The Black Gold
I hardly can be called a big fan of strategic games a la Command & Conquer. Taking a closer look, I should say that not too much fundamentally changed since the times of Dune 2. Developers followed the way of improvement of the-long-ago-invented bicycle. C&C demonstrated that the close foreseeable future of RTS games is the self-cloning. It is this policy that has given rise to the genre crisis. In whole, being overburdened with the big stone of the disillusion with the latest strategic games, I however proceeded to making of World War III: Black Gold beta-review. This game is being developed by JoWood and is supposed to be released this summer.
The theme of the apocalypses or the third world war have been used more then once or twice, so, one can hardly call the attempt of the late TopWare and JoWood the unique one. Nonetheless, it is the third world war that is the basis of this game storyline. In whole, scenery of the war development coincides with the today view of it by American generals. As some of you might know, the new US military doctrine proposes the beginning of the world-wide turmoil in the exhausted-with-conflicts Middle East, viz, because of the armed conflict with the outcast-countries like Iraq and Libya. I'll omit my own view on this issue of who is the outcast here and whether Iraq is really able to cause such a battle. Anyway, by the developers opinion the war will start just in that region and an apple of discord (or a bone of contention :) will be the oil - the basic energy resources that are controlled with such outcasts. So, the participants of the rush for the black gold will be USA (God bless the US!), Russia (Bozhe Tsarya khrani!) and Iraq (HafiZa llahu dar al-islam!).
WW3 is completely based on the Earth 2150 engine. Many tore 2150 to pieces, but no one can take away its wonderful 3D engine that makes possible the creation of vast and beautiful battlefields. Free camera movements quite convenient, although not too much habitual interface, make WW3 not a 2150 successor, but a full-fledged replacement to this game.
You may find here versatile sceneries - from snowy dales of Russian out-of-the-way places to the sandy sceneries of Iraq. Features that make those sceneries even more special are the different weather conditions - cloudbursts and hard snowfalls… The fog and the strength of wind, all these influence the distance on which you may detect the enemy and influence the conditions of the battle tactics. Bad weather may cause such a threat as thunderstorm - striking can easily destroy any of your buildings or vehicles!
Rough water in rivers and whirlpools also decorate landscape sceneries. If you succeed to find a flat slope then you will be able to send some of your vehicles in the water trip. The chiaroscuro is the ace of trumps of WW3. One may say that it is not new… all this stuff of dust clouds behind the moving vehicles on the sandy roads... but how beautiful, for all that, it is! For example if we examine the change of day and night - it is specially beautiful in deserts, when world gradually grow crimson. With the dusk coming all the military vehicles turn on its headlight. One may enjoy for hours, if he/she sends a tank column through the hills and watches how these tanks come up on the eminences and the rays of light strike into the outward things.
All the maps are quite multifarious and do not become boring. The only disadvantage, I should say, is that military vehicles and civilian buildings are incommensurable with each other. Although all the RTS games suffer the same. Also it is a pity that the landscape is not so interactive - as it was in Tiberuim Sun, where one, with the help of big artillery, could make almost the Grand Canyon. Though t should be said that trees, palms and even the smallest bushes can be eliminated - they start burning from the explosions. A tank can easily feel trees and that looks quite impressive! It is a real pleasure to watch how the enemy vehicles fall into pieces as a fire fountains in the night and trees flare up as big torches. Battles during daytime and nighttime are always the rage of colors!
What, in my opinion, the developers should be thanked for is the absence of infantry in the game. If WW3 had an infantry it would be a very ordinary clone. AI would make the infantry with bunches and they would constantly terrorize you. For the sake of fairness it should be notices that AI of this version (although it is just the beta) was not subjected to genius. Computer attacks typically and very simple. In missions that are in my disposal computer prefer to defend not to attack. But all this is only in campaign mode. In the skirmish mode everything goes different. Here one will not have enough time to build and breed numerous units. Here one should be quick, without any delays, as far as your computer opponent knows what and when to build and always attack you in the most unexpected for you moment.
But what truly distinguish World War III from other games of that kind is its weapons and equipment. I should say that I do not know any other game where true weapon added to the arsenal of nowadays-real states is used in such big way. Where else can you see "Black Shark" in the battle, to shoot from the self-propelled artillery unit "Akacja", to see the French tank Leclerc in action?
Pay attention to the models of military vehicles, for example, of tank or Hammer M29. With the maximum zoom one may see even the precise details or the copper's camouflage coloration. Of course, in the beta, some units textures fail, but it is obvious, that this bug will be fixed! In whole, each unit is not just a dumb one, that does not have anything but appearance and gun caliber, - each unit has its armor, 'health', quantity of ammunition and speed of movement. You may improve weapon, system of filters that protects the crew from the chemical weapon effect.
