Tom Chick on Endwar: Is Less More?

By Kieron Gillen on March 26th, 2009 at 11:25 am.

War is over, if we want it, etc.

This is the sort of thing I’d normally save for the weekend’s Sunday Papers, but I realised that EndWar has come out on the PC and we haven’t really talked about it. Reason being, I suspect, it hasn’t really impressed the RPSers who’ve explored it. Hotkey-expert Tom Chick is painfully aware that he appears to be is in the minority in appreciating it (“Looking for a multiplayer game of EndWar on the PC has a very “I Am Legend” feel.”) but that hasn’t stopped him taking a swing at ten reasons why EndWar is a totally unique RTS game and well worth more attention. It’s deliberately, gleefully perverse. To quote from its conclusion “10. EndWar has no depth. 9. EndWar has no variety. 8. EndWar has a dull economy”. So… what did everyone else make of it? And for those who don’t know anything about it, you’ll find the PC launch trailer beneath the cut…

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43 Comments »

  1. Rob says:

    Overall I wasn’t impressed. It felt like a big game of Rock Paper scissors with that tom Clancy ‘edginess’ that’s been around lately.

  2. Rook says:

    Is it enjoyable to play? No. Why worry about anything else.

  3. Alec Meer says:

    I could see and appreciate what it was trying to do, but the execution is indeed pretty ghastly.

  4. Optimaximal says:

    The sad thing is, regardless of how good the game actually is, the PC-gaming masses were destined to ignore it following Ubi’s vocal ‘We’re releasing this late on PC because piracy will eat into the console sales’ twaddle.

  5. NuZZ says:

    I really didn’t like this game. All the units were just totally inaccurate and the combat just looked so freaking stupid I had to uninstall. Future warfare my ass.

  6. NuZZ says:

    Btw Optimaximal;
    this game was released with no DRM (protection).

    See: [No - RPS]

    So that should at least be at least pleasant to anyone who thinks they want to buy it.

  7. Gap Gen says:

    I think that reducing the amount of micromanagement the player does, or at least limiting the scope of their control, could work very well provided the AI is up to scratch.

    We were discussing Empire on another forum and someone suggested that less control could be interesting – in reality, if you ordered a cavalry charge they were pretty much gone, resulting in stuff like the Charge of the Light Brigade. It would be interesting to have operational orders like “hit & run” rather than microing the entire battle, although I don’t think Empire’s unit AI is quite up to the job as-is.

  8. Optimaximal says:

    Yus Nuzz, because posting links to piracy is good…

    PIRATE!

    PIRATE!!

    PIRATE!!!

  9. Dominic White says:

    As a PC RTS, this is pretty bad. The controls feel weird and unfocused, and nothing really seems in the right place.

    I got the 360 version as a christmas present, and have enjoyed it a lot. Sitting back in a big comfy armchair, big widescreen TV in front of me, standarized headset to bark commands and a standardized gamepad to point the camera works well. It’s atmospheric and immersive. It’s not fast or accurate, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t fun, and clearing a mission having scarcely pressed a button makes me feel special.

    Then again, I enjoy playing Wii games as well, which makes me something of a pariah in hardcore PC gaming circles.. I’m quite good at Quake 3, though, if that makes it any better?

  10. Dominic White says:

    Hell, as a tangential example, there’s a homebrew port of Quake 1 for the Wii as well. It’s not nearly as fast or as precise as playing with a mouse, but it’s a lot more fun to actually be pointing and shooting the monsters yourself, with your gun panning along the screen to track your movements.

  11. Tim Stone says:

    @Gap Gen. Have you ever tried any of Slitherine’s Roman titles? Games like Great Battles of Rome (http://www.slitherine.com/games/thcgbor_pc) feature an extreme version of the system you’re suggesting. Redirecting troops saps a slowly-replenishing command point reservoir. Deploy poorly and you may never recover.

    It’s a fascinating approach. Unfortunately the fussy victory conditions (‘kill 300 Celts inside 5 minutes!’) often turn the battles into frustrating puzzles.

  12. Gunrun says:

    Thanks NuZZ I’m sure RPS and its advertisers (Who mostly seem to be in the buisness of selling video games) really appreceate you linking to a warez site.

  13. Gunrun says:

    Anyway this game felt really bland and… slow? Like there wasn’t much action going on, I presume so that the game doesn’t become horribly difficult when using voice to order around your troops. I did like how well voice worked though.

  14. Horatius says:

    The strategic maps they showed in the trailer, with the cool little icons representing units on a flat shaded landscape, looked extremely cool. Why didn’t they just make that the whole game?

    The rest of it just says “WW2, reskinned”

  15. Gap Gen says:

    Tim: Yes, I remember your review of that. It’s not that accurate a portrayal of commanding a historical army, though (I assume that you have instant control of a unit?). I guess with poor AI it could be frustrating to give a command and then have it screwed up with no hope of correcting it. My main gripe with Rome: Total War (and Empire has improved this) was that there was a lot of micromanagement, and some form of command structure if well implemented could work well.

