Civil War- the Sequel?
The American Civil War shaped the landscape of history, bringing about the outlawing of the Slave trade amongst other things. Of course it had a greater impact in the United States of America, but its effects reverberated worldwide. However, what if the war itself had never ended? What if the Union and the Confederates had continued to wage war for centuries afterwards?
This is the world that Gettysburg: Armored Warfare presents you with. Developed by one man studio Radioactive Software, Gettyburg is a hybrid-genre game, mixing real time strategy and third person shooter elements into one title. However, is it a jack of all trades and a master of none? Or does it combine the two genres intricately to make an enjoyable game?
War is horrible
It tries to, at least. Being multiplayer-only, there isn't a story as such to be had in the game. There is however an implied story- the Civil War didn't finish when it should have done. Instead, Gettysburg takes the war into the latter half of the 21st century, with units from 2060 battling it out as well. This is fine by itself, but it brings up one of the weirdest sets of circumstances in the game- why are there still 1860s units included at all? If you've got heavily armoured men running around with miniguns, what is the point of the 19th century Cavalrymen?
Of course, being set in an alternate universe excuses the other advancements, such as tanks and APCs being used alongside heavily armoured zeppelins and battleships (which are completely useless in Deathmatch). Every unit in the game is available to be placed under your control, depending on what army you have sided with. There are no differences between the technology available to one faction and the other, which provides some balance to proceedings. A few changes here and there wouldn't have hurt, but it's perfectly excusable.
Fighting round the United States
What isn't excusable is the substandard nature of the game that emanates from every part of it. The most obvious place for this is in the gameplay. Composed of two modes, deathmatch and army skirmish, Radioactive has attempted to have its cake and eat it. Unfortunately, there are inherent problems with each of these. In Deathmatch mode, you choose to take over a unit of your choice, capture objectives and, when your unit dies, switch to another unit already on the battlefield. This is fine in itself, and a fairly good idea. The problem with it, however, is the fact that the shooting mechanics and animations for the units are so poor that it's almost laughable to play. Soldiers stopping stonedead to jump over walls whilst the AI units can walk straight through is just the tip of the iceberg. Rubber bullets, inaccurate aiming and tanks that can be damaged by bullets all compound the issue that the Deathmatch mode doesn't feel fun or work particularly well.
You wouldn't think that if you took a look at the server browser of Gettysburg, however, as the only servers populated being the Deathmatch ones. That's not to say Army Skirmish is a particularly bad mode either; in fact it's probably the strongest on offer. The problem is it is incredibly bare-boned, even more so than the Deathmatch. As the battle begins, you recruit an army by purchasing units to control. Besides that, the objective is essentially the same- capture the control points and deprive your opponent of points till you win. However, as well as the 3rd person view used, you can also use the birds-eye view to select units and order them to do a variety of typical RTS actions with a few mouse buttons. This works well, except for the times when the command system decides to stop working and refuse to attack the enemy. Still, it's an improvement on the Deathmatch, and that shows how poor the third person mechanics are.
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and friends
The problem with the barebones RTS, which works sometimes and then refuses to the next moment, is that it is compromised by the small selection of maps available. Whilst well made and expansive, there are only 4 maps on offer at present: Gettysburg, Antietam, Seven Pines and Shiloh. With very minimal differences between them, apart from changes in time of day and types of terrain, there's very little in the way of tactical changes required between them. With the maps rarely utilized apart from smaller fractions of them, it's a shame as there is not much to decorate the landscapes other than walls and the occasional house. With such sparse landscapes, there's no variation in Gettysburg- it just all feels the same
The deja vu isn't helped by the presentation. With basic, outdated models, and generic maps, there's little to write home about Gettysburg's aesthetics. The same can be said of the audio design, with the guns all sounding the same, and very little in the way of background music outside the main menu's rendition of The Battle Hymn to the Republic of note. It just completes the basic feel of Gettysburg- although it's a one-man project, it constantly feels like it's tried to do too much. As a result, it feels sub-par.
Ambition is a double-edged sword
That's the crux of the problem with Gettysburg: Armored Warfare- it's ambition is its greatest and worst asset. Whilst in theory the game is interesting, for a one-man developer it's completely untenable to make anything vaguely passable as good without an extremely long development cycle. Gettysburg could have done with at least another 6 months to a year of development to iron out the kinks and bring it into the modern age, but that hasn't happened.
All of this, of course, wouldn't be so much of a hindrance if Gettysburg, a multiplayer-only game, could gain a community behind it to help fix problems, produce content and host servers. With less than 20 people online worldwide when I last checked, and only about 1000 on the leaderboard, it's clear that Gettysburg hasn't managed to garner one of those either. It's horrible for Radioactive Software's one man army, but this is a losing battle. Time will tell if, with the introduction of mod support and constant support for the game from the developer, Gettysburg will win the war. At present though, it just feels like an outdated, unattractive game that was sent out to die rather than be cancelled.
An ambitious effort from a one-man developer. The RTS elements are actually well-made.
Suffers as a result of its ambition - everything feels substandard. No community, a tiny amount of maps and poor shooting mechanics. Broken command system.