Wargame: European Escalation Review

This excellent wargame/real-time strategy hybrid embodies the best of both worlds while destroying ours in a hypothetical Cold War-goes-hot setting.

by

If the best wargames and best real-time strategy games were selectively bred over several generations, the result would be Wargame: European Escalation, an "easy to learn yet difficult to master" wargame that plays out in real time. Set during the twilight years of the Cold War, Wargame boasts an epic campaign and crafty AI. In addition, it lets you zoom out the camera far beyond the normal confines of RTS games, giving you a view of the battlefield matched only by the likes of Supreme Commander or Sins of a Solar Empire. Eugen Systems has managed to craft both a great wargame and an entertaining RTS in one exhilarating package.

Comrade Tchijikov feels calm now, but who knows what horrors await in NATO's arsenal?

Wargame: European Escalation is well named because it feels more like a Panzer General-style "beer and pretzels" wargame than a real-time strategy game. There is no base building or unit micromanagement, but you have more traditional wargame concerns to focus on instead. For example, units have a finite amount of ammunition and fuel and must be resupplied in the field. Supply trucks can repair, rearm, and refuel units, but they also have a finite number of supplies. To keep an offense rolling, your best bet is to use the FOBs to restock the supply trucks and send them scurrying back to the front. Another example of Wargame's rich heritage is the role that terrain plays in the game. For instance, most units have trouble seeing over the next hill or spotting threats hidden in a nearby dense forest.

Therefore, sensible use of reconnaissance units is important. Furthermore, vehicles can get temporarily bogged down in harsh terrain like swamps. Roads are important because they allow for quicker movement and better fuel efficiency, but they can be death traps for your armored column if they run past dense woods packed with enemy antitank infantry. Blitzing through open countryside may seem like a convenient way to avoid certain obstacles, but helicopters more than 2,000 meters away may see your forces and open up on them with rocket pods and antitank guided missiles.

You can seamlessly zoom between the grunts on the ground and the (really) big picture.

The wargame heritage doesn't stop there. Each of the game's hundreds of units has unique stats. For example, the AMX-30B2 tank has three types of weapon systems, each of which has different stats like caliber, range, ammo, rate of fire, accuracy, and armor-piercing-versus-high-explosive attack values. Besides the weapons, units have stats like speed, fuel capacity, optics, and armor (and front, side, rear, and top armor have separate values). Furthermore, units have morale, and if their morale drops too low, they become too panicked to respond to your orders. Retreating units need precious minutes to regain their composure, which can be disastrous for the unit in question, as well as your plans.

By contrast, the RTS side of Wargame's heritage is fairly minimal. There are no bases to build, no special powers or superweapons to use, and resourcing is limited to securing zones on the map with a command vehicle. New units may be requisitioned with the points that trickle in from the zones you occupy, provided that you control a deployment zone (the areas on the edges of the map marked with large white arrows).

Also, there is very little in the way of unit micromanagement. Your control options are as follows: you can toggle certain weapon systems on or off, regroup four straggling tanks into a platoon, order units to fire at an area they cannot see (particularly useful for having artillery demoralize anyone in the general vicinity of where their ordinance hits), command units to use roads whenever possible, tell helicopters to change their altitudes, or move infantry units into and out of transport vehicles.

Wargame features hundreds of units, and its statistics answer the question of whether East German or Polish T-34s are better.

At first glance, Wargame is a daunting prospect. There are a lot of variables to consider, and it does play out in real time, after all. However, a smart interface makes it very approachable. First off, Wargame allows you a better view of the battlefield than most RTS games, which tend to prevent you from zooming too far above your units.

In Wargame, you can zoom out to a bird's-eye view reminiscent of Supreme Commander, at which point all the units turn into their respective standard NATO military symbols. Icons appear over units when they are running low on fuel or ammo or when they are in danger of being routed. If you pull the camera in closer, red text above the unit informs you of various problems and how long these effects will persist. For example, a shot-up helicopter may have the message "fuel leak 20 seconds" above it, or a tank may be cursed by "damaged tracks 5 seconds."

