A trailer for Middle Earth: Shadow of War was released not too long ago. Seeing it, I instantly got a jonze to return to a game that made me a battlefield juggernaut. While I recall the many adventures I had dicing up my foes and wrecking havoc in the midst of an entire encampment of orcs, there’s another reason why this sequel makes me so eager to play it. Instead of going it alone, this time you are tasked with building your own army and leading them in assaults and defensive battles. In the back of my mind, a geeky giggling voice says, “YASSSSSS!”
One of the biggest draws for myself in games today is the open world feature. Games like Witcher 3, Skyrim, Fallout 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, and more all deliver on that grand scale, immersing you in a whole new world to explore. While I enjoy that, I can’t help but desire a crew of followers that I can customize and command to populate and conquer all that I see! In each of those games, the adventure you partake in paints you as a lone adventurer that will save the world (or someone you love) in an epic way, picking up allies that assist you along the way. Fallout does have a settlement structure that makes you defend your newfound bases from attacks so that you can have new income and resource generation, thus pushing your adventures along. Your residents will defend these bases, but won’t attack for you. The whole dynamic feels a bit hollow considering those followers only can help you one at a time.
“I can’t help but desire to have a crew of followers that I can customize and command to populate and conquer…”
I’ve always leaned towards action games that give you that sense of commanding numerous bots, or at least teaming up with a significant number of players in an online battle. In the battle for my FPS attention, the Battlefield series always reigns supreme over the likes of Halo, Call of Duty, and Counter-Strike. This is due to the large-scale warfare involved in the game, that involves just as much tactics as it does skill to get the win. The large number of players in a typical game of Battlefield (along with great map creation, of course) gives me the sense of being able to contribute to the victory in more ways than just tallying the most kills. You are expected to call out enemies you see, set traps for their vehicles, repair and supply ammo for your own, revive fallen allies, and much more. The score system rewards you for such behavior and the result is a sense that you don’t have to be the greatest killing machine to be skilled at the game. Even so, that doesn’t even brush the surface of my large scale battle obsession.
As many of the Heed Geekswagg fam can attest, many jokes have been made about my love of the Dynasty Warriors franchise. One of the first games to really throw a ton of bots on the screen in a third-person hack n slash game, Dynasty Warriors allows you to pull off ridiculous combos and KO totals as you leap into battles with your Three Kingdoms general. Narrow my adoration down to one key game in the series: Samurai Warriors 2: Empires. In that game, the whole general leading an army into difficult battles theme really takes off.
I still get a rush from ordering other generals to take their troops to conquer a certain outpost or to defend another.
While not as strategic as an actual simulation game (such as Romance Of The Three Kingdoms or Total War) I still get a rush from ordering other generals to take their troops and conquer a certain outpost or to defend another. Not only that, the game manages to incorporate a light-weight sim into the framework that had conquerable regions of Japan as well as formations, diplomacy, and kingdom building. I spent countless hours bringing my created general up through the ranks until he was renowned enough to start his own empire and eventually unite Japan! Achievement Unlocked!
While the Koei Warriors games do satisfy a large-scale itch that I have from time to time, again, I have always had an affinity for war simulation games. Even before my Koei obsession, I would totally immerse myself into Kingdom Under Fire: Crusaders, which was probably a hybrid between Dynasty Warriors and other more traditional strategy/war sims. In that game, your general was expected to take on the enemy (just like in Samurai Warriors) only you were also tasked with micromanaging all of your troops at the same time. You had to give orders to cavalry (where to charge to and from), position and fire orders to archers, commands to engineers to set traps, as well as orders for special units. With this layer of tactics, you recognized the value of spearmen versus cavalry, archers versus footmen and aerial units, and other ways to counter your the size advantage of your enemies using surprise attacks or reinforcements. It was a difficult control scheme to master but the result was unlike ANY game I’d ever played!
Recently, I have encountered a seven-year-old action RPG called Mount and Blade Warband ! Filled with open-field battles, hundreds of soldiers onscreen at a time during combat, sieges, and so much more, Mount and Blade Warband sets the stage for countless mods for medieval-themed wars of all kinds. Whether the mod is Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, or any other fictional setting, Mount and Blade Warband forces you to consider formations, the type of units you have, and what equipment to outfit your heroes with in order to stay alive. All the while, your character has to wade through the battle him or herself. You really get the sense that your general is a champion and yet is still mortal, as some battles can get away from you at any moment if you aren’t careful. The result is intoxicating. Thankfully, there is a sequel named Bannerlord that looks to build upon the large-scale action battles and army building that make Warband so successful. Much like my recent excitement upon hearing about Shadow of War, I’m awaiting the moment I can toss money in TaleWorlds Entertainment to play this game.
You really get the sense that your general is a champion and yet is still mortal…
While waiting for that next gen of large scale games to drop this year, I’ve taken to stalking the interwebz for info on the innovations these new games like Shadow of War are planning. Watching the footage from Shadow of War, I marvel at the expansion of the Nemesis System which takes your battlefield management system in quite a different direction than most games. Rather than you issuing orders, you have other lieutenants that have their own personalities. As orcs, they could be fiercely loyal or even unloyal seeking to betray you at any given moment. The trailer shows your men assisting at just the right cinematic moment in battles against other overlords and generals. You also get a sense of the need to fill out your outposts with certain kinds of generals so that you have more success against the hordes of Mordor. The civil war you’ve begun seems quite immense in the game and my skilled thumbs eagerly await my chance to flex my orcish army.
I find that as I look through this next offering of games on the horizon, I am forever drawn to the Mount and Blade Warband or Kingdom Under Fire clones that manage to put you in the midst of the chaos. Issuing orders and swinging your legendary blade through the masses is a rush that pushes you to go beyond the mere “I can kill everything myself” mantra that most games have. These large-scale scenarios are more balanced to give the thinking gamer a chance to outwit his opponent in the most embarrassing way. When a game can allow you to be victorious when you are outnumbered without having your general kill thousands himself, that is perfection!