The Year in Review: Our Take

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So what did our team see as the most significant developments of the past year?

GrogHeads Management, 28 December 2013

Lloyd Sabin

Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol opened up some great turn-based, aviation-centered gaming to a huge audience. With one game covering World War I and one covering World War II’s Pacific War, with a cost as low as 80 cents on some days, it’s cross-platform compatibility is bringing high quality tactical aviation gaming to a much wider audience than ever before. Let’s hope that Sid Meier continues down this path and brings historical and military themes to gamers with future releases in the same vein.

Craig Handler

In a digital landscape littered with high-priced, fund building early access titles, ARMA III was released in an alpha state, but at an affordable price and in extremely polished shape.  Thus proving that games with significant future development to go can be enjoyable early on in the production cycle.

While not necessarily revolutionary, Bohemia Interactive’s newest title in the series is beyond question evolutionary in every sense of the word, building upon everything that had been accomplished earlier in the series.  ARMA III incorporates all that was good in ARMA I and ARMA II, and improves upon it, largely by incorporating feedback from its large fan base and community of supporters.  The mechanics behind ARMA III finally feel “right”.  Movement is fluid and the player is afforded an unprecedented level of flexibility and freedom of movement in a first-person shooter.

Some have criticized ARMA III for its near-future setting, but it still manages to feel authentic, particularly when compared to the crowded market of modern combat gaming which includes titles such as Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts.  ARMA III still has some way to go before its is finished, but all the tools are there to make it into the greatest combat oriented first-person shooter of all time.  It is beyond doubt one of the most exciting releases of 2013 and with Bohemia Interactive’s proven record of post-release add-on and DLC support, together with an already established cadre of creative mod makers, we will be talking about and playing this one for years to come.

Jim Zabek

2013 saw the return of classical wargaming on the PC. One game brought two major assets to the wargaming community which have ensured that the industry is not only alive and well, but thriving.

Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm crashed through the Fulda Gap to bring us hexagons and cardboard silhouette shaped units. None of these were particularly innovative, but was new was the solid production quality (varied sounds and eye-soothing graphics – though a few minor bugs still need to be worked out) combined with an incredibly addictive game style to make a wargame that is simply great. This addictive (and elusive) formula ensures that Red Storm is likely to be remembered for a long time as one of the best games of the year, and maybe the best in several years.

The second asset Red Storm brought to the table first requres a disclosure from me: I was involved with the developers in discussing how to implement an OODA loop. However, at the time I didn’t think my conversation was particularly significant. However, it seems to have inspired the developers to do that hard work of designing and implementing an asymmetric turn-based game system that does a fine job of modeling the deterioration of the command structure during wartime. This aspect, which I insist I had only a minor role in, turns out to be a real, significant development.

Between the addictive gameplay and asymmetrical turn-based gaming, On Target Simulations has delivered a simulation that effortlessly implements the elusive C3I aspect that many wargames either lack, or implement with some effort. Even if you’re not a fan of modern era wargames, you should give Red Storm’s demo a try. It’s an amazing game, and definitely the most significant development in the industry this year.

Brant Guillory

While hardcore grogs will (deservedly) turn their noses up as their cartoonish nature, the always-on interconnectedness of net-enabled phones and tablets have spawned a new generation of military-themed games and gamers. The massive rise of mobile-interface MMOGs have put ‘wargames’ into the pockets of millions of people, with Great Little War Game, World War, Little Commander, Modern War – World Domination, and the European War series all boasting hundreds of thousands of users. While these are not historically-accurate wargames in any sense, they are nonetheless putting tactical combat challenges in the hands of a huge number of players who enjoy battling with their friends. How many of these gamers might ‘graduate’ from the MMO-frenzy of unrealistic online play into a more historically-nuanced and accurately-modeled world of grognard-quality wargames? Not only is it hard to tell, it’s going to be hard to do if the grog world continues to turn their noses up at these cartoon shoot-em-ups instead of engaging them and looking for players that would be interested in moving to the tabletop, or to the world of deep grog-level games like those from Battlefront, Paradox, and Matrix.

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