Not A New Wargame, But A War Game: Act Of Aggression

By Graham Smith on August 8th, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

Before Eugen Systems went big – in scale and, eventually, sales – with the Wargame series, they worked on two Act of War games. More traditional real-time strategy fare, they were as much about base building and resource gathering as they were accurate tank physics. They even had live-action cutscenes spliced together with machinima.

Now Eugen are returning to the format with Act of Aggresion: a successor to the old series with similar mechanics, a similar near-future setting, but yeah, still lots of tank physics. The first teaser trailer is below.

Will this new game revive those live-action actors? Doubtful – Phil Harrison has moved on – but it will have two singleplayer campaigns and “traditional RTS storytelling.” There will also be multiplayer modes, and “infantry, mechanized vehicles, tanks, artillery, helicopters, planes, and super weapons,” each of which will earn you experience and “unlock skills and abilities to turn the tide of war by specializing them in roles, such as anti-air, anti-tank, etc…”.

It’s interesting to reach the YouTube comments underneath, with all the nervous questions about whether this represents Eugen’s attempt to “dumb down” their games and court a console crowd. I remember the exact same questions being raised when real-time strategy games first sliced away base building and harvesting mechanics. How little things have changed.

While Wargame used a ticket system for selecting units and calling re-inforcements, it certainly wasn’t a simple game. I bounced off the last in the series, Red Dragon, precisely because its units were so complicated. Which 1980s tank is better than another? I have no idea, and I don’t want to read pages and pages of stats to find out. (I am aware however that we haven’t covered the game enough, and have commissioned someone to write about it).

Meanwhile, the thought of placing factories and mines or whatever like it’s 1995 else sounds lovely. I am a turtle, and Supreme Commander is the evolutionary path of the RTS I’m most interested in. I’ll take economic efficiency over firing rates any day.

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38 Comments »

  1. feffrey says:

    Is the story based on a Dale Brown novel like the first game?

  2. rabbit says:

    aggresion.

  3. HyenaGrin says:

    It’s a shame you bounced off of Red Dragon, because I don’t think it’s as hard to learn as people think when they run headfirst into the wall of units. You only need a general knowledge of what certain categories of weapons are good at, and then look at the unit cards to see what kinds of weapons they use, and a quick glance at the color-coded stats will tell you what that weapon’s individual strengths and weaknesses are.

    Lotta Redfor tanks have ATGms attached, and can strike vehicles from outside the range of Bluefor tank guns, for example. Lotta Bluefor tanks have autocannons which are very good for killing infantry, light vehicles, and even defending against helicopters. You figure it out as you poke around. You can hover over the tags at the top of the weapon listing to see any extra details, like STAT means stationary, and the unit cannot fire that weapon while moving. It’s intimidating at a glance and hard to master, but it doesn’t take long to get to a point where the game is pretty fun and intellectually challenging in a pleasing way.

    ANYWAY. Back to the subject at hand. I have followed three paths of RTS evolution that I loved:

    The primary one was Company of Heroes, which I played the crap out of. That game was pretty much all about focused combat (micro) and cover mechanics. It still, to this day, has not been surpassed in engaging infantry combat.

    The second one was the World in Conflict —> Wargame path, where base building was nullified in exchange for a ticket system, and the gameplay was less about small-scale micro. You take a step back, and it’s more about being one step ahead of the enemy, having the right balance of forces and knowing when to attack and when to defend. Not that those things aren’t vital in Company of Heroes, it simply provides more space to play the game at that level by reducing the micro required.

    The third one was Supreme Commander, which took base building up about five notches. I love a good turtle game and SupCom really satisfied that urge with elaborate base defenses and the ability to reach out and touch the enemy, goading them into assaulting your maze of death. Like WiC/Wargame it pulled back on the micro in favor of letting you manage a higher concept, which was generally the mass production of units. The actual combat ended up a lot less interesting than either CoH or Wargame, and usually came down to out-teching and out-producing your enemy, so it turned into a bit of a larger scale Starcraft. Still, its base building has not been surpassed, even by its own successor.