    Does the Take Command series (like 2nd Manassas) have a command structure? It’s one of those games I should have tried but never did.

  16. bildo says:

    @ rob
    A game of rock paper shotgun is more appropriate.

  17. Nick says:

    NuZZ’s name is also a link to a cracked/ripped stuff release site btw, he or someone like him has pulled that before. So.. might want to edit/ban that too.

  18. Subject 706 says:

    Since Far Cry 2, it’d take a helluva game for me to ever buy a UbiSoft title again. EndWar isn’t that game.

  19. Baris says:

    You thought Far Cry 2 was so horrible, that it’s stopping you from buying from the developer? Really? You must be a very protected gamer.

  20. Simes says:

    I quite liked the 360 version.

  21. Ginger Yellow says:

    It’s a shame the actual game isn’t much cop (based on playing the 360 demo and the reviews) , because they really nailed the voice command system and I like the idea of indirect unit control as a different direction for RTS. Hopefully they won’t abandon the technology (or somebody else implements it as well) and it will be applied to a better game.

  22. Rich_P says:

    What a failed release. There’s no demo; the game was released months ago on the consoles; the PC release was horribly timed; the price is uncompetitive (Should I get EndWar, DoW II, or ETW for $50, or WiC Complete for $30?); and Ubisoft accused their potential customers of being thieves.

  23. Subject 706 says:

    @Baris
    No, it was just the last straw regarding Ubisoft games for me. I will buy from them if they release a good game anytime soon.

    As it is, their track record hasn’t been very good lately, has it? Especially not from a pc perspective.

  24. Corporal Bruno says:

    Great game! Best console RTS ever! Actually running a huge 2v2 tourney for this game on the 360 and 1v1 tourney for the PS3 this weekend! Check it out: http://corporalbruno.blogspot.com

  25. cyrenic says:

    I really don’t know how I feel about playing a game that can also be played by parrots: http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/55676

  26. Dominic White says:

    Far Cry 2 is the new Bioshock. It’s that well-reviewed game that sold tons and apparently everyone on the internet hates with a burning passion.

    Nerd backlash is the saddest thing ever.

  27. jonfitt says:

    @cyrenic
    I think playing games against animals could be the next big thing.

    I’ve thought that if I could get my cat able to control fps games, and able to perceive what he was seeing, he’d be awesome.
    He’d be rubbish a capturing points, and would probably get kicked for falling asleep in the spawn, but there’d be some crazy sneak attacks going on.

  28. rocketman71 says:

    They delayed it to fight against “piracy”. Result?. Months later, when we get it, we know it’s a run of the mill RTS, perhaps nice by console standards, but not enough for PC. One gimmick that doesn’t go anywhere. And the Tom Clancy name.

    Add to that the fact that one of the producers, as usual, called us thieves, and you have no reason or desire to buy it.

    Fail.

  29. Tim Stone says:

    Gap Gen: If it’s command structure modelling you’re after then, yes, Take Command 2nd Manassas is well worth a look. You can play at various command levels. At the higher ones, your orders are conveyed to subordinates by mounted couriers who may be intercepted and killed. Battlefront’s upcoming Napoleonics game HistWar: Les Grognards will offer something similar.

    Even if the orders get through in TC2M, there’s no guarantee they will be implemented. Individual officers (each has their own personality) may be too cautious/stubborn/rash to act. It’s a lovely system if a little confusing at times.

  30. jonfitt says:

    @Tim Stone:
    That sounds interesting. Presumably the unit commands have to be cleverer than your average suicidal RTS unit, since often times I’m giving micro commands like “get on the other side of the freaking wall, you’re about to be rear ended!”. Or “The cavalry are about the ruin your day, it might be a good idea to get in a defensive formation!”

  31. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, I should give it a look. In many ways it’s a bit disappointing that Empire doesn’t offer similar smarts – occasionally a sprawling battle will have my cavalry stand still while a bunch of bayonets give them unpleasant rectal examinations because I am paying attention to something elsewhere. Then again, it’s a different style of game, and loss of direct control at all levels may annoy some people.

    The thing I like about Total War is that you’re not a king or general or luminary. You’re a shadowy puppet-master, controlling the world from some Illuminati-style conspiracy.

  32. undead dolphin hacker says:

    Preface: I love that Tom Chick champions under-appreciated games. He seems to have good taste and a good sense of what makes games “fun.”

    But once in a blue moon his judgment hiccups pretty badly, and not in a “I disagree with him” sense, but more like a “what the fuck?” one. Two cases in point: the notorious case of missing the Deus Ex boat and his odd fandom for The (utterly mediocre) Club.

    After all, asymmetry is inherently interesting. Zergs vs. Protoss, or Space Marines vs. the Eldar, or the Vinci vs. the Alin. Exciting stuff! But asymmetry is often a cheap and easy alternative to good design.

    I’m struggling to understand why “inherently interesting” isn’t an example of “good design.” By “good design” he apparently means “good balance,” but I don’t know all that many people who play games for their balance.

