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The Best WW1 RTS is Out There and You Should Really Give It a Go

Nowadays, ludological trench-hopping is rare. Doing no favours to this interest is the fact that the unpopular Olympics of 1914-1918 cemented themselves in the mind of strategy-gaming-enthusiasts as a crazy “100 meter no man’s land dash”. Sure, Battlefield 1 gave it asucessful and romanticized go in 2016 but the spark of muddy-holes-in-Flanders warfare failed to ignite the flames of game developers everywhere. While researching for this article, I blamed EA and DICE 100% for the downfall of WW1 games.

Battle of Empires 1914-1918’s less-than-memorable title, less-than-stellar visuals, and overall lack of polish may deceive the open-mindedest wargamers to throw it into the next rat-shit trench. After a two-week battle with COVID, I was unable to function and desperately wished for the familiar formula of real-time stratego. BoE was a game I bought a few years ago but had never played it. The first mission, which has the French detachment being ambushed while on a train by Germans is boring and does not do anything to promote the game.

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The French poilus has many (mis-)adventures during the World War 1 period. BoE is excellent at describing the technological advances made during the war. The game does not get bogged down in the details, nor do they try to force you into it ( Cough! Battlefield 1, Cough It’s surprising organic. The early war missions feature the iconic French red trousers with blue coats. The poilus now wears the blue-tinted trousers and tunics. In its place, the red-white-blue cap is now replaced by the M15 Casque d’Adrienne. The campaign introduces a variety of new equipment and weapons, including the chauchat machine gun, bolt-action rifles and semiautomatics.

It will not surprise you if you are familiar with Men of War, whose engine is used in this game. This takes the engine on a leisurely afternoon walk through early 20th-century Europe. It was interesting to me to watch how BoE dealt with World War 1’s massive killing while still focusing on the small-scale unit tactics that this engine excels at. BoE gives you a specific task and a map section to command if you want to focus on the 15+ missions and ignore the tiny scale of just one or two soldiers. You feel like you are part of the larger conflict as you watch the World War 1 scale rage around you. The missions are usually long and have multiple phases, and the general staff is constantly changing mission objectives to keep COs on their feet.

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When you have to make tough decisions about how to achieve a difficult objective, it’s not good to be unpredictable. You can send your infantry to the front and kill everyone, but the hero who captures the objective will be the one that gets the glory. If you are then forced to fight off waves upon waves of huns that keep rushing at your strongpoint, and there is no expectation for reinforcements, the s**t will hit the fan. Although I don’t like it when strategy games pull the rug out from under players, this implementation asks them to take extra care with their pixeltruppen. I am unapologetically fine with that.

Battle of Empires may not have been love at first glance, but there are some qualities it has that you will enjoy long after the initial surges of excitement about trenches and battles pass. The developers have given the British and German campaigns the same attention and love. The Steam version is available for 7,39 Euros or you can wait until a special sale to get it all.

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