Review of Great War: Western Front: alternately engaging and exhausting, perhaps on purpose

I kept alternating between wanting to play more and getting tired of the prospect. While that may sound bad, it does mean it balances a gripping strategic challenge with a poignant theme of trench warfare.

Western Colon War Front talk about getting the Triad Alliance or Entente through the hellish years 1914-1918 or beyond. This is a pure military game about breaking through mass defenses through attrition, both in local real-time battles and turn-based strategy maps. It’s probably unfair to criticize it for its repetition and some discontinuous sense of futility, as a World War I game without them would ruin the point. But I still feel a bit mixed.

TGW is neither belligerent nor moralist, nor coldly impartial. Winning the war is a case of persistence rather than indulging in glory, and its battles emphasize destruction and mass death without gratification or hygiene. There was no gore, but no one had a good time, and the cost of victories and even wasted lives cannot be ignored.

Your influence is contained in the foreground. Scripted events tell of revolutions in Ireland and broken promises in Palestine, but you have no influence other than your army. You can’t stop the US from getting in, as well as Russia from pulling out, giving each side a much-needed boost at their respective historical junctures. That is not a complaint. It is simply that: manage the front lines, break their lines and/or resolve, and endure. You can’t train more soldiers, but you can choose where they go and where to spend money on supporting structures and hardware.

Each infantry unit on the map represents many companies and does not indicate how many units will appear on the battlefield at once, but how many are waiting in reserve. Having ten units versus five enemy units doesn’t mean you have twice as many attackers at once, but more reserves nearby, so there’s more to call by spending resources provide. Some units and buildings provide free supplies to the local province, saving your global supply. All of this allowed for some broader strategy, but life took away the national will, and that was the key to the war. The country will definitely trend down, but if the enemy hits zero first, you win. In theory you could conquer enemy headquarters, a few hexagons away and a million kills, but I haven’t seen the front change a bit more.

six units march through the snowy, uninhabited land in The Great War: The Western Front

Miniature view of the campaign map in The Great War: Western Front, showing the various battlefields along the trenches

No single battle can change everything. You can have Somme or Amiens, but each province must be won multiple times to be occupied. Battle outcomes range from stalemate to the best possible “great victory”, depleting a star from the hostile province. Deplete every star and it’s yours. As a result, I find the prospect of winning somewhere like Luxembourg very exhausting, as its five stars require many overwhelming wins. Auto-resolving is always an option, but tends to lead to inconclusive results, and I find myself considering less extreme results a waste of time. Sure, they cost the enemy’s national will dearly, but automatically resolving three or four small wins or deadlocks cost them more than I did, and it only took a fraction of the time.

Each border between each province has a unique map, and the battles follow a set-up stage to detail your defenses. Basic trenches are very vulnerable to bombing, but research allows reinforcement and concrete to be used, bunkers to fill choke points with more people, and upgradable barbed wire. All of these are persistent, so a map with a lot of contention will become more densely defended and threatened by explosions. Less fixed are equipment such as mortars, cannons and machine guns, deployed in each battle, so an easy to conquer line could spring up kill zones next month.

An option in The Great War: Western Front to either attack military ships only or attack all ships and risk angering neutral nations, but hindering enemy supplies

The basic strategy of timing artillery to suppress the trenches while your troops attack is surprisingly involved, and there’s an interesting tension between the importance of one or two company at the right time compared to how even a successful attack would mean hundreds of people dying to keep a company. trench. Research brings deadlock-breaking tools like tanks, flamethrowers, and siege cannons off the map, raising the scale of destruction to devastating late-game levels. Tactics and strategies align as you begin to see where the enemy is focusing their research and counter it accordingly.

But a sluggish user interface leads to an annoying need for micromanagement. The petroglyphs indicate that they were dealing with known problems surrounding trench movement, but you wouldn’t believe how often I yelled at my men to in the damn trenches. They like to jump out of them, or when they see one inhabited, stand around in the open air instead of running to the next one. It leads to a lot of tedious banter, especially when the soldiers seem content to share trenches with the enemy until both sides stop moving, then suddenly fight to the death. Enemies occasionally hop along a line and wander among your troops undisturbed. One person used this temporary invincibility to wipe out four surrounding companies with a flamethrower. Even if these are pre-release glitches, performance is actually pretty sluggish. The lowest video settings are a bit of a pain, and going up to medium sometimes causes my system to freeze completely. This week, I learned that you can, in fact, get a blue screen on Windows 10.

While the map layout still exists, the territory held does not. Each map is functionally a battle for control points, but even if you take the entire battlefield, the starting positions will reset afterwards. This probably represents the fact that even taking the position won’t really last unless the local opposition is completely exhausted. A trench warfare game shouldn’t involve a lot of long-term wins, and on a practical level, allowing players to start holding onto most of the map would lead to a foregone conclusion. And capturing the entire map is satisfying, even if it doesn’t last. Essentially, this system looks like a necessary compromise between realism and interestingness.

An artillery attack on an enemy trench during a battle in The Great War: Western Front

But it also forces me to target smaller provinces as they will have less to fight and avoid some battles altogether. I associate this with the central powers, whose schtick is the conscript and elite version, implying a bias towards numbers and logistics over specialization. Both sides have the same research tree, but the Entente have more diverse armies, such as the defensive Australians and the trench-attacking expert Gurkhas. I was happy with that variety, but won easier with Germany by dispatching 1200 men per tank and automatically settling the last six months of the war.

Is that wrong? I do not know. I like the Western Front, for sure. Its frustration detracts from a good experience instead of overriding it, and it’s more enjoyable than the theme suggests without feeling clunky or shallow. It’s a solid step into a tough niche, a fine mix of tactics and strategy, but it’s best enjoyed in its own right and perhaps with a little more patience than I do.


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