World War I: The Great War

I bought this game for $20 a few years ago from Best Buy. It looked cool – a WWI RTS, something you never see. While there are a few nice things about it, overall it is not a good game. The game comes with a short 2 mission tutorial to show you some basic things about playing. The manual is not very big, but hit the high points of the different buildings in your base and how to move and attack. There are 5 campaigns to play from Austria-Hungary, France, Britain, Germany, and Russia. There are also some single player missions. The developers appear to have done their research on WWI; too bad they put more into historical accuracy and less into fun game play.

The graphics look pretty good for a 2004 game. I read the game uses the Cossacks engine. You can see all the different units well and there are cool explosions from fighting. I also liked how when a plane is shot down it crashes into the ground exploding and can take out troops underneath the crash site.

The sound effects are okay and the units sometimes respond in their native language I think. The music though can be tedious. There are some classical pieces, but the piano playing is annoying. It would be fine if they left it only in the menu area, but during a battle it is just distracting.

The main problem with the game is the lack of strategic game play. Essentially you churn out troops by the hundreds and throw them at your enemy who is also building hundreds of troops and keeps attacking you. Base building on your own takes too much time; the enemy overwhelmed me several times before I switched to the Economic Adviser option. Here the AI runs your base for you so you can concentrate on the fighting. Unfortunately it likes to build tons of troops and cavalry. It will build some mortar teams (artillery is necessary in most battles and in attacking bases) and machine gunners. But it won’t build an artillery factory (for howitzers) and tank factory (for tanks and antiaircraft trucks) or an airport (for aircraft). You have to turn it off and build these buildings yourself (and most of the units) because it will use all of your resources turning out hundreds of troops.

If you are getting beat during a scenario or are tired of playing (scenarios can last 2 -3 hours) you can turn on the Military Adviser who will run your army and fight battles. At this points with both advisers on the game plays itself. While the Military Adviser sends troops out to fight, you can take control of them at any time.

There are many frustrating aspects of this game which detract from game play. Many times I would select troops and click an enemy to attack only to have them rush and fight hand-to-hand instead of shooting. Also, the fog of war only disappears when you have someone in an area, even if you been someplace previously. It makes it very hard to move troops quickly over the huge maps because you cannot see very far unless you have someone on the map in an area. Furthermore, tanks and airplanes are some of the funnest parts of the game but take forever to build. I can understand because the tanks are quite powerful but it makes for longer than necessary missions. Also, aircraft are hard to control and use. When you build an airplane, it takes off from an airbase and circles your base until you select it to send it somewhere. If it is flying over hundreds of troops, it is very difficult to select this moving target. At least once you put an airplane in an area, it will keep patrolling that area and attacking the enemy. Also, the game has 5 different resources you need plus electricity (from electric power plants you build) to keep your base running. Finally, the mission objectives are sometimes vague and the enemy hard to find. The huge maps and crappy fog of war make finding the enemy difficult and time-consuming, and the objectives are often unclear. One mission said for me to obtain air superiority. What does that mean exactly? I built a bunch of planes and kept sending them at the enemy base, but lost because I bombed an enemy hospital.

I played several missions and most deteriorated into troop rushes (I hardly used cavalry). Sending thousands of troops at the enemy over and over is not very fun. Sure it was fun to blow up enemy bases, but it took forever to get there and even that got old.

I wish I had read the GameSpot review of the game before buying it; for once I totally agreed with the reviewer’s opinion. If you can find this game for $5 it might be worth a try. Just don’t expect an engaging RTS. I know I didn’t get my $20 out of it.

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