If there is one genre on the PC that is in no way shape or form in short supply, it is the World War II strategy genre. Whether it's a game with mainstream appeal and console like gameplay, or a more advanced style strategy game that full utilizes the versatility of a PC mouse and keyboard, there always seems to be another WWII on the horizon.
Naturally, the problem here for developers is creating a game unique enough to set itself apart from the flock, and for 1C for Battlefront.com, this
is definitely the biggest hurdle for their soon to be released WWII RTS, Theatre of War. With a few name changes and years of development and fan anticipation behind it, Theatre of War is finally approaching release and from what we've experienced in the pre-release beta, it should be quite a successful one.
Obviously being based on World War II means the units, the environments and the missions featured in Theatre of War are going to be at least semi-familiar to some if not most gamers interested in this type of game, but where ToW tries to approach the genre differently than most games before it is in the way it approaches the gameplay itself. Like the vast majority of WWII PC games, ToW is based around the Real Time Strategy formula, and to a large degree it seems to follow this formula
like it's an IEEE standard, but when it comes to the actual make up of the gameplay, RTS gaming really hasn't ever been quite like this before. This is because ToW focuses on total and utter realism, with very few compromises along the way.
First and foremost, ToW will feature the usual suspects in the RTS genre when it comes to game modes - a single player campaign, training missions, "battles" which has five instant battles on offer acting as "quick games", and a multi-player mode. The single player campaign mode features around 40 missions and can be played
from five perspectives - Poland's, the Allies, Russia's, Germany's and France's. As for multi-player, in the pre-release beta we were playing it seemed only
IP to IP was on offer so we're not sure if the final retail version will have any sort of in-built online browser. If not, it would certainly make organizing online games a lot tougher.
Regardless of what mode we initially chose, it didn't take long for ToW's realistic approach to RTS gameplay to become apparent, and really, it is surprising how playable the game actually is. As mentioned above, ToW does seem to follow a lot of RTS standards and in a way it is fundamentally a very generic RTS game particularly when it comes to the controls and the game modes, so anyone even slightly familiar with the RTS genre will probably be able to come right in and play ToW. In fact, in its
simplest form, ToW is little more than a map with a few units you send around shooting the opposing forces, but that is selling the game way too short as it's really all the details attached to this generic RTS framework that seems to make the game come together, not to mention make the game a hell of a lot tougher than 99% of RTS's out there.
For example, the amount of detail gone into individual unit characteristics and attributes really is amazing. Inside ToW's campaign mode are RPG elements for upgrading the skills and abilities of your units from battle to battle, and these really do translate onto the battlefield. For instance, you may successfully force an enemy to abandon a vehicle of theirs, or maybe a driver of yours needs replacing. In these situations, a solider with adequate driving skills is ideal. Another
example is attributes
like leadership and the current state of a soldier's morale, which can influence their willingness to carry out your orders. Perhaps the best part about all these unit elements is the fact the attributes and statistics are so easily accessible on your screen, neatly displayed horizontally across the bottom quarter when you have a unit selected. For a game that focuses on "the bigger picture" when it comes to battles, it's amazing how individual and personalized TOW can be, as not only can
you issue out
orders to individual units, but you can consult a wealth of information about each unit in real time on the battlefield to aid in your battle plan.