    Thus far I haven’t seen anything about infantry in Act of Aggression, but I sincerely hope that they put some effort into refining the infantry gameplay. Finer-grained cover mechanics for infantry would be a huge selling point for me. One thing I loved about Company of Heroes was how the Infantry AI would automatically spread out into cover positions in an organic way. The general ‘this unit is in the woods’ or ‘this unit is in an urban sector’ type of cover we have for infantry in Wargame would feel very under-developed in a more focused game environment.

    I have enjoyed all of Eugene’s work since European Escalation, so I am keeping an eye on this and hoping they can take what they’ve learned with Wargame and mix in some of the concepts that have made other RTSs successful.

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      Thurgret says:

      That’s right on the mark re: Red Dragon. You really don’t need more than a rough idea of what stuff does and you’ll get by just fine starting out. The rest sort of comes to you as you play.

      Disagreed re: Blufor tanks carrying autocannon though. That was true for the Starship and MBT-70 line in particular in AirLand Battle, but they are rather sorely outdated for Red Dragon, and the top-end NATO armour has nary an autocannon in sight. Fantastic main guns, though (and as of the last time I played, the Leclerc was downright overpowered).

    • Smoof says:

      I really loved AirLand Battle, but skipped Red Dragon simply because I absolutely suck at the game and it doesn’t feel right to play the single player. I put in about 60 hours, but never really got any good, despite reading guides and being all over the forums and subreddit.

      I hope this series is a little easier for me to play, as I love the design of the Wargame series!

    • unit 3000-21 says:

      Infantry in Act of War was pretty fleshed out, so Act of Aggression should follow that route . It was no CoH (what is?) but it still had more depth than C&C in that regard – urban warfare without infantry was almost imposible in it while in most RTS games you can level a city using a horde of tanks with impunity.

  4. tangoliber says:

    R.U.S.E. is my favorite FPS. It had board game simplicity, and infinite strategic depth. The ranked matches were 30 minutes long, and you could zoom out and play the entire map without needing to pan the camera.

    I’d like to see them make a spiritual successor to R.U.S.E.

    • rpsKman says:

      First-person shooter? ;)

    • Comrade Roe says:

      RUSE was nice, but suffered from horrible horrible artillery and bomber spam. It’s better with Wargame.

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      Vandelay says:

      Agreed. I came to RUSE late, so didn’t get into the multiplayer, but I thought it was a great game. I enjoy Wargame, but I share Graham’s lack of knowledge in the vast array of units, so, again, I haven’t delved into the multiplayer. I find just playing against the AI to be hard enough, to be honest. Glad to hear that RPS is going to get someone who can report on the game though.

      I would love them to do a real sequel to RUSE. I never played Act of War, so don’t know if this will be a welcome alternative, but I do miss the old fashioned base building games. I always felt that games like Company of Heroes, as well as RUSE, struck a good balance between the old style and the new, so it is a shame that Starcraft 2 has become the only traditional RTS in town of late (Company of Heroes 2 was okay, but I always felt as if I should just be playing the first game.)

      The only part of this news I don’t like is what sounds like persistant progressions, which have no place in an RTS multiplayer game (another blight that affected CoH2.) It isn’t clear whether those specialisations are just for a single match or permanent though, so it might be fine.

  5. -Eddie- says:

    Absolutely fantastic news. I’ve been waiting for news of a decent RTS for a while and finally something like this comes along promising to send me back in time to the nostalgia of C&C Generals and Red Alert.

    WRT the comments under the YouTube video I’d suggest it’s a lot of the current Wargame players doing what gamers do best, and that is whining. Whining because something stays the same, changes, adds, takes away, etc.. In this case they’re upset because Eugen will stop work on Wargame for the foreseeable future to concentrate on AoA.

  6. mvar says:

    Another no-gameplay generic video-game trailer. Why..?

    • hamilcarp says:

      All of that footage is “in engine” or in other words that is what the game will look like.

      • BehindYou!!! says:

        That may be true but I have lost all faith in claims of ‘In Engine’ cutscenes by developers after Rome-II and Watchdogs.

