War. War never changes.
I’m back! Did you miss me? It’s been a month without a new article, but I’ve been pretty busy, and that’s the excuse I’m going to stick to. Let’s go back to basics with a quick game review. Running With Rifles is basically the game I always wanted to make when I was a kid, except as a 12 year old I called it Deep Trench and it was a first person shooter. It’s well over a decade late, and it’s a top-down shooter, but somebody actually made that game, and that game is Running with Rifles.
Running With Rifles pits three armies against each other – coloured green, brown, and grey. You take the part of a single soldier within that army, let loose onto the field of battle to do whatever you see fit. Each map is large with many different features, and there’s plenty of scope for sneak attacks, or you might just choose to fight on the front lines. There are lots and lots of troops on both sides, so there’s always a fight happening somewhere on the map. Although there are simple deathmatch-style maps, Running With Rifles excels in its Invasion game mode. This plays out like a campaign, with the objective being to capture all of the major points on the map by securing it with a large number of troops. Once an area is captured, you can move on to another map – each map is linked to others using a logical network of ‘extraction points’ linked together in an overall world map. You win the war by capturing the entire world map.
Although RWR supports multiplayer, it’s also remarkably good in single player mode. The AI for each side works at a number of different levels. Apart from the individual troops themselves, the AI also forms into squads and attacks based on tactical and strategic decisions. The overall map commander will pick out targets for the army to attack, and will keep an eye out for territory that is being attacked. It keeps you updated using a string of text messages at the top left of the screen. You are free to ignore them or to follow them as you see fit. The strategic AI will even designate directions to attack from, so if you do decide to join the attack, you know where the army will be attacking from and can join up. All of this is neatly assembled on the map screen, which also marks out areas where the enemy have been sighted, and shows what territory each army controls. The AI is fairly competent, for the most part. Generally they pick good targets to attack and respond well to the flow of battle. Individual soldier AI is pretty decent too – they work reasonably well in squads and effectively take cover and seek out advantageous spots. They even seem to flank positions, although that might just be a coincidence.
As you play and achieve objectives or kill enemy troops, you gain experience. When you are killed, you lose some experience. As you gain experience your rank will increase. This is important because as it increases, you unlock new toys and abilities. Initially you just increase the number of weapons you have access to – your base weapon is a standard assault rifle, but you’ll be able to acquire other gear like shotguns, machine guns, and grenades among other things. Later on though you’ll be able to add troops to your own squad, with the size increasing as you go along. You’ll also slowly gain access to radio support, including mortar and artillery strikes, paratroopers, and vehicle deployments. This adds a nice layer of progression and helps you have a greater effect on the game world. Squad control is remarkably intuitive – use the right mouse button to order your troops to move somewhere, and they’ll figure out a way to do it. Troops of a lower rank who aren’t in a squad will automatically join you, but you have full control over how many troops you want in your squad (up to your squad limit, determined by your rank). In addition to the various weapons and deployable items, there are also vehicles to use, ranging from jeeps and transport trucks all the way up to APCs and tanks. The AI also make decent use of these vehicles but their driving skills seem to be a bit off.
The game is currently on Steam Early Access, and although it’s a beta there’s already plenty of gameplay with few bugs. It’s nearing its first official release. If you’re looking for an arcade-style open-world war game, this is probably one of the best choices around. You can fulfill all your lone-wolf war-hero fantasies, or become engaged in the futility of a 25-man charge on a machine gun emplacement. You can also cower behind a rock wondering why your radio is no longer working when you desperately need fire support to fend off the invading army. It’s a solid game with a lot of fun to be had, with a mostly-competent AI that makes everything a lot more enjoyable. Check it out on Steam.