Thursday, August 23, 2007

WWII Online: First Impressions

So at the urging of a few guildmates, I downloaded and installed WWII Online for a 14-day free trial. I remember there being some buzz about this game when it first came out, but then bugs and stability issues led it into a fiery, burning death. But apparently, it wasn't actually dead and has been continuing on for the past six years!

I've only played for a few hours, but here are my initial impressions of the game.

First off, the Download and install proceeded smoothly, and I jumped right in without reading a single tip on how to play. A seemingly minor point, but a bad experience with installation can sour a game for anyone.

Choosing a place to appear in the gameworld was a little confusing. You're hit with both too much info and too little at the same time. There was a lot of info that I had no clue about, and not the basic info I expected to see that explained what I was doing in layman's terms. But it was easy enough to plow through and get in-game.

The controls were basically the same as any FPS, but just different enough that I had to look in the keybindings to find out how to crouch and lie down (and the various vehicles all have additional controls, but I haven't tried any of those yet).

The graphics are simplistic, which makes for smooth action. But yet they're done in a way that makes them very effective. You can see the silhouette of tanks on the horizon. Bushes and trees make for excellent visual cover.

The bushes actually provide a lot of cover. I had an enemy soldier crawl up next to me and I wasn't even sure it was a person until I fired my rifle and saw his death animation.

The realism angle of the game can be painful. Usually you'll die having no idea where the fatal shot came from. Getting anywhere is a tedious and long process. And when you spend 10 minutes creeping through the bushes only to suddenly go bellyup without having seen anyone or having any clue as to where the enemy might be... well, lets just say that I've had more fun experiences.

The buildings are very cramped and not defined at all. They definitely need a little more maneuvering room inside. And to have them actually fleshed out so as to make house to house combat interesting would be great, but that's mainly an extra bonus.

My first pick of where to start ended up being a ghost town, and overall, the games seems to really suffer from a lack of warm bodies. I quickly learned how to better pick an active starting spot, but the number of players is still low, especially when they're scattered over a square mile of countryside.

And it also the game seems to be weighted towards vehicles, which may also be a side-effect from the low population. Every time I've logged in, there have been more vehicles than infantry. Certainly, you need infantry to capture objectives, but until vehicle battle has been fought, infantry are few and far between, which is a little odd.

I did have one really great moment that made me think, 'Wow! This is what I was hoping this game would be like!'

I logged into a hotspot one night, and saw that we had a decent sized force advancing on a forward camp of our foes. I ran out across the fields, following everyone else, even spotting a guildmate who was also trying out the free trial. We ducked through the rows of bushes, every advancing on our objective as the sporadic sounds of small gunfire punctuated the air. After a harrowing few minutes of wondering when I was going to get cut down by a hidden machine gun, I suddenly realized that we were on top of the enemy encampment. Two of my fellow countrymen hunkered down near the tents while I covered them. No enemy soldiers appeared, and the base was vanquished. We mill about for a minute until a half-track pulls up towing a two-man mortar. All of the infantry piled inside and we headed off for a nearby town. I looked to my left and right, seeing no less than six fellow infantrymen with me. At the back rode a powerful mortar and the hum of the engine as we bounced across the fields gave me a feeling of serenity. I figured we must be headed for something important and felt a sense of confidence with my fellow soldiers around me.

But soon after, the driver of the truck told us to bail out, which we did. Then one by one, very quickly, all of my comrades vanished. Presumably to fight other battles, though noone said anything to me. I guess the fact that I was under the mistaken impression that we were heading off to conflict via the half-track made it especially disappointing.

The playerbase does seem helpful, and vehicles are almost always willing to slow down and let an infantry hop on board for a ride, but the heavy use of acronyms in chat left me clueless most of the time. And I haven't managed to sort out which chat channels are important to me at the moment. I'm sure familiarity will come with time and experience, but as a newbie who is also an experienced gamer, it was confusing to the point where I just wanted to be able to login and shoot at something, which is not what this game is about.

In summary, it is definitely an interesting game that has a lot of potential. With a few thousand more active players, it could really be an amazing experience. As it is, I don't think it's something that will keep my attention beyond the trial period. I do hope to play some more over the next week and make an updated impressions post.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Team up with an in game squad. The game totally changes then. People are always willing to help out a new person.

And you never got to see the awesome bomber formations we use to totally level a town :)

The game has its problems but it's still the only persistent battlefield out there with no zones or player limits.

The map is 1/2 size of actual Europe.