Wait, where are you going? Come back! Don’t go. The name is deceptively boring, yes, but that’s what you get when you try to name a game after a real US Army doctrine. It follows on from 2012 RTS Wargame: European Escalation, which itself is something of a spiritual successor to RUSE in that it uses the studio’s bespoke IrisZoom engine to attempt an immersive experience.
One look at AirLand Battle’s presentation and you’ll understand pretty quickly. The graphical fidelity and sheer size of the maps on offer are far more advanced than those seen in European Escalation, with battlegrounds featuring mountains, steep hills and a large variety of topography that players can use to gain height advantages and perform sneak attacks.
“What we wanted to achieve was to create a true RTS in real time... not an outright simulation, but rather a strategy environment where depth and realism is unmatched,” Le Dressay said. “Something that is very different from what exists on the market today.
Just like European Escalation, AirLand Battle is set between the 1975 - 1985 Cold War, focusing on the conflict between NATO and Warsaw Pact troops across the continent. To keep things fresh, the focus has been moved to Northern Europe, particularly in the Scandinavian region. A perfect location to show off the topographical improvements that have been added to the engine, don’t you think?
Maps are split into multiple sectors, and units holding up in a controlled sector will use the surrounding environment automatically to try and survive in an attack, or take advantage of passing enemies. And engine improvements also means that Eugen can better present the game so players don’t get lost when zooming in and out.
Explaining the lessons learned from RUSE - which featured the first iteration of the IrisZoom engine, Le Dressay said that the studio has come a long way now that Wargame: AirLand Battle features the engine’s third version. “In RUSE you could not zoom in too close to a unit. Certainly, not as close as you can in Wargame. With this, our third version of the engine, we can display many more elements [in the HUD].
If you’ve played Wargame or even RUSE before, things will be familiar to you - you begin a match with a top-down viewpoint of a map, which can be zoomed so far in that you can position the camera right next to a soldier or tank if you deemed it necessary.
There’s something of a ‘fog of war’ active here, in that you won’t be able to see enemy positions unless they can be viewed within your units sight range. Conquest or total annihilation of your opponent will see you claim victory.
After ‘summoning’ a jet plane, you can see them scoot in from the side of the map, making circles and scouting the general area when you’re not giving them commands. You then set paths for them to follow, which they will repeat until you overwrite that flight path with another.
They can only stay in the air for so long - once their fuel runs out you’ll need to wait a while before they can appear again - but they can provide formidable support if you’re being harassed by one too many tanks.
If you’re looking for something new to sink your RTS-coated teeth into, you could do worse than keep an eye on this one.
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