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A WWI strategy game turned me into Benedict Cumberbatch

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So many historical war games portray conflict and war as something that is resolved by a small group of individuals. heroes that, if they fight hard enough or smartly, they will eventually turn the tide. The Great War: Western FrontA new real-time strategy game from Petroglyph Studios quickly dismisses any notions of heroism and heroism with a grim portrayal of the futility of war.

campaign in the great war The battles are split between a turn-based overview of the Western Front and real-time battles as armies clash in each hex. Your goal in the campaign, whether playing as the Central Powers or the Triple Entente, is to either capture the enemy’s headquarters or completely destroy your enemy’s national will – a numerical representation of the losses incurred in battle. As such, mounting a strong defense that causes the enemy to take a huge amount of damage is a perfectly valid strategy.

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A screenshot from The Great War: The Western Front showing a bird's-eye view of Belgium.

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Air support, artillery, and more than three times the number of the enemy – what could go wrong?
Image: Petroglyph/Frontier Foundry via Play Gamez

took command of the rescue the great warHowever, that will force you to forget the habits RTS games taught you about keeping the enemy at bay. You might be tempted to build a single-line no man’s land filled with trenches and machine gun emplacements and supported by artillery, but this paradoxically makes your defenses incredibly fragile.

Make no mistake, if your enemy has any gaps or weak points to exploit, they will happily make a beeline for your HQ without a second thought. A smartly layered defense that allows you to quickly adapt to your enemy’s strategy is far more effective. Inevitably, though, you won’t have enough supplies for every weapon or vehicle you want. This is where the cold truth of the Western Front emerges: tanks, planes and machine guns are expensive, but a bunch of men with rifles is cheap.

An overhead view of a forest in The Great War: The Western Front surrounded by pockmarked dirt looking desolate.

Natural structures like forests will force you to break through your defensive line.
Image: Petroglyph/Frontier Foundry via Play Gamez

Too often, I found myself simply filling a gap in my line with an absurd number of soldiers who I knew would inevitably perish, but I didn’t give it a second thought, because my pride made me convinced me that I only needed a few hundred more bodies to turn back the enemy’s onslaught. This tactic worked on several occasions, but ultimately, it cost me more than accepting the war and saving a few thousand families from reading compromising letters from the War Department.

With the sour taste of so many pyrrhic victories in my mouth, I vowed to go no more into the trenches, waiting to engage the enemy when it suited him. No, I was determined to make such a powerful push to the front that we would run away by Christmas. I raised a force on such a scale that it effectively bankrupted my country, but I believed that bringing a swift end to the conflict would be worth it.

I chose my time and place carefully, a rainy area close to the English Channel, where my spies assured me that I would have little protection. I made row after row of soldiers stand up to penetrate the enemy’s line. They met the expected resistance, and were cut down and demoralized by artillery barrages and machine gun fire. But when the body count mounted without my army capturing a single objective, I fooled myself into thinking I only needed two more companies of good guys to win – never mind the fact. That we have already lost 20 others like him.

The Great War: An overhead shot of the skirmish including defensive trenches from the Western Front.  There are already too many dead bodies on the ground.

It looks promising, doesn’t it?
Image: Petroglyph/Frontier Foundry via Play Gamez

As I contemplate my military quagmire, I am reminded of the final scene of the climax 1917, in which George MacKay gives orders to a bruised and scarred Benedict Cumberbatch, who is so sure he has an enemy that he’s willing to send hundreds of thousands of soldiers to their deaths without a second thought. I realized then: It was me. I was Benedict Cumberbatch. Instead of consolidating my strengths and playing smart, my glory-hunting turned me into someone who was willing to die for a piece of land that would inevitably be taken back in two months’ time.

The Great War: Corpses pile up along a trench on the Western Front.

It may be time to reconsider the diplomatic solution.
Image: Petroglyph/Frontier Foundry via Play Gamez

The human cost of war isn’t something I usually think about in historical RTSs like Company of Heroes, or even some entries in the Total War franchise, which I’m totally fine with, just Time without giving it a second thought to spoil a bunch of friends. But the great war Forces you to question whether holding that narrow spit of useless shit was really worth what you paid for it.

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