It's a useful way to tell why your units are not behaving as you want them to and how long you need to wait before everything is back in proper order. Selecting a unit quickly tells you its current morale, ammo, fuel, and damage. Little circles above the units slowly form, detailing when a unit will finish reloading its main gun and be able to fire it again. Furthermore, you can toggle an in-game information panel that lets you see a specific unit type's stats. The interface makes Wargame more approachable for everyone while giving those interested easy access to more detailed statistics.

This image settles the "whether or not the helicopter will be an effective tank killer" debate of the late '60s/early '70s.

Wargame contains four separate single-player campaigns. Each campaign, except for the fourth one, is self-contained and based on a historical event that could have spiraled out of control. The first campaign begins when East German soldier Werner Weinhold kills two of his comrades while escaping to West Germany. The second starts when General Jaruzelski takes control of the Polish Communist Party and declares martial law (in part to forestall Warsaw Pact military intervention in Poland). The third centers on NATO's Able Archer military exercise.

However, in each of these scenarios, history takes a violent turn: the East Germans invade West Germany after it refuses to extradite Weinhold, the bulk of the Polish military refuses to stand behind Jaruzelski and spearheads a national uprising against Communist rule, and the Warsaw Pact mistakes Able Archer as a prelude to a NATO attack and launches a preemptive offensive against Western Europe. The campaigns are all set during a specific time frame, limiting your unit selection to vehicles that were available during that period (including the West German-US jointly designed MBT-70 tank, which for budgetary reasons never got past the prototype stage).

The campaigns sport 22 missions in total and could easily take 20 to 30 hours to complete, especially if you replay missions to achieve secondary objectives. Accomplishing mission objectives gives you command stars that you can use to purchase new units for both single- and multiplayer games. Often you face a tough choice between purchasing a new unit that is usable in your current campaign and saving those points to purchase units for the later campaigns or multiplayer. Whichever route you go, you want to keep the units you do have alive, because they gain experience over the course of a campaign. Generally speaking, it's much better to have a handful of veteran T-80s than a couple dozen green T-62s.

Attacks from above look impressively deadly.

The missions are fairly varied with only a few "wipe out every enemy unit" or "hold point X for a certain amount of time" missions (though to be fair, some of those are quite good). For example, in one Soviet mission you have to break through Polish lines to save encircled Polish forces still loyal to the Warsaw Pact. In another Soviet mission, you have to hold off NATO troops while evacuating as many units as you can to escape an attempt to encircle your army. One of the most memorable missions is an American one that starts you behind enemy lines, low on fuel and ammo. You must capture enemy supply trucks and FOBs while trying to escape the combat zone (and, if you are lucky, meet up with other NATO units left behind and destroy pesky Soviet artillery during your jaunt home for some extra command stars).

One minor problem with all of the campaigns is that while most of them open with video footage of the events that started the campaign, none of them have an ending video. Of course it would be hard to find footage of events that never happened, but surely it would be easy to find footage of Soviet and American leaders meeting to represent a peace treaty being negotiated, or footage of a parade in Red Square to showcase a celebration of a Warsaw Pact victory. Still, this is a minor quibble, and the absence of ending cutscenes doesn't detract from the quality of the campaigns.

After you've played the first single-player campaign, which doubles as Wargame's tutorial, there are multiplayer and skirmish options available. In these modes you can field decks of unit cards earned with command stars gained through the single- and multiplayer modes. Each deck is limited to 25 units, but when adding a unit to a deck you also receive all of its variants that you've unlocked. So while a Leopard 1A1 would take up only one spot in your deck, the 1A2, 1A3, 1A4, and 1A5 would also be available. You are limited to five units per category (logistic, reconnaissance, tank, infantry, support, vehicle, and helicopter), so you have to pick wisely.

Grass isn't high enough to provide adequate cover.

Multiplayer and skirmish modes are essentially identical, with the main difference being whether or not a computer player is involved. In both modes there are 11 maps, three team options (NATO vs. Warsaw Pact or intra-alliance conflicts), two victory conditions (time limit or destruction), and a choice of how many points' worth of units each player may start with. The skirmish AI is fairly crafty, much like the AI in Eugen's earlier Act of War series. Even the easy AI makes a valiant effort to find and destroy your precious command vehicles.