    …you can’t move the camera wherever you want. At any given moment, your view is bound to what your units can see.

    “It has line of sight and fog of war!”

    It works for console systems because of the elegance of the design.

    I’m going to assume “it works for console systems” means “controlling the game on a console is easier than controlling other RTS games on a console.” But I can’t help but balk at “because of the elegance of the design.” With a bar set as low as Endwar’s, (let’s make five hard-counter units, three weak powers, a couple gameplay twists and some maps), “elegance” is not challenging to achieve.

    Of course then he throws in the “gotcha” list at the end which… I don’t know, is supposed to guilt us into believing our problems with the game are all subjective and distract us from the lack of objective argument? It’s sloppy.

    Tom’s not going to lose my respect anytime soon — if anything, these oddball and, well, wrong articles lend his writing character and realism. We’ve all got stupid, awful games that for some reason we really enjoyed, and he elocutes that universal gamer quirk well.

    It’s just… most of the time we realize those games are stupid and awful.

  33. Chaz says:

    I thought the voice command on the 360 was very good indeed, and I hope they carry the tech over into one of their tactical shooters like the R6 series. Apart from that I didn’t really like Endwar as it did feel rather dull and bland. So Total Annihilation still remains my favourite RTS and the only one I occasionaly still play from time to time.

    Although not strictly an RTS, I’m very much looking forward to Battlestations: Pacific.

  34. Dominic White says:

    While I disagree with his overall verdict on Deus Ex, he has a point, at least. It’s like fifty mismatched and clunky elements that would make a terrible game by themselves, but (for most), they result in a magical formula when combined. It just didn’t click for him, though.

    As for The Club, I liked it too. It’s a genuinely unique take on the genre.

    There really needs to be less absolutism here. The ‘Your opinion is wrong, and that thing you like, you shouldn’t like because it’s bad’ mentality is astoundingly childish. It’s reminiscent of playground politics, rather than anything even approaching maturity.

  35. Gap Gen says:

    Yes, I was interested by the point that “asymmetry can be poor design”. Surely symmetric sides can also be a lazy way to ensure balance?

  36. jonfitt says:

    I’m not sure asymmetry makes it any easier, or harder as far as design goes (assuming total number of units is the same).
    Yes you can design side A so that it can counter side B’s advantages if played right, and had it’s own advantages that side B can counter, but you almost always have to account for A vs A battles which are symmetric.
    I guess CoH would be an exception to that.

  37. Baris says:

    @Subject706
    That seems fair. I guess I was being a little edgy and mistook you for one of the people who say they hated a popular game and they’ll never buy from the developer/publisher again because they’re so far above it. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy Far Cry 2 that much either, but most people I know liked it.

  38. Kez says:

    Picked up Endwar with the PS3 bluetooth headset packed in when Target had it on sale for $49.99 instead of $89.99.

    It’s a fun game, not terribly deep, but best of all I essentially got a free PS3 bluetooth headset. The voice command stuff works really well, in my experience.

  39. O.DOGG says:

    I played it for a bit, and even though it is a very uninspired RTS, the voice controls give it a unique feeling. I wish the units had more personality, and the commands more variety. It was definitely cool for a while barking orders at the troops. I’m really anxious to see them develop this technology further.

  40. DigitalSignalX says:

    If you play without voice commands at all, it becomes immediately apparent how much “game play” this game truly lacks. It could have been a turn based card game with fancy graphics and captured a more appreciative audience imho.

    There is utterly no strategy, no tactics. Rob said it best: “rock paper scissors” in explodey next gen graphics with a nice gimmick for controls.

  41. malkav11 says:

    That’s just it. EndWar -isn’t- a run of the mill RTS, as Tom’s article points out. It’s an incredibly barebones, dry RTS with one interesting gimmick. It’s really more of a (stripped down) board game running in real-time 3D than it is like almost anything previously labelled an RTS.

    And not the kind of boardgame I like, either.

    The voice controls are definitely something that should be cribbed for use in future, better console RTSes, though.

  42. caesarbear says:

    This is just another bizarre Tom Chick-ism. It’s pure rationalization of an odd-ball opinion. There have been numerous RTS games of the past where the ‘less is more’ quality could be applied. Mentioning EndWar in the same breath as Kohan is just ridiculous. The alternative list at the end just seems like more passive aggresiveness. There’s nothing wrong with liking the game, but trying to argue it somehow has superior and noteworthy merits is, well… a talent of creative writing.

  43. ComVlad says:

    I tried endwar at a friends place, and have to agree that while it is a great console rts by pc standards its extremely quite substandard. Reading the comments I am however really surprised that it hasn’t been compared to its closest pc analogue-Massive Entartainments brilliant debut Ground Control, which had everything that endwar had and a lot more (although it had no economy at all). The only area where i might give endwar a win over Ground control is in multiplayer. Actually if endwar’s developer had at least added a Ground Control-like special weapon/equipment ability to their units i would have been far happier with their product.