attacking an enemy that’s higher than you and really hard defense choices against the enemy lower than your forces. And while I’ve yet to see huge urban environments (also known as “Infantry’s loveshack”), the mountains are there for you infantrymen to hide and cover in!

‘Some folks are born, maaade to wave the flag, oh, they're red, white and blue...’

‘Some folks are born, maaade to wave the flag, oh, they're red, white and blue...’

On the visual side of things, the planes are pretty when you see them darting around the skies, but all of the much touted engine capabilities are almost wasted since Wargame is not a game where you allow yourself to zoom in and take in the glory of your forces. Seriously, I have not the faintest idea what the men and tanks that I sent to their deaths look like. A powerful unit rendering engine is useful for games like Company of Heroes that are smaller in scope and much more intimate. Then again, the engine works pretty fine and the game is well optimised, so it's not like they're wasting resources.

All in all, the game is a lot of fun, even when losing (sometimes even you can be surprised how decisively you lost). Intensive battles are full of action and fury, tanks exchanging fire and routing, artillery falling everywhere, planes dueling, ATGM launchers proving inefficient against anything bigger than an enemy golf cart... It’s a lot of fun, especially in those small moments where your understrength Fusilier squad blows up an enemy T-80U or where you manually place your AA in a position that the AI wouldn’t take by its own and blow up an enemy scout helicopter.

All in all, this leaves me quite amped for the final release of Wargame: AirLand Battle. Hopefully by then I'll suck less and will be able to build a kickass deck, with blackjack and heavy tanks. In fact, forget blackjack!

Comments (7)
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Posts: 233

Give me a Regiment of Leopards and I give you the world

Posts: 1548

I hate being mindful. Want to spam the enemy with units. - Soviet style.

Posts: 228

If they let you have infinite amount of units, it would be like World at War. Now, you have to be mindful of what and how you use.

Posts: 1548

"Gama" then? :P

Posts: 341

"Still beta" and its release is in 14 days.

Posts: 1548

To be fair its still in beta...

Posts: 341

I have it.

Theres no tutorial or anything, so its reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally unforgiving this game to new players.

The game looks and runs fantastic 100+ fps constant on my 680.
("No reduction" in quality in video settings with 2048x2048 texture impostors etc)

However one thing I do hate is the lack of a gamemode where you have no Set limit on your units in the deck, as of now when you play and deploy units, you can only do so X amount of times, perhaps you have abrams, 20 of them total, you deploy them all, voila you no longer can deploy abrams. Would be fun with a mayhem mode where you can your friends can just wreak havoc.