Deception and evolution
After the relative success of R.U.S.E on consoles and PC in 2008, the previously unknown developer Eugen Systems showed that its attempts at Real-Time Strategy (RTS) titles were going from strength to strength. However, the French developers have since left Ubisoft’s publishing arm and abdicated to Focus Interactive for their newest title, the PC-exclusive Wargame: European Escalation. Focusing more on the traditional Strategy battle-ground of the PC, will this latest title be a strategic failure, or has it escalated the developer to the realms of excellence?
Set in Cold War-era Europe, Wargame: European Escalation pits the forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the forces of the Warsaw Pact against each other in a fictional evolution of the tensions that occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s. When Communist tanks roll across the border into West Germany, a state of war is announced by the Chancellor at Bonn and the NATO forces mobilize against the threat of Communist invasion, with the full force of the military at the player’s disposal. Playable from both sides of the conflict, there is plenty of opportunity for destruction.
Reel them in
It’s this backdrop of a fictional war that the single-player campaign takes you through, and this is the place where it is recommended you take the time to learn how the game handles before even venturing into the dog-eat-dog world of the multiplayer. Taking the form of a series of skirmishes that take place all across Europe in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before each ‘mission’ begins, you are greeted with a reel of film footage from the period and a tactical map of the advancements. These outline the real life historical context before explaining the mission at hand. It’s a nice touch, creating a sense of authenticity and believability about the battle that is about to take place.
As you wage war in typical RTS fashion, the player occupies a bird’s-eye view of the battlefield, and it is an area that Wargame excels in – the environments for battle are incredible. Although over the past few years we’ve grown accustomed to various types of terrain and interaction with said environments, Eugen Studios have taken it to the next level with an extraordinary scale on offer. The maps are vast in scale, with them often covering 100s of kilometres and requiring you to really think about the range your units offer and the amount of fuel they will use. It adds a new dimension to the challenge, with supply units such as Chinooks and trucks becoming essential parts of your reserve.
A baptism of burning tanks
The war of attrition adds to the overall difficulty of Wargame – the game is unforgiving and merciless from the very start. After a few quick tips in the opening skirmish, once you’ve mastered the basics of the game, you are on your own, free to wage war as you see fit. Along the way, you accrue points that, when combined with the control of so-called ‘reinforcement’ sectors, allow you to purchase new units to add them to the fray. Whilst getting to grips with even the simplest of things, such as recruitment, gaining experience for your current units and achieving your objectives, expect to die a lot. If you subscribe to the ‘rush in numbers’ school of tactical warfare, you will be very much disappointed- you will die a lot. Whilst there are chances for a ‘tank rush’ at the right moment to totally destroy the enemy, it’s a very rare chance indeed. The difficulty will be very off-putting for many people, especially newcomers to RTS games, but purists will relish the challenge.
Excellent strategy title, with the right emphasis on tactics. Enjoyable and populated multiplayer.
Tough difficulty curve, not as graphical advanced as the likes of Shogun 2.