  7. slubberman says:

    YAY WARGAEM!! If they focus a little more on an immersive single-player (which the Wargame series has always lacked) we might have a really fun time ahead of us!

  8. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    While Wargame used a ticket system for selecting units and calling re-inforcements, it certainly wasn’t a simple game. I bounced off the last in the series, Red Dragon, precisely because its units were so complicated. Which 1980s tank is better than another? I have no idea, and I don’t want to read pages and pages of stats to find out.

    I feel like it’s even worse than that — I bounced off all the Wargame titles, and I do know which 1980s tanks are better than others. Between the loads of data and the totally non-intuitive interface, though, I could never quite find a way into them. Which was disappointing, because I absolutely loved R.U.S.E., not least because it was incredibly intuitive and accessible.

    After buying and then completely failing to grok both European Escalation and Air-Land Battle, I didn’t even bother trying Red Dragon. Paying for two games I couldn’t figure out how to play was bad enough.

    • BehindYou!!! says:

      I did tried Red Dragon and was left totally clueless. So I went on to the tutorial section and… surprise! It didn’t even had a real tutorial mission which even the most basic strategy games have since decades. All it offered were some images and text to explain stuff. What a waste.

    • ThornEel says:

      The problem with the Wargame series is that you don’t play a lieutenant-colonel as advertised, but a sergeant-general. Units have about zero initiative, and generally have to be micro’d to be remotely effective. Planes will fly right into AAA. AT teams will fire at max distance against the armoured front of the tank, instead of waiting for it to pass by and shoot them in the back at point blank range. Artilleries will all fire right at the same point instead of covering a zone to smoke or stun it. Tanks will randomly exit the forest when moving in cover and expose their flank to waiting enemies…

      But the UI is horrendously inadapted for micro. You can’t paint a zone for arty. You have to order each artillery piece to fire at a zone, stop, fire at another, and then do the same with the other pieces. You have to select each individual platoon and switch off, then on, their weapons to ambush at the right time. You are not told when an enemy is seen for an instant right behind your lines (and blowing your reinforcements up). You have to eyeball the enemy artillery shells to see where they come from – but you are only warned about an attack when they begin to land, at which point it’s too late to see them departing. Some info are downright missing, like salvo speed and number instead of a flat (and often inaccurate) rate of fire.
      And so on, and so forth.
      Ffs, you don’t even have feedback when you give move orders – meaning that a new player won’t even know if shift-chaining move orders actually works.
      Because, apparently, that’s more realistic.

      They did improve a few things from one game to the other, but that’s about like putting duct tape on the Titanic so far.

      And let’s not talk about the mod tools promised in the first two, as those promises apparently never existed at the time of Red Dragon’s launch.

      Which is a shame, because there is a fantastic game hidden under this crust of abysmal UI decisions. If you can go past it, you will have a blast. But most people can’t, and I personally gave up at Red Dragon – the idea of fighting this UI once more irks me now.
      And everyone is loosing at it : Eugen becaue it means fewer copies sold, those who give up because it’s one less, quite unique game to play to, and those who don’t because it means a smaller community.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Thanks. You’ve saved me wasting money on it, because inept unit AI and demands of micro are my least favourite things in RTSes.

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          Thurgret says:

          I get by with perhaps five to six clicks per minute and win a majority (but not most) of the games I play. You don’t need that much micromanagement. I only go in for it when using high-end armour, superiority fighters and infantry when undertaking an assault.

        • Afro says:

          It saddens me to see all the people complaining about the micro(positioning is key!), GUI(change to W:EE style!) and AI, even tho some of it is valid points. I’m at over a 80% win ratio, and I also get by with around 6-7 clicks per minute. I never liked C&C and SC, and RTS’ in general because of the clickfest, but Wargame made it possible to get a war-boner and enjoy the tactics. It is in my opinion one of the very best games I’ve played in the last years. Incredible depth and variety. You can find a way to win with pretty much any unit.

