In August, Maurice Tan gave us pretty extensive preview on Wargame: European Escalation. Much in the same vein as Eugen System's R.U.S.E. that came before it, Wargame is a deep real-time strategy game with a focus on epic wars taking place across large immersive battlefields.
The difference, however, can be seen in just how much depth and accuracy has been given to this game now that it's officially free of it's console-friendly shackles. While the historical events of the game are actually providing a sort of "alternate history" to the Cold War Era between 1975 and 1985 where war actually does erupt between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, everything else about the historical era of the game from the opposing factions to the types of vehicles used in battle are as accurate as possible, with lots of detail given to how they look and sound when shooting.
I was recently invited to get a second look at the game, and though I saw much of the same attention to detail and intelligent strategy design that Maurice witnessed, I was also given a much better idea of how multiplayer will work.
Wargame: European Escalation (PC)
Alexis Le Dressay of Eugen Systems was on-hand to show me a bit of how the multiplayer of Wargame would play out. He started by opening a session -- in this case, a fake demo session that served as more of a proof of concept than actual multiplayer gameplay. When you start a new session, you're given tons of options of what kind of match you want to create. Several players can join a session at once and battle it out, however you aren't restricted to keeping everything matched evenly.
"You don't need to have two vs. two or four vs. four," Alexis tells me as he shifts through the options, "You can have one vs. seven if you want."
After choosing a battlefield and maximum number of players, Alexis shows me a mode called Confrontation. In this mode, you can have one team play as NATO and the other as the Warsaw Pact, however you can play as two NATO or two Warsaw Pact teams facing off against each other instead if you want.
Once you've chosen your teams, you can also select how many points both teams will begin with. Points are the basic form of currency, so you begin the game with a certain number of points and then the largest part of the strategy lies in how you will spend your points -- whether you'll gather your forces into a huge mass of lighter units such as foot soldiers and APCs, or a few smaller masses of more expensive units such as powerful helicopters and mortars.
As there are more than three hundred units in the game, you're required to create your own deck of units that you'll rely on throughout your game session. This is both a strategic way of streamlining your decisions into affecting how the game will ultimately turn out and a much more fluid way to deal with the game's interface.
Speaking of interface, one of the nice aspects of the multiplayer portion of Wargame: European Escalation lies in the fact that you're not automatically locked into a game session you have created. After you've started a game session and you find that no one is joining it, you are still free to look at the board of available games and jump into one of those sessions instead. If you start a game session and you don't like the doofuses who have jumped onto your game, you can always ditch them mid-game guilt free, as the host will automatically be migrated to a different person on the session you created. This is just one of the ways that Eugen Systems have been working on making the multiplayer aspect more fluid and appealing.
Overall, Wargame: European Escalation is shaping up to be an incredibly deep and varied real-time strategy game that offers an exciting alternative history take on the last decade of the Cold War. The historical detail and attention given to the units in the game is incredibly impressive, as are the expansive battlefields and the fluidity with which you're able to command your units and zoom in on them to watch them go to war. The graphics are relatively polished and certainly nice-looking, though the quick landscape rendering and generally enormous sense of scale are what really take the cake here.
RTS fans, keep your eye out for the game when it ships in early November.