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War, The Game Review: Lo-Fi Theater Of War
War. War never changes. Or, if you prefer your military advice to come from an aging stealth operative rather than Ron Perlman, maybe it has changed. Either way, War, The Game is a fascinating but ambitious indie title that breaks the modern real-time strategy formula down to its absolute basics and gives it a new coat of lo-fi minimalist paint.
Most importantly, it’s also a lot of fun to play. War, The Game manages to find the rare sweet spot between being easy to learn and hard to master – maintaining strategic depth all the while. There are only a handful of different units (infantry, tanks, air & naval) – all possessing the same average strength but differentiated by how you use them. Air and armored units can use their high mobility to shift the tide of a battle whilst infantry units gain a powerful advantage in defensive battles.
These strategic elements are given another dimensions by War, The Game’s globe-shaped map. It’s not the first time an RTS has gone for this unique perspective (Planetary Annihilation and Spore come to mind) but it works wonderfully here. This global-perspective really changes your approach to land, air and sea warfare and I genuinely appreciate the way that GabberGames leverage this to capture and convey the strategic possibilities of modern warfare.
War, The Game’s campaign is structured around a set of globe-spanning scenarios. They start simple – with you learning the ins and outs of land combat – before teaching you more advanced elements like naval and aerial warfare. Alongside these tutorials, the game also throws more substantial scenarios at players that see them recreating historical wars like the Franco-Prussian War as well as more contemporary conflicts in the Middle East.
As mentioned before, War, The Game’s aesthetic is a major success. Units are portrayed as glowing but familiar silhouettes and important information is frequently conveyed through the game’s robotic but charismatic narrator (who even throws in a few jokes from time to time). It makes for a fascinating comparison to the recent This War of Mine, albeit one at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to its depiction of conflict.
Though it definitely shares some heritage with classic real strategy titles like Warcraft and Command & Conquer, War, The Game rethinks a lot of the assumptions and traditions of the RTS genre and finds its own unique way to simplify them. Most, if not all commands in the game can be accomplished using the mouse and, with a few exceptions, there’s barely a hotkey in sight.
It’d be easy to dismiss War, The Game, as GabberGames first barebones effort at an RTS – but in all respects it’s a startling success. It strips both modern warfare and modern RTS staples down to their essentials but still manages to find a niche to call its own (courtesy of its stellar aesthetic). For the low-price, RTS fans can’t go wrong and if you’re a novice to the genre, War, The Game hits all the right notes to convert you.