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Blitzkrieg 3 Multiplayer Is All About That Base

Asynchronous real-time strategy

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Four people watch as my last infantryman falls to lead producer Oleg Burenko’s stupid (read: expertly placed) base defence systems at the Blitzkrieg 3 preview event. Then four people watch the big screen as the game runs through a replay of my failure. Oleg is now my nemesis although I do not know enough Russian to actually tell him so.

Monday’s to-do list therefore reads:

  • Learn Russian
  • Obliterate all of Oleg’s creations forever

We have been playing with Blitzkrieg 3’s asynchronous real-time strategy multiplayer mode.

So far it’s been billed as a blend of multiplayer and singleplayer that, as Graham pointed out, sounds a lot like Jason Rohrer’s online multiplayer home invasion game, The Castle Doctrine. My preview session with the developers, Nival, bears out that comparison and fills in some of the blanks. I’ll explain more about that in a moment but first an overview of Blitzkrieg.

The Blitzkrieg franchise is firmly entrenched in Second World War RTS territory. You peer down at battlefields, organising and deploying units, listening to barks and trying to achieve objectives. Blitzkrieg 3 doesn’t want to stray from these basics but Nival do recognise the shift in how players are willing to use their time, hence their current approach to multiplayer.

As Anatoly Subbotin (Nival’s PR director) puts it in our chat, “The hair and the costumes played a bigger role [in hair metal] than the music itself. Then came Nirvana and Kurt Cobain who actually stripped everything to the core and the music. That’s what we’re wanting to do – stay with strategy and bring that back for Blitzkrieg 3.”

Nival-na.

The session was focused on the multiplayer aspects of the game but it will also have three historical singleplayer campaigns, one for each of the factions (Allies, USSR and Axis). These campaigns feature a number of missions with varying objectives taking maybe 30 minutes if you’re good at RTS like Oleg, an hour if you’re averagely skilled.

  • Learn Russian
  • Obliterate all of Oleg’s creations forever
  • Complete single player missions in 29 minutes

Blitzkrieg 3’s multiplayer mode is an evolution of an older idea. “Base attack mode was probably the most popular in the previous Blitzkrieg games so this is why we decided to continue with this mode,” says Anatoly. “It wasn’t asynchronous, it was live synchronised, but nowadays if you wanted to play a synchronised multiplayer you’d need to find a friend who matches you and then you need that person to have two or three hours to play with you at this exact point.”

What happens this time around is you build a base and then pepper it with defences and traps. Once you’ve finished it becomes available so other players can attempt an attack. If they’re successful they can win some of your resources and vice versa. The defences themselves are controlled by the AI while the attacking forces operate in real time under the control of the attacking player. Green blobs on the map are the resource points the defending player is trying to protect, yellow blobs are extra resources which they can protect if they fancy and which the attacker can try to pick up to plump up their reward. Each unit you place fills up a portion of a bar which acts as a limit and prevents you just building a base that consists of five thousand tanks and turrets.

Essentially you’re designing a mission which is intended to thwart other players. When you’re done you can head off to work or, like, beginners’ Russian lessons or whatever while people try to deal with your tanks and mines and other nonsense. Upon returning you’ll find out how many attempts were successful and, crucially, be able to watch all the replays so you’ll learn about different playstyles and their strengths and weaknesses.

If you know The Castle Doctrine you’ll have picked up on the similarities – build, leave, assess, rebuild – although Rohrer’s game has a provocative sheen thanks to how it touches on current contentious home/self defence legislation as well as how Rohrer chose to market the game, none of which you’ll find in Blitzkrieg 3.

Another element where the different conceit produces a different experience is the self-testing. In The Castle Doctrine Rohrer forced you to conduct self-testing to ensure it was possible to escape the house you’d created. It was possible to die and lose everything simply while navigating to your own front door. With Blitzkrieg 3 you can play against the base you’ve created but it’s an optional experience to help you check for weaknesses in the defence.

This is a PR screenshot by the way. My campaign was a total mess of death

Nival refer to it as “selfie multiplayer” and it’s this mode which I was using to play against Oleg. I watched him build up his base defences – a tank production building here, a turret there on the highground, some Czech hedgehogs to funnel you into a lovely stretch of mines as you attempted to cross a narrow path… then tried to remember how to deal with any of that stuff as he pushed the mouse into my hand and invited me to go on the offensive.

A light armoured car helped me scout thanks to its long visibility range. Well. It helped me scout when I wasn’t accidentally running it into trees and knocking them down. Key areas marked with red borders appeared. In order to capture those you must capture everything within that area. I could see a tank Oleg had hidden in a bush and wondered how best to deal with it. I took several of my own tanks and headed over. A mortar salvo helped me take care of some mines at the top of the slope just to the left of the hidden tank, then I blew up the tank and a couple of turrets. My troops advanced further into the clearing and decimated a house containing an infantryman, but gradually (read: incredibly quickly) the number of casualties on my side built until everyone and everything in that subdivision was dead. Time for the stragglers to save the day…

The stragglers did not save the day, although liberal use of support options like Howitzer and mortar salvos helped me shove further than I’d anticipated from my spawn point on the opposite side of the river towards Oleg’s nest of resources. Just throwing iron and blood at weaponised structures was a non-optimal strategy. At least he couldn’t queue up actions and had to leave the majority of the unit behaviour for the AI (you can give basic commands though, like tell particular units not to move towards targets). I am suddenly very jealous of World War II buffs who could probably tell you exactly which tanks I should have been using at any given time along with their range and hardiness.

  • Learn Russian
  • Obliterate all of Oleg’s creations forever
  • Complete single player missions in 29 minutes
  • Become an expert on everything about World War II

I wish my campaigns looked like the work of a deliberate strategist. I mean, how is that so hard?

“Will there be a way of finding a particular person’s bases and trying to destroy them?” I ask, subtly trying to work out how best to destroy Oleg’s things. “For example, if Oleg was my nemesis could I restrict multiplayer to finding his creations and then beating them?”

“Right now we don’t have that implemented but it might be part of our social system,” is creative producer Larisa Nuretdinova’s answer. Nival aren’t really ready to talk about the social aspects yet, they say. The most they’re ready to confirm is that there will be leaderboards, clans and level-based matchmaking.

They’re more forthcoming about the pricing options though. Blitzkrieg 3 is not going free-to-play. Instead there will be an upfront cost for the core game (encompassing single and multiplayer options) and then charges for particular pieces of DLC. There is another element which draws on free-to-play mentality, though and that’s a premium account option for multiplayer. Anatoly likens it to Golden Age in Nival’s MOBA, Prime World. Golden Age lets you speed up progression, cutting down the amount of time you need to spend on developing your base and increasing the rate at which you earn rarer talents. In Blitzkrieg 3 a premium account will have a similar function. It won’t unlock any super-powered units but what it will do is give you access to the content and options you would earn playing regularly a bit faster. It also boosts the amount of resources you get for succeeding against your opponents. It’s impossible to assess whether that idea works or feels reasonable without being able to see it in practice, but yes, they’re talking pay-to-save-time rather than pay-to-win.

The game’s closed alpha starts in mid-February and an official release date is planned for 2015. Two weeks. That’s plenty of time to learn a new language and become an expert in a genre, right?

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