          1. Try out the low-point 10v10s(“Tactical”), where you will only have a few units to concentrate on. You might get your ass kicked, but you will most likely see what went wrong and learn.
          2. Avoid ranked(if you dont want to deal with the latest meta and the tryhards).
          3. Add to friend list people who seem allright.
          4. At some point get on TS with them and play superduper-awesome teamgames.
          5. Drink NATO tears.

        • ThornEel says:

          7 APM, I’ll believe it (for a non-sitzkrieg) when I’ll see it – though a reasonable 30-60 APM seems quite common.

          The problem is not Actions Per Minute, it’s Actions Per Second. For example, given that for some arcane reason you can’t give orders to placed units before the game begins, you need about 10-30 orders in the first instants. So even if you have a 60 APM for the first minute, you (try to) have a fraking 30 APS(!) for the first second.
          (And don’t give me that bullshit about ghost units that cannot receive orders. Simply add a fraking new phase where they are there but won’t move yet.)
          And then, for example, you have that moment when you need to micro an ambush, artillery and an air mission in a 10s interval, only to also have to retreat your commander at the same time because the opponent got the idea to attack at that moment.

          I don’t like CnC-like games much (and loathe SC2 with every fibre of my being, but that’s for unrelated reasons), but at least one has to recognize that their rhythm is far more consistent : while their APM is far higher, the APS is fairly constant, so the player isn’t suddenly overwhelmed right after a slow period.

          You will note than in the (100 pages long!) guide to the basics of Wargame mentioned below, you have “micro” 19 times. And the naval section is empty.
          You have, for example, this little gem about the Buratino, which consists at having a tank firing at the ground near it to panic it so it can fire more widespread.

          But let’s look at some of those “solutions”.
          -Playing a dumbed-down suboptimal side-mode, so we aren’t overwhelmed by the “complete” game.
          -Flat out avoid competitive game.
          Yeah, I can’t see anything wrong with that…

          It saddens me to see players denying criticism instead of accepting it and try to push for more change. If more had tried to promote solutions instead of denying the problem, maybe the devs would have understood that the problem is serious to begin with.
          And with an actually good UI and decent AI, they could have sold 10 times more copies. And that’s probably conservative.

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      Philopoemen says:

      See, I worked on professional milsims like JANUS, BCT and TacOps (localisation) and Decisive Action, VBS1 and 2. I can remember signing NDAs re: the penetration characteristics of a tungsten-carbide penetrator I know the difference between a M2A2 Bradley and a M2A3 Bradley IFV. I grew up on ASL and Steel Panthers. I should be able to dive into Red Dragon headfirst and hit the ground running.

      But I can’t get my head around it. It allows micromanagement aplenty, but I can’ set up basic commands like patrol to contact, pop smoke and reverse and use IR to take out the bad guys etc.

      But the other thing is, I just don’t find it fun. I have all the Wargame series, and its the same with all of them. I spend so much time microing things like fuel dumps and arty missions that my tactics generally boil down to en masse charges with hopefully some supporting AAA, air cover and arty strikes that go where their meant to.

      The boats just ended up being big ol targets.

  9. Banjo-Tuesday says:

    Looks very interesting to me. I like base buidling and destroying. I just hope it has some infantry too.

  10. KDR_11k says:

    Act of War was pretty much a C&C Generals clone. Shows you how much that game was appreciated despite the whining from the C&C hardcore.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’ve mostly seen mention of Generals be pretty positive. Inappropriately labelled as C&C, but positive.

      …especially after 3 and 4 happened.

  11. CookPassBabtridge says:

    “I am aware however that we haven’t covered the game enough, and have commissioned someone to write about it)”

    Glad to hear someone will be covering it, its a series deserving of attention.

    I’ve always liked that lovely Graham man. Such good manners :)

    /granmode

  12. Stormworm says:

    So, you got someone to write about Red Dragon eh? Then, my job here is done. I can disappear back into the ether. Forever floating and lurking… Also, I certainly dont mind a new RTS game with base building.

  13. Orageon says:

    Never touched the wargame series unfortunately, but I have fond memories of Act of War. While carrying the spirit of the likes of C&C, the whole thing was executed rather masterfully. Interesting and varied units and factions, nice missions and level designs… I had loads of fun with it and am rejoiced than another of the same kind is in the pipes.

