Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGS) are nothing new, they've been around for some time and a new one seems to be released every week. The market really is bulging with high quality (and not so high quality) titles. We're lucky as gamers that we have access to this variety of games. Though this situation does put developers in a difficult situation. People who play this sort of game invest many, many hours into their characters and have strong ties with their own clans/guilds/communities. So getting players to play your new game instead of the one they've been playing for the last year is tough. There seem to be two choices; do things better or do something new. Cornered Rat Software have gone for the latter option and have decided to take a step away from the pack. When I was asked to preview this game I was told that it is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, to be honest I still haven't worked out whether the game is a First Person Shooter, Real Time Strategy, Tank Sim, Flight Sim or Role Playing Game. The game has quite a bit of everything, though I like to think of it as a detailed World War 2 Simulation that involves all of the above elements.
The game is set in World War 2 and mostly takes place across the battlefields of Holland and Belgium though the map goes from South East England across in to Germany. Players can choose between playing for Axis and Allied forces and can have personas in Army, Navy and Air Force. The force you fight for will determine the vehicles/characters you have access too. The army has access to tanks, guns and infantry, the Navy can use a variety of Ships, the Air Force uses Planes. This may sound very obvious and simple, but it's more complicated than it might appear at a first look. You can't use all of the vehicles and infantry types from the word go. You must increase your rank to have access to the more powerful (and scarce) vehicles. This is done by completing objectives, such as capturing tactical points in the game or by killing enemies. So far this all sounds like a lot of other games on the market, so know I'm going to point out the significant differences. The game takes place on one map, not lots of small ones, but one giant map. This allows aircraft to fly from England into the heart of the conflict, and all infantry is visible below (if you get low enough that is).So the game is one huge battle with lots of small (or large) engagements going on at one time. If your suddenly needed elsewhere you can divert to another location. The next big difference is that none of the game is scripted, the entire flow is set by players. Players of rank can set missions and decide on the Research and Development of new vehicles meaning that no two campaigns will ever be the same. As time goes by players will have access to more advanced vehicles. There isn't an endless supply of vehicles either, part of capturing towns is taking over the facilities, these facilities will give the force more resources to spend on more vehicles and as in a real war front lines must be resupplied by moving vehicles and troops from safe rear bases along to front line areas. No area is off limits. If you want to go all the way behind enemy lines and cause havoc you can do so.
Unlike many other MMOGS Battleground Europe has a remarkably slow pace. Having to move your infantry character several kilometers to battle means that you won't run in to battle guns blazing. Combat is closer to real warfare, slow advances and sniping are often the way to survive. The game is most often a game of attrition rather than a typical movie style battle. Having said this killing an enemy is remarkably satisfying. Having spent several minutes stalking your target, waiting in bushes for the time to strike or completing an ambush on a tank column, you always feel that you have contributed to a bigger picture. Your actions could have prevented a forward base from being resupplied allowing an advance by your side, or a simple infantry kill can allow your anti air guns safety thus allowing for continued defense against bombers. The game is made up of lots of small actions that make an amazing tapestry of war. At times huge battles do take place. Town sieges are remarkably fun especially when you have the enemy pinned into defensive positions. Many of these battles remind me of scenes from Saving Private Ryan.
Communication in this game is important and Teamspeak servers are available for all the different brigades in the game, but don't feel left out if you don't have Teamspeak access. The games chat channels work remarkably well. I have not yet sen a channel spammed in my time playing, just intelligence sharing. In fact the game has developed its own language. This takes some time to master but fortunately an online glossary is provided which you can ALT+TAB to (due to the games excellent stability) so statements such as 'EI NE possible MSP' or 'Audio PZ north ab' will make perfect sense.
Sounds in the game are very, very important. Every vehicle in the game has it's own unique sound, so it is possible to identify and track a vehicle based on sound alone. Due to heavy camouflage in the game this is very important and it is possible to pick out enemy sounds in the heat of war. This can be very important if your on an anti air gun and you want to now where the enemy planes are coming from.
The games graphics are drab and dull, which suits the feel of war very well. The graphics are still detailed though my biggest gripe is performance issues. I'm running the preview code on and AMD 2.8Ghz Barton, 1 gig ram, Radeon 9800 Pro.This isn't a beast of a system but I can play most games on the market with quite good graphic detail. With Battleground Europe I have to play on the lowest settings to maintain a stable frame rate. This often means I don't get to see detailed textures unless I'm sat directly upon them. The developers have made a point though that Nvidia cards work far better with the game than ATI cards. I'm hoping this will get resolved before release as this could prevent people from enjoying the experience of the game.
The game has a lot of potential and a great community. With only a few weeks left until the games release i really hope the performance issues can be improved. Expect great things from this title and expect a full review from myself a few weeks after the games September release. Sorry people but I've got to go, Antwerp needs ground defenses and I'm the man for the job.