It's really a shame there are no options for a multiplayer "comp stomp" at this time. One difference between multiplayer and skirmish games is that multiplayer games, whether ranked or unranked, net you experience points. Once you get enough experience, you level up and gain extra command stars to spend on your decks.

The 11 maps suffer from a lack of diversity. There are no maps with large urban areas, for example. Instead, most maps are large rural areas with some hills, forests, and flatlands to traverse. The best of these is Hell's Highway, which includes a major highway running through the center of the map. Generally, the maps with rivers are more interesting because they break up the monotony somewhat. One example is the Three Mile Island map that is split by a gigantic river and includes three islands as well as a large center area to fight over. One of the islands even has a lovely nuclear plant on it, at least until you make it explode.

Explosions tarnish the beautiful countryside.

The best way to win in multiplayer or skirmish is to take out the enemy's command vehicles, since these are essential for locking down sectors and gaining resources. If you deny the enemy access to deployment zones, then they won't be getting any reinforcements, and if you destroy all of an enemy's command vehicles, it's an automatic victory. So be certain to keep yours hidden and well guarded. Even the easy AI loves to send helicopters out to hunt for your precious command vehicles.

Wargame’s visual and audio design is exceptional. When you are zoomed in, the vehicle models look very detailed. The only details missing are minor things like fields rustling beneath a hovering helicopter. Overall, the vehicles look accurate and blow up nicely. Unfortunately, you are probably going to be playing from a zoomed-out perspective and will miss out on much of the detail. The sound effects are great, but the music is entirely forgettable. The unit chatter is somewhat disappointing despite being in the national language of the selected force.

Unfortunately, units repeat the same lines and don't seem to react to the events in the world around them. It would be much cooler to hear the crew of a Challenger 1 yell about being attacked by T-34s than listen to them repeat "Lead, follow, or get out of the way" whenever they are clicked on. The only dialogue that seems to be contextual occurs when your helicopter pilots hum Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries as they blow up a ton of units.

Anna is in a lot of trouble.

The other issues with the sound are minor: occasionally the voice-overs detailing mission objectives are slightly different from the onscreen text (though the gist of what they are saying is always the same), and the voice acting of the main character in the fourth campaign is laughably emotionless given that campaign's plot.

Wargame: European Escalation, despite its few flaws, is something special. It's an accessible wargame/RTS hybrid with the capability to engross both fans of the good old-fashioned tank rush and hardcore grognards (who have been debating which side would win in a non-nuclear Third World War for decades). The genres merge well, the graphics and interface are great, and the single-player campaigns alone offer an immense value. Most importantly, it answers some of life's most important questions, like how many T-34/85s a platoon of Challenger 1s can take down before they are finally overwhelmed.

The Good
Impressive mixture of wargame and RTS
Intuitive interface and strategic view make for happy armchair generals
Attractive killing fields
Hundreds of unique units
Definitively answers "How many Leopard 1A5s are needed to kill 24 T-62s?"
The Bad
Uninspired unit chatter
Lacks opportunities for friendly "comp stomps"
Insufficient map diversity
8.5
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

Daniel Shannon still remembers the day when his family got a 486 with a CD-ROM drive. He used that PC to play an immense amount of Tie Fighter, Civilization 2, and Doom. Since he grew up without a console he insists that they are a “fad” and refers to them collectively as “Nintendos.” Too this day he is skeptical about anything that doesn't use either a flightstick or a keyboard and mouse.

Discussion

60 comments
Ensamheten
Ensamheten

How can Daniel Shannon not mention and compare this to World in Conflict? Has the reviewer played any video game before this one? Also Linux client on the way.

laugm
laugm

On offer in steam for -75% for the next dozen hours or so :)

mamadxxx
mamadxxx

you know what this game costs in iran???

1.5 dollars!!!

