Despot Game: Dystopian Army Builder

The First World War rarely becomes the basis for computer games. The more interesting are those projects whose authors still dare to transfer the Great War to the monitor screens. Verdun is dedicated to one of the largest meat grinders in the history of mankind, the battle of 1916, when the German army unsuccessfully tried to break into the defenses of the British and French near the town of Verdun. That battle cost the life or health of seven hundred thousand people, and did not lead to any decisive result, becoming a symbol of the senselessness and ruthlessness of the First World War. We have to plunge into the atmosphere of this grandiose collision.

Verdun is a tactical multiplayer shooter, organized in a rather peculiar way. Each map is divided into positions, most often trenches or pieces of no man’s land between them. A successful capture of the trench pushes the enemy team back a step, the enemy gets a chance to counterattack, then our strike follows again, and so we either move step by step into the depths of the enemy positions, or vice versa, gradually lose them.

This is similar to the control point system, with the difference that the “point” is stretched over the entire width of the map. Attacks and counterattacks follow each other quickly enough, so that, despite the unusual organization of the rounds, the dynamics are maintained, and at the same time, an atmosphere of a desperate struggle for trenches is created. Teams are divided into platoons of four fighters with different functions and a set of weapons. As planned, this approach should make them play in a team, in practice, as usual in such cases, it turns out differently.

At first, the game is simply dumbfounded by how easy it is to die in it. Rushed to the attack along with his comrades? The rifle clicks and you don’t even know who killed you. Sat down in front of the embrasure, preparing to shoot enemies crawling towards your trench? A grenade flies from somewhere on the side. Hiding in the grass? Well, it will certainly occur to the enemies to call a mortar attack or a cloud of mustard gas on this particular meadow. The bodily injury model is close to Red Orchestra: in order to die, one rifle bullet or a pair of pistol bullets is enough. However, the ease and even transience of death is compensated by a quick rebirth in the next human wave.

Freedom in the game is severely limited. For example, you can not go into the depths of enemy defenses or stubbornly defend a piece of a trench abandoned by everyone. The team did not last at the turn? So, you retreat together with everyone, or after a few seconds you die automatically. Ordered to attack the line of trenches? We attack it precisely, otherwise you will not be punished by the enemy, but by an invisible tribunal. Such draconian laws are sometimes very annoying: a comfortable position is a meter away from you.

but try to lie down on it – and a hysterical “Deserter!” will clang in your headphones. Moreover, in the heat of battle, the machine gunner may simply not have time to escape from the lost position before the game itself deals with it. But for interaction with teammates, Verdun generously rewards you with points to buy upgrades for weapons and additional abilities. The ability to add an optical sight or a bayonet to a rifle is really valuable, so it really makes sense to help comrades.

In terms of weapons and equipment, Verdun pleases with commendable correctness in relation to its real prototype. The year is 1916, which means that Counter-Strike veterans accustomed to assault rifles will have to get used to weapons more boring. There are few automatic weapons, the armament of most classes is a pistol or a carbine with manual reloading, and a machine gun can be accurately fired only by piling it on a bipod. Some scarcity of the arsenal again pushes to play in a team.

Even a fanatical lone fighter will quickly understand why he needs all these dummies in gray overcoats rushing about under fire. The grenadier, hung with grenades, is indispensable when clearing a trench, but what will he do in an open field? The machine gunner needs a few precious seconds to turn his lawn mower around, but if he is covered at this time, he will arrange a real trench hell for the enemy.  Finally, the officer is equipped only with a revolver, but he can call on the heads of the enemy a variety of punishments typical of the era, such as mortar strikes or clouds of mustard gas.

A fight in a gas mask can give an unforgettable experience: it is a fight of the half-blind in the fog. In general, very soon you get the feeling that literally everything in this world is hostile to you: bullets seem to be flying right out of the ground, a mine that has fallen from above can overtake in a cozy funnel, and besides, barbed wire is generously scattered across the battlefield. A fighter entangled in a “thorn” under machine-gun fire is a heartbreaking sight, though not for long.

By the way, about the spectacle. Visually, Verdun pleases with an incredible love for detail. Funnels, broken armored cars, dead horses, abandoned artillery positions … Items of simple military field life are scattered everywhere in the trenches. For the first time having received a machine gun in his hands, the author spent a few seconds only admiringly looking at the box of the “Machinengever” with its neatly applied corrugation and warning labels. Uniforms, equipment, weapons, maps – everything is drawn simply masterfully and historically correct. Unfortunately, the setting imposes limitations: the dance of death takes place, in fact, in the same (albeit brilliantly reproduced) scenery. Trenches everywhere, barbed wire everywhere, only more or less lush greenery adds variety.

The lack of variety is, in general, the main trouble of Verdun, very dangerous for the future of the game. There is no controlled technology. There are very few cards. There are only two game modes: in fact, the struggle to capture positions called “advanced” and deathmatch on rifles.