World in Conflict Review
OK, I'll come out and say it I really don't like the base building aspect of strategy games. I'm too much of a SimCity style player I have to make sure stuff is lined up in just the right order, things like that. Because of this, I end up wasting time on getting buildings in the right place and tend to forget that, well, I'm fighting a war. Not to mention, I also really suck when it comes to build orders and rapid firing tons of units out there while managing the peons that are gathering raw materials, the buildings that are producing units and even fending off attacks from my enemy. So, when Massive brought out the first Ground Control game, I fell in love. I didn't have to worry about running around the map gathering resources, I didn't have to worry about managing buildings or anything like that. I got troops and I got to fight, taking over strategic points of the map and getting to call in stuff like air strikes and reinforcements for my troops. I didn't have to worry about a build order or anything, and it was grand. It has been a few years since the sequel, Ground Control 2, was popular, though, and I hadn't heard of anything from Massive in awhile.
So, I was incredibly excited to hear Massive had worked on a new game, World in Conflict. Somehow, between my starting graduate school, moving to Wisconsin and stuff like that, World in Conflict flew under the radar. However, I went out to pick it up once I saw Massive's name on the box and brought it home to review. Well, folks, I can say that, without a shadow of a doubt, this is another solid Strategy game from massive and this time, without massive dropships that overpower multiplayer!
World in Conflict takes place in an alternate reality style US. See, the Cold War didn't end instead, we were attacked by a huge throng of Russians. They first descended on Seattle, then marched farther inland. You start with a tutorial that teaches you the basics of the game something you can skip parts of if you are used to the way strategy games work. However, World in Conflict does throw a couple of concepts out there that aren't as common in strategy games. The first is control points on the map. While these do appear in games a bit more than they used to, they are more often relegated to the occasional appearance. What World in Conflict does that is really interesting, though, is that it links multiple control points and requires you to hold all of them to take control of a certain area. It adds an element to the whole strategic point idea that, while not something revolutionary, seems like a good fit why wouldn't you have to, say, surround an area to take control of it?
Another area that World In Conflict improves on is the concept of a destructible environment. Sure, strategy games nowadays often have environments that you can blow to bits. They may not offer much of a tactical advantage, sure, but you can do it. World in Conflict, though, takes this to another level. Lets say that you see a building across the way and your enemy has a tank rolling through the area. Naturally, you're not going to leave your infantry in plain view of that tank, are you? Of course not. You can instead have them move into the building, giving them some protection from the tank. However, your opponent is prepared seconds later, you see an artillery strike absolutely flatten the building you are in, granting free passage to the tank passing through the area. Pretty much, if you see an enemy using some sort of environmental feature to their advantage, you can take away that advantage with something on your side of the field.
All of these fun things bringing in airdrops of units, calling in artillery strikes or even, later on, a tactical nuke require resources. Thankfully, you don't have to have some peons go out and gather them as the game just gives them to you for actually playing. You get resource points to call in new units continually through the game and you get tactical points for doing stuff like killing enemies. First, the resource points are what keep your army full of infantrymen, tanks and such that are just eager to go out and shoot something. The neat thing is that, unlike, most other strategy games on the market, you actually get your resources back for these units if they die. It isn't immediate, sure, but it allows you to, say, take hold of a defensive position and call some reinforcements to the fight if you just waged a huge battle against the enemy. Tactical points, on the other hand, let you do cool stuff like blow things up with artillery, blow things up with strafing runs and blow things up with a nuke. Oh yeah, you can also scout and such with them too. These points can easily turn the tide of a battle, or help to dislodge an enemy from a defensive position trust me, watching a nuke go off is a sight to behold and something you'll probably do the moment you get access to this potent weapon.
All things said, the single player experience is enjoyable. The voice acting is actually pretty good (Alec Baldwin does the narration) and the characters seem believable, though some can get annoying at times. However, you probably aren't picking this up for the single-player game and you're making a wise choice, as World in Conflict does a lot right with the multiplayer portion of the game.
When you think of RTS multiplayer from Massive, you might remember back to the Dropship Wars of Ground Control 2 these dominant ships really served to ruin a lot of the fun of the multiplayer experience when someone figured out how to use them well. However, Massive seems to have learned from this and has crafted one of the best multiplayer experiences for an RTS ever. See, this isn't like most RTSes where you can have 8 players that are all fighting against each other. No, this is like a strange hybrid between the class-based first person shooters and the RTS games of Massive's past.
One idea borrowed from the shooter genre is the ability to jump into a game that is already going. You won't have to sit in a lobby, wait for someone to come along, then start a game and hope they aren't a quitter of some kind. So long as the game is currently running, you can jump into it. You won't have to start off and build up an army, either you can get into the fighting from the moment you jump in and call in some troops. A nice addition is the built in voice chat, so that you can coordinate your assaults with teammates (or get called a noob when you are still trying to learn the game, but hey).
The class-based system, though, is what really makes the game unique. That voice coordination is going to help when you're controlling some infantry, another guy is controlling tanks and a third is controlling air units. With each unit having something it is good against and something it is weak against, players will need to cooperate with each other and plan out just how they want to attack someone. Your tanks may be duking it out with your opponent's tanks when someone else from the other team brings in some air units to destroy the tanks. What do you do? Call out over voice chat to get your teammate that controls bigger air units to come over and help you out. This whole control one area of the army thing might seem like a gimmick, but it goes a long way to encouraging teamwork.
In all, World in Conflict is one of the more enjoyable strategy games in recent memory. The multiplayer is fast and furious, and seems that it will lend itself well to casual gamers and hardcore, clan-based competitive types. And for those that only get PC games for the single player experience, the one here is still pretty damn fun, though it is just going to tempt you to take the game online anyways to see just what it has to offer. If you have played any of Massive's past RTSes, are a fan of the genre, or just want something new to play, give World in Conflict a shot. And hey, if you buy the collectors edition, you get a pretty rockin box and a piece of the Berlin Wall. I'm not kidding.