Hahahahahaaaa!!!! :)

andrewhazel
andrewhazel

I have this game on steam but have yet to play it. What do you guys as users think of it>

ShadowRun02
ShadowRun02

who else is reading this now cos of the 50% off on steam?

ALTAIR71
ALTAIR71

Anyone from Canada know where i can buy this game? Nothing at futureshop, best buy or EB! WTH!

WillyChong
WillyChong

My favorite faction however currently change to the German armed force, their tanks are cheap but more efficient, and I love chasing down infantry with my Marder IFV :D

y3ivan
y3ivan

@WillyChong wait till you figure out T-80U 4ranks own any armor in the game

WillyChong
WillyChong

Who wants to play with me :P, accoutnis willychong8921

WillyChong
WillyChong

This game have campaign, its own skirmish and online multiplyaer, the guys online are somewhat friendlier than most, especially compared to shooter gamers, cause getting new stuff doesn't limited to multiplayer only, which is good for new player, and I really having a lot of fun playing this, its been a long time since a game like this came out with good impression for me :D

AceMarine45
AceMarine45

@kakashi552 No i read another review on IGN. I just came to see the good and bad. The reason i didnt think there was a campaign is because all the videos i have seen so far are multi-player. Even the IGN review didnt reveal much other then the mechanic of the game.

kakashi552
kakashi552

@AceMarine45 did you read? there are FOUR single player campaigns. i would totally agree with you, multiplayer in RTS games would only make learning more frustrating, but with this game, there's no need to worry :)

AceMarine45
AceMarine45

I would get this game if it had a single player campaign. Campaigns help getting use to the interface. RTS' interfaces are usually complicated and different from other RTS. Multiplayer is not a good learning curve for RTS.

MrOnage
MrOnage

@cccp3000 soooo, you need to use your brains for a change. you're right, it is a horrible game (NOT).

dutchgamer83
dutchgamer83

@cccp3000 correction, YOU CAN'T!!!!! Just because you can't do both things doesn't mean others can't. This is not a game for you, you need a traditional C&C rts, nothing wrong with that. But its not this games fault. Even within genre's you different kind of gamers. With shooters i lean more to tactical shooters like the old rainbow six and swat games, where others want a Call of Duty. Same goes for RTS games, you want to have just one task, where others want more tasks. But that isn't the games fault, you are just not the public for this game.

halosqrrl
halosqrrl

@cccp3000 You know some people love games that require you to use your brain.

twistyanddark
twistyanddark

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

WillyChong
WillyChong

Dear Gamespot, Sorry for my rant beforehand, you finally willing to give this game a chance to shine, to tell you the truth, this RTS is something that nearly extincted after a decade, glad to see it still existed till this very day.

cccp3000
cccp3000

This game is rubbish you spend more time on exploring the game options and upgrading units than on playing, you should be either the general or the field commander not both, you can't think of every thing or it'll be like focusing and studying and all this hard work for a game. F**k EA for ruining C&C.

mobius06
mobius06

definitely one of the best RTS I've played in a long time, glad to see Gamespot having the same feeling for once ....

Biocide69
Biocide69

Need...new...computer...now...

evilweav
evilweav

This looks fantastic, I've been needing a large-scale strategy game like this for a while.

Psycold
Psycold

My buddy bought this last week and loves it, said he reminds him of World in Conflict which definitely perked my attention. Still debating the purchase.

Caldrin
Caldrin

Sounds pretty good i might have to pick this up :)

blahblahblah999
blahblahblah999

I've been having a ton of fun with this game. It's a lot better than I'd assumed from LP's. Also a lot harder, I thought wrongly about how arcadey it seemed. It's small things that detract from it, clumsy user interface and other basic commands you're used to and expect in an RTS. The dev's seem intent on adding new content, hopefully it has the player base to support that.

XxFulgrimxX
XxFulgrimxX

So what would happen when the proposed comp-stomp patch are added? Would the game receive a 9 then?