  14. BloodForTheBloodGod says:

    I have exact sentiments as Graham. Love to build a base as it gives significant depth to gameplay e.g. In Wargames’ ticket system all you needed were points and it meant all units are accessible from the beginning. It actually hurts immersion as I didn’t do something to get them, they are just.. there. It also results in generalization of unit traits and counters as any slightly OP unit will be spammed from beginning.
    Now go back to Rise of Natons, Supreme commander and Dawn of War : Dark crusade. The choices of base building, the gambit of prioritizing economy production and then reaping benefits in the form of an awesomely powerful unit which mows down your enemy was just too frigging awesome.

  15. SuicideKing says:

    I think anyone looking to play Wargame should read this guide.

    I was getting totally slaughtered in the easiest campaign (based on the Korean War) in Red Dragon till I read it.

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    Gap Gen says:

    This the problem with Western interventions; they show up with a single truck, construct a fortress city a few hundred yards away from where you live, mine all your crystals then rush a hundred tanks at your town.

  17. Smoky_the_Bear says:

    “Before Eugen Systems went big – in scale and, eventually, sales – with the Wargame series”

    This would seemingly be inaccurate, according to the Eugen website Wargame has failed to outsell both Act of War and Ruse. Although the website does appear to be out of date somewhat.

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    Almond Milk says:

    “I remember the exact same questions being raised when real-time strategy games first sliced away base building and harvesting mechanics. How little things have changed.”

    Nice, that’s the kind of insight and knowledge that signifies a long romance with a subject. Respect.

    “I am aware however that we haven’t covered the game enough, and have commissioned someone to write about it.”

    And this is why I love coming back to this site.

    I do enjoy a bit of base building as well. It’s always satisfying to create something.

    Edit: hotmess syntax

  19. sabasNL says:

    I liked R.U.S.E, I strongly disliked the Wargames (tried EE and ALB, didn’t even bother with RD), and I’m not gonig to trust Eugen again.

    I still don’t get why people praise Wargame, I found it a very mediocre game and a bad RTS while I’m at it.

    The amount of micromanagement was staggering, not because you had so much to do, but because of the clumsy and stupid unit AI. I wanted to feel like a general, but instead of that I felt like a teacher hopelessly trying to control a classroom of 36 raging monkeys.
    The controls were pretty bad for a game that required so much micromanagement, and the complexity of the game overall was unneeded and actually made the gameplay worse. Some developers tend to forget people play games for fun. It’s no use bombing the shit out of your enemy’s assault group when you don’t even have time to watch it all explode while laughing like a maniac; something World in Conflict, Company of Heroes, Command & Conquer and Total War do perfectly.

  20. P.Funk says:

    People complaining about how they bounced off this game or how its bad or annoying or whatever are being silly in my opinion. Playing Wargame is as close as I got to an Arma level of concern for mutual support of units and a great respect for cover while maintaining the joy and energy of a more classic RTS.

    I think many people can’t see the value of the game because they haven’t played one like it before and so they bounce off because “its not C&C” or whatever. Micro concerns are exaggerated. Unit AI is more than capable of killing enemies if you position them correctly.

    The problem for turtles in Wargame is that you can’t just build stuff that creates your defenses, you need to use terrain or else turtling doesn’t work. If you can’t read terrain and understand how to exploit it then you’re proper fucked and thats something I think most RTS gamers don’t comprehend with this game. The terrain actually matters. This isn’t Starcraft whree the tileset is cosmetic only. There is a depth to this game that the dismissers apparently miss.

    I read “I don’t understand why people praise this game” and all I can think is “No you really don’t.”

  21. Kollega says:

    This is very good news. Wargame was too… how do I put it… wargamey to me. It really was what was advertised on the tin, but wargames were never my genre. This though – it’s much more up my alley. I liked playing Act of War when it came out, and I hope that this time, they’ll improve on the formula, for example with some elements from R.U.S.E.