On The Western Front : Early Access Look

On The Western Front is a wargame unlike anything we’ve quite seen in the genre. One part trench warfare simulator, one part meatgrinder, and one part logistics. You are tasked with taking a section of trench and, well, doing whatever it is one does with a trench in 1915.

First things first : It’s Early Access. It feels like early access. It looks like early access. It plays like early access. So, if you’re not into beta-testing for some random dude, just add it to your watchlist. Right now it’s a bit wonky and lacks a save function.

One controls a Division of either French, British, or German troops. This Division includes infantry, engineers, medical staff, signal corps, supply units and of course… artillery. Lots of artillery.

You must hold your section of trench. Engage the enemy when required. (And yes, there are mandatory assaults) Keep your troops in top shape. All the while digging underground mines, keeping supplies flowing, recovering the wounded, and capturing prisoners.

Each of your units has morale, supplies, readiness, and a set of attributes. 

But it’s not all red poppies. It’s rough. It’s buggy. Unit selection and tasking are the two immediate glaring issues. It’s a pain in the ass to manage the entire line. I had a medical unit go on leave only to spawn a dozen copies in the rear area. 

Now these are all things that can be remedied, but right now it makes for a clunky endeavor.

But then you see how you trade lives for progress. The experience of the dead and wounded lead towards a sick sort of progression. You can picture a general in the rear poring over casualty charts and going, “Jeeves, yes, this isn’t working, bring in that chap with those mortars.”

The game could use more flesh to it. We have no commanders and I think that’s something that’s missing. Find an OOB from 1915 and actually put the player in charge of a real unit. Add even more depth to the game.

As much as anyone hates to hear it, the game could benefit with some Dwarf Fortress style task menus. Who is doing what? Are they done? Is that trench open? Maybe let some units automatically repair things. Sometimes too much micro is just, well, too much.

The aerodrome looks to be interesting, as does the ability to create underground tunnels and lay mines. I haven’t delved deeply enough to see if we can run into counter mines. I picture terrible battles in the dark with only a candle to guide a blade.

As to the robustness of the AI, well, I moved up some of my artillery, just slightly, and pounded a section of German trench. Then a single platoon, the 136th, set off towards the enemy trench to take prisoners.

And the bastards fled just meters away and retreated back to the line. I know this wasn’t a bug as the British in a previous game made it all the way to the German trench where they met an untimely end.

Time advances rather like a Paradox game. Set the speed and let it go. Which is an amazing departure from hex-and-counter IGOUGO. Finally we have a wargame that isn’t like every game since TOAW1, Tiller, or Grigsby. While these are great games, they miss out on what the PC can do for live gaming.

I’ll stick with the game. So far my comments have gotten a response and the dev(s?) have been very active on the Steam forums. Hopefully this continues in the long run and the game turns into a gem. It has an almost Rule the Waves’esque feel to it, the tension of your skirmishes all leading up to a nasty battle.

All in all, keep an eye on it. For $9.99 (as of 10/13/18) it’s not bad. I paid more for far shittier games. (Looking at you No Mans Sky) At least this has the potential to turn into a damned good beast. I’d love to see an expansion for the Eastern Front, or the Americans. It could use some historical maps, give me trench sections that are varied and unique. Give me an underground primed and ready to go.

Check it out on Steam : On the Western Front