4rcher91
4rcher91

Ah, this would keep us busy while waiting for World in Conflict 2 :)

twistyanddark
twistyanddark

I would love to see some more comments on the multiplayer aspect. Is it populated enough to rely on the automatch feature for a fast match? Can it keep your interest after 10-20 matches? In any case, good review, looks interesting and if I find some time to play between my Achron and TW:FotS gaming time, I will definitely go for this game. Can never have enough strategy.

spawnholio
spawnholio

@Gelugon_baat trolling again? @Kevin-V aforementioned Gelugon_baat loves to troll these boards looking for people to take the bait, check out her/his other recent comments. Your reply was well thought out, intelligent and above all accurate, but also a waste of your time. The above review was well written and actually got me interested in giving this game a try even though it's not really the type of game I usually play.

philMcCrevis
philMcCrevis

I'm really not sure what all this complaining is about. While I enjoy hearing regular staffers review, this is a really well done and thoughtful piece of work that is easily up to the standards of Gamespot.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Gelugon_baat -- We rely on freelancers to help us review games of all types. This is no surprise, as we have utilized freelancers for many years, just like the majority of publications do. They are important for filling gaps when staff members are reviewing other games, and we use trusted and wonderful talents like Brett Todd and Daniel Shannon to help us round out our coverage when we aren't able to always do so internally.

I have no idea why it matters to you who reviewed this game. We do not "solve problems" by "throwing money." Rather, we assign reviews to the people best suited to cover them, whether that be someone in the office, or someone outside. Your interpretation of a review as a "problem" does not even remotely resemble how we approach the reviews process, and I am disappointed that you, of all people, would suggest such a thing.

I appreciate your concern, but we will continue to assign reviews we think are important to the authors we believe are best suited to them, considering information and variables (individual reviewer's schedules, reviewer expertise, and so on) that are important to us. Thanks.

illmatic87
illmatic87

 @ShadowRun02 I am. But I'll wait til' later to purchase it. I purchased Men Of War: Assault Squad yesterday. So, I already have some sort of military strategy fix.

WillyChong
WillyChong

 @y3ivan  @WillyChong  Sadly they balanced it out giving these top notch tank a quantity of 2(M1 Abrams late varaints, Challenger and Leopard 2A4 got 4 in each late branch), I mostly rely on T-64s and  early T-72 as main tank of my force, cause they are cheap and very deadly in all out head to head battle cause of their ATGM, but I always use BMP-1 infantry to backup my pals :D

Xeroxer
Xeroxer

@4rcher91 take your time, since World in Conflict 2 won't be coming anytime soon!

Xeroxer
Xeroxer

@Kevin-V"how we approach the reviews process" everybody knows how you approach the reviews process - money=good rating, no money=not so good rating!

ShadowRun02
ShadowRun02

and i bought it. now i see my comp sucks, it runs great! on the lowest graphics lol (but it's still an awesome game, the opponent AI is great, although sometimes my AI is horrible)

y3ivan
y3ivan

 @WillyChong They didnt. NATO are seriously lacking in all fields except inf (with french legion the top notch) but lol when then get ripped apart by 1xtank shells. inf are the most difficult units to be use.

 

i prefer 1 group of  2xT80u the rest are T62 or T52 as cheap cannon folder and 2x2T62v with 2KUB against gunship. Turnout to be the most effective fighting force against anything except arty.

 

 some really cheap tactic that i found out are "m113 RR rush" cheap (10RP) 16x m113RR would outnumbered any armour and will kill those armour at close range.

Bill_Laf
Bill_Laf

 @ShadowRun02 I bought it too. Auto-detect sets my setting at low and medium but I put all of them at high or very high and so far everything runs great.

Xeroxer
Xeroxer

@y3ivan @WillyChong NATO isn't lachking anything! To put it simple, tanks are things of the past, there were no serious improvements made to the tanks since Cold War. But in case of war all countries would realize, that they still don't have any alternatives to the tanks!

Wargame: European Escalation More Info

First Release on Feb 22, 2012
  • Macintosh
  • PC
  • Unix/Linux
Wargame: European Escalation is a real-time strategy game from Eugen Systems.
7.8
Average User RatingOut of 175 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Eugen Systems
Published by:
Focus Home Interactive, CyberFront
Genres:
Strategy, Real-Time