You could argue that games such as Minecraft and Portal are rather simple titles. They have concepts that revolve around rather basic mechanics. Shoot gun, jump through portal. Mine blocks, craft crap. Why do we adore these games so much? The depth that is created by the phenomenal game design creates a gameplay experience that drives us to keep playing. How many people have picked up Dwarf Fortress, played two minutes, and didn’t even bother continuing after seeing the ASCII symbol graphics? Sure, some people love that game and have spent more time on it than any other game in their life, but to find a member of this cult is few and far between. The theory of depth versus complexity is tossed around in the industry once in a while, but probably not enough. This is a concept where grand strategy titles and RTSs often fail. This is where Wargame: AirLand Battle decided to break the mold. We see feature creeping occur quite often in strategy and RPG titles where the developers add mechanics that just don’t seem to be necessary. “Whoo! Plus three to urinating range! Now I can put my middle initial in the snow when I sign my name!” Though the complexity of the title is overwhelming, the battles do not fall short of using every mechanic possible, often causing you to lose the fight just because of a basic armor check. Normally in a regular game I would see this as tedious and annoying that the devs would implement such a mechanic, but when in the mood for a strategy such as this, it’s what I hunger for.
One of the most unfortunate parts of the game is the lack of a decent tutorial. There are two ways to get players to learn how to play your game: You either need to develop the beginning levels slowly to ease players into the introduction of mechanics, or create a tutorial that effectively asks the player to submit to the fact that they are dumb and tell them how to play your stupid game. Unfortunately, with a title as complex as Wargame, the first option would require 50 hours of gameplay to ease the players into the massive amount of mechanics in the title, thus provoking the use of the latter method. Wargame does neither of these things. You could argue that this creates a greater sense of accomplishment when you actually figure out how to play the game, since you spent the same amount of time learning to play this as all the collective doctors have trying to cure cancer. In your mind you’re an expert; I like to call this League of Legends syndrome.
This leads into the single-player portion of the game. There isn’t a whole lot to say here, as there isn’t a whole lot to it. The single-player campaign of the game is rather weak, but in the game’s defense, it’s really a title all about the multiplayer. Grand strategy games really can only go so far, unless you are creaming other people that have done a cancer-curing amount of play to also understand the game.
Here we come to the multiplayer, the magnum opus of Wargame: AirLand Battle. Everything that you have learned is put to the test. You get to scream at your computer and tell the friend over Skype that you lagged, and it’s fantastic. The game allows for ten versus ten skirmishes. These things offer an experience that you can not get in any other RTS. Once you actually understand how the game works, the multiplayer pulls you in, and keeps you coming back for more.
The most exciting content about Wargame is the fact that it throws an incredible amount of detail at you. It gives you every single little statistic about every unit that you are using. This may seem like a bit much, but when it’s accompanied by fantastic gameplay, the title makes you actually feel like you are in a war. Unlike the mystical troop-spawning factories that are commonly seen in RTSs Wargame runs on a system where you collaborate your troops into squadron decks that allow you to choose what you bring to war with you. This creates a much more realistic war experience making the game that much more unique. Wargame gives you much more of the realism that is found from tabletop versions of strategy games but with the real time that the computer medium is able to offer.
Wargame: AirLand Battle was reviewed on the PC platform, with a review code provided by the developer. For more information on how Indie Game Insider conducts reviews, check out our review policies.