Upon launching the game, you’ll immediately stare at a complex military command board, showing different campaigns, tutorials, single player, multiplayer, options, and so on – enough to boggle the mind of a newbie. Being a super-cocky bastard, I chose a 1-on-1 multiplayer and jumped right in. Mind you, I have never played this game before, still, I couldn’t fathom the brutal public beating that was about to take place.
A red splotch covering a grid on the map screen has me sending some units in, moving tanks while trying to take over Copenhagen. Zooming into the battle, a massive and beautiful cut-scene shows a well-prepared enemy wiping the floor with my four tanks that aren’t firing.
I’m dead, without a single kill from my side. Apparently, I didn’t tell my guys to shoot.
Enter Wargame: Airland Battle
Insert tail between legs, run home, sit in shower and cry.Welcome to Wargame: Airland Battle for Mac.
Released on September 3, 2013, Eugen System’s latest Wargame is here and is as punishing and rewarding (once you actually learn how to play it of course) as ever.
AirLand Battle is nothing like a friendly game of StarCraft 2 with your friends. It’s hard. Think Civilization 5 with the monitor off. But don’t get me wrong, punishing gameplay isn’t a weakness here, it’s a feature, making AirLand Battle a better game because of it. AirLand Battle (ALB) doesn’t cater to casual strategy enthusiasts. In an impressive display of options, tactics, and research, ALB recreates an authentic warfare simulation.
Matches both online and off are often decided by tiny details like getting supplies to the front lines in time. This is detailed in the tutorials, yet you won’t realize how important it is until your units start disappearing as a multitude of enemies encroaches your position.
But perhaps ALB’s most impressive feature is the attention to detail given to each individual units. Different units have specific mobility, lines of sight and bursts of ammo depending on where and what they shoot. Likewise, some units have excellent armor from the sides, but terrible armor from above. Every unit has weaknesses and strengths and understanding them can (and will) save your life.
ALB has over 800 units spread out among different countries emulating real-life armies. This game is a labor of love and a war-time aficionado’s wet dream.
Deploying new units requires requisition points. In the upper-left hand corner of the screen, a counting point system spins away depending on the amount of conquered land, enemies destroyed, satisfaction of your units (to give you an example, if your pilots face off against too many enemies, you’ll notice their status change from “Confident” to “Scared” and turn around, getting killed in the process) and a multitude of other factors. Elevation, heavy brush, water, ambushes on city streets: everything plays a role. ALB is so realistic, detailed and complex, the learning curve is obviously very steep.
ProTip: Without question, start with the tutorials.
Super-ProTip: Read the forums on Steam for basic, intermediate, and advanced strategies.
Uber-Pro-tip: YouTube has some excellent strategies on how to maybe win. I suggest watching some after going through the basic tutorials.
Despite ALB’s high difficulty level, everything clicks together beautifully. Minutes turn into hours and before you know it, you forgot to feed the cats, take out the garbage, empty the dishwasher, do any homework and you will still try to convince yourself you have time for “one more mission”.
The entire game glistens and sparkles with excellence but the multiplayer mode is where the game really shines.
The campaign teaches the player how to manage troops and guide them through the maps, but since the AI knows every possible outcome before you move (a common complaint in the forums), it almost feels like being cheated on. Multiplayer opens the game and sets you against other players of similar skills, with matches ranging from 1-on-1 battles to 10-on-10. But trust me on this one, some matches can take a long time.
Timed games can go on for up to 20 days, while others only 20 minutes. Not a typo: twenty days. Like I said, once you get into this game you will lose sleep and enjoy every moment of it. As I write this, hidden behind this Word page, is a minimized game waiting for me to make the next move. I can’t wait.
The first thing I would like to point out, cut scenes account for 5-10% of the total play-time. Yes, they are beautiful but the rest of the time involves spreadsheets of research, statistics, and the red and blue colored maps indicating enemy locations and contested areas.
If you expect a fast-paced shooter, which many anticipate from the game’s trailer, look elsewhere. This is more like an offspring of Apple’s Numbers and Maps. Granted, you can zoom into individual units and watch battles as they happen, however, keep in mind that while you admire these glorious battles, someone is probably sneaking from behind, making a move against you.
But as complicated as the game gets, ALB’s interface is simple and straightforward. The main map is easy to understand, even for new players, and deploying new units involves little effort. That said, the menu system for additional informational often presents too much information at once. This is what cripples many new players when first playing ALB.
My MacBook Pro 15” equipped with an Intel i7 2.6 GHz processor, 16 GB of memory and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 1GB had no problems running this game. Other than fans constantly running during the hour-long battles and some of the higher resolutions clipping at faster speeds, the game ran smoothly.
I did notice my battery life draining faster than normal until I realized I had my MacBook Air charger plugged into my MacBook Pro… After swapping power bricks, I went back to die for my country like a proper patriot.
- OS: OS X 10.6.8
- Processor: INTEL CORE 2 DUO 2.4 GHz
- Memory: 2048 MB
- Graphics: 256 MB ATI RADEON HD 4670/NVIDIA GEFORCE GT120/320M OR HIGHER
- Hard Drive: 15 GB HD SPACE
- Addictive strategic gameplay
- Impressive in-depth military simulation
- Amazing graphics during cut-scenes
- Steep learning curve (but well worth it)
- Not for everyone
- Repetitive sound effect and ambient noise
Wargame: AirLand Battle is the most fun I’ve had simulating war. The emotional adrenaline rush building a well-rounded offensive battle and squirting out the first win against an opponent, breaking the losing streak after hours and days of continuous failures – is overtly exhilarating. The learning curve is high but you don’t need to memorize each unit by name to play this game. The game gives you all the information about the intricacies of warfare, planning, management and resource allocation you’ll ever need.