War is war - ammunition comes to the end and you cannot breakthrough the enemy lines with the only armored car! So, from time to time, you need to call for a helicopter for reloading. Hardly there will be use of your tank armada with no ammo! More enemy vehicles your units destroy more experienced they become - they start to act faster and better, that allows you to create the elite forces, that would be able to destroy even superior forces (in number) of enemy.
I, of course, enjoyed with the Russian forces arsenal. Once in a blue moon our 'western friends' did not represented Russian side as the mindless jerks like the cosmonaut in the 'Armageddon' movie. Examining "our side", I've found that the armored units presented with: a tank T-80, an armored troop carrier BTR-60 and a self-propelled artillery unit 2S3 "Akacja". There are units of the volley firing - BM 21 and Scud A. After spending a plenty of greens one may acquire a chemical weapon, and after that with the help of special VDV-marines one may seize enemy units or buildings! At your disposal will also be a unique complex of anti-aircraft defense Romb with missiles of which every targeted enemy unit will be destroyed.
There is also ZSU known here as 'Tunguska' and other numerous zest of Russian-made arsenal. Fleet of air military units is represented with three choppers - K29 TB, K52 and Mi28, and with two planes - Mig-29 and Tu-160. And that is far to be all! Here you will find nuclear weapon and versatile additional stuff from new machine gun caliber to the facilities of enemy's electronics suppression that might be installed on the helicopters.
US army is represented with the latest military units of NATO. You will find here choppers AH1 Cobra and AH-64; tank Leclerc, Paladin, M1 and Abrams. And of course you may fly on the RAG 66 Comanche. Iraq is represented mostly with the compound weaponry. Iraqi own weapon is only, perhaps, missile complex AI Hussein. Iraq arsenal also includes Scorpion and T72 tanks, Gazelle chopper, and Astros heavy rocket artillery.
From the first look one may suggest that there is nothing what could be called a balance of powers. But! It is not that simple! First of all, World War III is one of the few strategic games, where the balance is not the intentional constriction of the first side powers and setting too high the other side military capabilities. Here the idea of balance lies in a truly broad specter of tactical opportunities, id est., all the advantages of one unit can be invalidated either with the obtrusion of the battle disadvantageous conditions to the opponent, or with the use of other means of destruction. Light missile-armed Hammers M29 can easily destroy Russian antitank artillery from a big distance. But you are free to set against these vehicles several BM21 or just the only one 'Black Shark' or Mi-29 or vise versa. So, there is always an opportunity to find a balance! Your artillery is not that long-ranged one as you might need? Mount it on the hill and cover with several pillboxes, as a result you will get a rather fortified zone, that can be destroyed only with the help of aviation.
To control units is quite easy, and they can be given a lot of orders. And what is most surprising that AI obeys the given orders! It keeps the troop formation, attacks in the given sequence, and even is able to retreat in the case of heavy casualties. So, you just need to post your units competently, to seize as many oil fields as possible and to mount proper buildings in a proper time.
If the fleet of your vehicles is not that big in numbers as wish it to be, you should not forget about one Earth 2150 legacy - unit constructor. With its help you may quickly create your own unit, using basic models, chassis, versatile modification of weapons and additional defense facilities.
One should not forget about development of one's own base. Most likely, the developers have not invented anything new since the time of Dune 2. So, you need mount different buildings and provide power supply for them by the way building generators. Everything needs oil mined in the oilfields that are limited in number. You may build your facilities wherever you want - you just nee to power supply them. Economic side of the game is just spending of the earned money for the plants development of the new weaponry.
Many developers in many games, for a long time and with hard efforts, tried to realize engineering, but only in World War III the idea of engineering is at its zenith. Each side has the whole fleet of engineering machines, that can erect fortifications, walls and fences, build bridges and dig trenches, lay mines and destroy them.
The process of base building and vehicle production is interesting. Factually, you do not build anything. You simply point the location, spend money, and after a while a helicopter brings in that place the self-deploying module of the building.
One more important element of the RTS games is the background music. As a rule, even the most interesting very soon music becomes boring, and one often just turns it off. It looks like composers of WW3 took that into consideration and created highly dynamic melodies that come almost to the background mode in the 'peaceful' time and dashingly increase adrenalin in your blood when the tension becomes highly generated in the unequal fight.
In whole, the game will let you play several campaigns from sides of US, Russia and Iraq, to play in a skirmish mode and multiplayer via Internet or local net. Moreover, an editor for creating new missions and campaigns will be enclosed.
This game made a good impression on me. To say truly, I did not expect that RTS game can be such vivid and interesting, especially on the background of latest dreary species of this genre. Of course this beta version has a bunch of losses, but trust me - it is worthy! Judge yourself on screenshots though! It gonna be a yummy piece. Anyway, we'll see whether my hopes will be the true and the game will not be spoiled while getting its final view by the time of release.
- Yuri Bushin (aga Yurg)