For over four years, between 1914 and 1918, the Western Front was a key theatre of war for World War 1. As the Allied Forces and the Central Powers fought for territory across Germany, France, Luxembourg and Belgium, mass swathes of Europe became the battlefield for pivotal conflicts.
Inevitably, this took its toll on the land. From the digging of trenches and destructive artillery fire, to gas warfare and underground traps, the Western Front battles destroyed countless towns and villages, as well as huge areas of countryside, as the fight for position and power waged on. This environmental decay hit both sides hard – as did seasonal changes, as long-term battles were affected by the bitter cold, saturating rain, and more over time.
In The Great War: Western Front, the devastation dealt to the land, and the effects of extreme weather, is represented in gameplay – not only visually, but in persistent environmental changes that can transform the dynamic of any battle. As the seasons tick over, and more and more scars of war are laid down, new challenges emerge for you to overcome. Just like the commanders of WW1, you will need to react to – and anticipate – these changes to protect your infantries, overcome the elements, and maintain your push towards victory.
In our first deep dive into key mechanics and features, we’re taking a close look at this persistent living world that will define your experience in The Great War: The Western Front.
Throughout the game’s Campaign mode, you will be tasked with making advances in the Western Front, battling to take regions from the enemy, to advance towards their primary base of operations. Each of these regions will be initially controlled by one side, and you’ll need to achieve victory in battle against the opposing troops – or force them to call a cease fire – to seize control of their territory.
Every battle will feature a multitude of events that significantly, and permanently, affect the environment of that region, including digging trenches, or craters and obliterated buildings due to artillery fire. These facets of WW1 conflicts, used by both sides, will play their part in changing the face of a battlefield.
As a Field Commander, your job is to both guide your troops on navigating the new challenges these changes create, and to use the environment to create new problems for the enemy. These dynamic variations to a battlefield will alter routes for mobility, weak and strong points for attacks, the effectiveness of different types of attack, and more. You must be ready to adjust your strategy and adapt to the ever-changing world around you.
By the end of a gruelling battle, a region’s environment can appear to be a shadow of its former self. Barren, battered, discoloured and bleak, the harrowing effects of war will be permanently etched into the landscape.
Away from the Campaign, in Historical Battles, you’ll find recreations of pivotal battles of the First World War, set up as scenarios for you to take on. These pre-set battles will also feature desolate environments, already affected by war, which will continue to degrade and transform as the battle wages on. We’ll share more information on Historical Battles as we head towards launch for The Great War: Western Front.
Landscapes changing and bearing the scars of war will be an ever-present factor in any battle, but the persistence of these environmental shifts creates a new challenge altogether.
The Great War: Western Front captures the severe attrition that took place in WW1, as both sides battled back and forth, tooth and nail, for incremental gains over a vast, but vital, stretch of land. Just like the Allied Forces and Central Powers did over a century ago, you will often have to re-trace your steps, doing battle at the same region multiple times to gain full control. The grip that each side has over each region will differ, which means whilst you could seize control of some regions in a single battle, others will require multiple bouts of warfare to take. Also, as the war develops, the enemy may launch their own offensives, reacquiring a region you’d previously called your own.
All of this means you’ll often circle back to the scene of previous battles – and when you do, the living persistent world of The Great War: Western Front ensures that the battlefield retains the damage done in past conflicts. Trenches and fortifications laid down will remain in place, and can even be added to. Craters from heavy shelling are still present. The natural landscape remains tattered and harsh. The same damage dealt by you and your enemy to that region remains in place upon your return.
This is not just a reflection of the ‘battle of inches’ that defined WW1; it’s also a new challenge for you to face. Battlefields already affected by war will present new tests for creating defences, placing machine gun nests, establishing routes for attack, and keeping your troops as protected as possible. The enemy will also need to re-strategise – they may even choose to occupy trenches you once laid down. No two battles will ever be the same, as more punishment is dealt to both the opposing sides, and the land you are fighting for.
Whilst waging war with the enemy, and navigating the ever-deteriorating landscape, there will be one more unpredictable factor to consider during battle – the elements. As stalemates, tactical shifts, and the sheer damage dealt caused the First World War to continue for months and years, troops were forced to endure everything the seasons could throw at them. The significance of the weather is represented in The Great War: Western Front, as the changing seasons play a role in shaping the dynamic of any battle.
In the Campaign, each turn taken by both sides progresses the time. Keep an eye on the calendar to see exactly when your battles are commencing, and be ready for the relevant seasonal changes to take effect. Heading to battle in the winter months, for example, will often see environments covered in snow, with once-luscious forests bereft of leaves. In wetter seasons, you will see environments and infantries soaked with water, as the elements make their own mark on each conflict.
The conditions took their toll on troops in WW1, and the same will apply here. Battling regularly in adverse weather can affect the morale and general performance of your units, as they trudge through trenches or brace themselves against bitterly cold winds. Other aspects, such as the performance of artillery fire and the speed at which you can move units across land, can also be swayed by the weather. This will affect the pacing and options available to you; what may have been a foolproof tactic in your last visit to a region may become obsolete, due to the ever-changing landscape.
Whether natural or man-made, all of these unpredictable factors come into play in the persistent living world of The Great War: Western Front, meaning no two battles will play out in the same way. A region that may’ve been relatively easy to traverse at the start of the war may, upon your return, become a scarred and decimated location, totally changing the tactical options available to you. Similarly, commencing a battle in the summer months can be a radically different experience, both visually and within core gameplay, to a conflict in the middle of winter.
As the leader of your troops, your task is to consider all of these factors as you plot a strategy to overcome the enemy. Anticipate seasonal changes, re-trace your footsteps with caution, and turn environmental challenges into opportunities in The Great War: Western Front.
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