WarGame: AirLand Battle Preview (PC)

In practice, Wargame: AirLand Battle (no more name jokes now) sounds like it’s going to be a really good follow-up game. In principle, it sounds like a bit of a dodgy one for the consumers... you all remember Napoleon, right? Well sounds like we have a similar situation on our hands here... Eugen themselves don’t want to call it a sequel, but it’s very much a stand-alone expansion that’s coming not long after the main game itself was released. Not because European Escalation was unfinished or rushed in anyway – none of the feedback from press or players could point to that – but simply because they’ve started improving and changing the game far beyond the scope of what mere DLC can provide.

AirLand Battle, as you might know right now, was the name of a legitimate US Army doctrine for Europe during the cold war, which basically dictated tactics on how to use close-air support for frontline troops. In a similar fashion then, one of ALB’s main improvements is to include jet-aircraft to the unit roster – some 150 of them. To compensate for this, they’ve ramped up the game engine itself to include bigger maps, but more importantly maps that have some verticality (apologies for that) to them. Now you can have large snow-topped mountain ranges and valleys, which even land units can traverse to some extent and air support can be called in from off map to keep the skies clear and to provide ground support for your troops. It’s now a whole new level of tactics that you have to watch out for (you thought helicopters were a pain?).

Planes can't refuel or re-arm 'on-map'; they have to leave the combat space completely

Another thing Eugen were very eager to address was the single-player portion of the game. Even they realised that the single-player element of European Escalation wasn’t up to scratch, with odd difficulty spikes, a fairly bland narrative, and an odd attrition system that could really screw you over late in a campaign – but that’s all about to change. The vision for AirLand Battle is to have an experience that’s just as good as playing a multiplayer game – with a large dynamic and persistent campaign – a ‘simulator’ of a large scale conflict, complete with events, politics, weather effects different divisions, armies and fronts… sounds impressive, but it also sounds like a bit of a mission to design. The team wants it to come in at around 30 hours (and you can choose a difficulty!), and you have a lot of flexibility.

Multiplayer is also getting some love to – they’re experimenting with 10 vs 10 battles, and whilst the technology is there and the game can handle it (your internet, on the other hand, is a different story), Eugen want to make sure big brawls like this don’t ruin the ‘essence’ which was communicated to me in a bizarre Mario analogy. You can also observe any game that’s being ‘broadcasted’ as a spectator, which the team hope will raise the social aspect of the game as people can share and observe their tactics. Building your decks as well is also going to be improved – a new armoury interface to accommodate the 300 odd new land units and the four new factions (Sweden, Norway, Denmark & Canada), and you can also build truly national decks, with bonuses and incentives included if you go all with one nation (like extra deployment points, for example).

"Err... Jeff" "Yes Bob?" "We're almost flying upside down again..."

Even the AI behaviour scripting has been improved – especially with regards to Urban Warfare. Instead of clumping around awkwardly inside or around a house, infantry will smartly occupy a couple of houses, as well as having scouts at houses down the end of a row or district, providing realistic tactical cover of an area. Also, towns have been designed better to look less regimented and blocky, and there’s going to be more urbanised maps as well. Interface wise, there’s also a lot more feedback and a lot more options as well – for example for logistical units you can choose whether they just refuel, rearm, fix up, or have a mixture of them.

If you were undecided about Wargame before, then we hope this new game will help persuade you to jump on board. Existing users… well, we hope Focus are kind to people who bought the first game in terms of pricing and incentives, but even Eugen themselves aren’t really thinking much about how they can make the transition easier – they’re focused solely on making a good game better, and from their point of view if you like it, then money isn’t really an issue. Tough love perhaps, but we’ll have to wait and get some hands-on time before we see whether it’s worth it. We like what we’ve been hearing though. Wargame: AirLand Battle is due out sometime around March 2013 for PC.

Most Anticipated feature: Well, the dynamic and persistent campaign brings back fond memories of our Close Combat days,


By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Aug 24, 2012
I know some of you guys had reservations about the last game, but seriously, now is the time to get involved :)
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Aug 24, 2012
Love the part about the campaign, dynamic campaigns are fantastic.
I skipped the first one but I'm totally gonna keep an eye on this.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Aug 26, 2012
I'm very much looking forward to this one, as I am very familiar with this 1980's doctrine and would love to see it played out.
My concerns with "EE" were with the SP, or lack of attention to it but I must say I am enthused to read the "...odd difficulty spikes, a fairly bland narrative, and an odd attrition system that could really screw you over late in a campaign..." are being addressed. These were my main gripes, as I had no interest at all in MP. This, along with a serious lack of skirmish maps and the astounding way a game hinged on guessing what the AI would concentrate on building their army almost exclusively with (Air, Anti-air +armour or infantry).
Skirmish in fact was no fun at all - just VP grabbing and hoping you'd spent your points on the right setup to meet whatever the AI had chosen as it's overwhelming military arm. This and the crazy difficulty spikes and cheating AI in the Campaign made it unbearable to play.

My other chief concern, one that "RUSE" did not seem to be hampered by, is that you spend most of your time zoomed-out, maneuvering your forces to take objectives and/or meet incoming threats.
This was not an issue in "RUSE", as I say as the game still looked magnificent, nor did it in "Order of Battle". However, in "EE" the game just looks plain bland and boring. Even zooming in really didn't help, and I couldn't bare playing longer than 30 mins at a sitting. Overall it felt sterile. Compared with "World in Conflict", set in the same period this game was a major let down.
Fingers crossed for this one, and I may just chance pre-ordering after stating I never would again after "W:EE" and "Naval War Arctic Circle", another major letdown (where is the bloody save game feature so long promised?).
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Aug 26, 2012
Besides, I can always blame you if it fails, JC:)
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Aug 27, 2012
Dude, even I could have told you not to pre-order Naval War... don't you read ANYTHING I write? :P
By lichlord (SI Core) on Aug 27, 2012
he does JC but he rather makes up his own mind about things :P
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Aug 27, 2012
Yeah, I'll cop that one fair and square:)
By e3_gamer (I just got here) on May 11, 2013
although the graphical maps & eye candy are well made
had the developers based the design around more recent events such as desert storm/Afghanistan war more people might be interested + reach a larger fan base.

nobody cares about a fictional 'what if' scenario about what might have happened in the 80's

the cold war is a dead horse

stop kicking it.
By e3_gamer (I just got here) on May 11, 2013
the game also needs more innovative features such as the
ability to enter and take control of any unit or vehicle.

switching to a fps tank/flight simulation style perspective,
similar to what pacific storm allies did with their fighter
planes once launched from the deck of a aircraft carrier.

that might be worth forking out hard earned money for.

in my opinion: another soon to be forgotten flop.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on May 11, 2013
Middle East freedom fries wars are even more of a dead horse, ANY game based on a war in the area is currently almost a default pass on my part. I've never been more sick of any other setting this much before.
By e3_gamer (I just got here) on May 11, 2013

it's about fan base & server popularity and most servers packed with a community of gamers play those types of era games & not about what we really prefer unfortunately.

popularity =players =$sales =further development

I would prefer something involving U.S vs China, Iran, & North Korea but chances are the developers don't care what I think.

By nocutius (SI Elite) on May 11, 2013
I can't make a strong claim but it's my personal feeling that people are a bit tired of the middle east as a setting, I'm OK with China cause it hasn't been overdone yet.