The Great War: Western Front review (PC)

The Great War: Western Front is a real-time strategy game set during World War I that lets players manage the trench warfare of the era. Developed by Petroglyph and published by Frontier Developments, the game explores a setting that has been largely overlooked in the strategy genre until now.

When The Great War: Western Front was announced, we immediately thought “why hasn’t this been done before?!?”, as the RTS/turn-based strategy genres (of which this is a hybrid of sorts) tends to overuse the same general setting again and again. We also remembered how filmmakers have commented on how it’s challenging to make an engaging narrative about a war where the frontline doesn’t move for months on end, fueling our curiosity as to how they’d tackle a videogame adaptation.

The developers at Petroglyph wisely opted for a compact and functional gameplay experience, rather than attempting to create a grand strategy game like the ones that Paradox or Creative Assembly tend to put out there. The game’s campaign takes place on a relatively small game board that spans from the Somme to Switzerland and features only two playable factions, representing the two major warring coalitions. It can feel a tad restrictive, and unfortunately players cannot choose to control specific countries and interact with others, as they are governed by the game’s AI.

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After choosing a faction and starting point for the campaign (which can either be in 1914 or in 1916), the objective is to break through enemy lines and advance towards the opponent’s capital. Unlike other strategy games, The Great War: Western Front does not require players to carefully manage their empires’ finances. Instead, players take on the role of their state’s military leadership, with the game’s mechanics focusing on tactical combat and territorial expansion – which is a refreshing change if you don’t enjoy the off-the-battlefield management aspects of strategy games.

The game’s turn-based system, which sees players take turns to move their armies and engage in combat, provides an interesting twist on traditional real-time strategy mechanics. Players must plan their moves carefully, taking into account the terrain, weather conditions, and available resources. The game’s combat mechanics are also well-designed, with players able to direct their troops and artillery fire, while also managing supply lines and logistics.

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One of the game’s standout features is the level of detail and historical accuracy that has been put into the game’s visuals and sound design. The game’s maps accurately reflect the trench warfare of the era, with players able to see the complex networks of trenches, bunkers, and fortifications. It makes for an experience that looks and plays unlike other games in the genre, which is exactly what you’d hope for in a game like this. The game’s sound design is also impressive, with authentic weapon sounds and ambient noises, including the whistling of shells overhead and the thudding of artillery fire – if you have a good sound system, it can certainly add to the atmosphere here.

The Great War: Western Front is not without its flaws, however. The game’s relatively small campaign map and limited faction options mean that it lacks some of the depth and replayability of other strategy games. Additionally, the game’s AI can be predictable and not always challenging enough, especially for experienced strategy players once you’ve gotten comfortable with the core mechanics of the game. There’s a bit of a learning curve at first, but veterans of the genre will find that it levels off after a while – even though there’s a good variety of unit types and tactics to explore.

Overall, The Great War: Western Front is a solid strategy game that explores a fascinating and underrepresented period of history. While it may not have the same depth or scope as other strategy games, its attention to historical detail and well-designed gameplay mechanics make it a worthwhile addition to any strategy game enthusiast’s library.

Score: 7.9/10

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