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Interview: Men Of War: Assault Squad

DigitalMindSoft's CEO Chris Kramer recently got in touch with us to insist that we talk to him about recently announced co-op/skirmish semi-sequel Men Of War: Assault Squad. We let out a long sigh, to pretend we weren't puppyishly excited, and then began our questioning. You can discover the results below.

RPS: Hero units?! Isn't that a bit out of keeping with the general rough realism of the game?

Kramer: Sounds frightening for hardcore fans, doesn’t it? What we mean with heroes, are companies or individuals that had a big impact on certain battles during the war, or equipment that was seen extremely rare on the battlefield in general. In fact, by adding this system to both skirmish and multiplayer, we will see rare tanks much less than we did in Men of War and thus increase realism. In skirmish you have one type of hero to choose from, he has better equipment and skills but no 'special abilities', if he’s dead, he’s dead. In multiplayer you choose out of 6 special units, of which some are less powerful than others, but they will drain less of your special unit resources (which are extremely rare) and are available earlier in the game.

So players have to choose wisely, for instance between a well-equipped infantry of sorts that will be available during early- or mid-game or a super heavy unit that could possibly come out too late to have an impact on the result of the game at all. So it’s an interesting decision between trying to defeat your enemy quickly with units like Veteran Snipers or Goliaths or trying to assure your victory close to the end of the match with a unit like a KV-2, Veteran Tiger and similar.

In Addition, our resource system has been reworked so heavy tank spam is prevented and everything beyond a Tiger or Pershing won’t be seen very often with standard game settings. So it may sound very arcade, but both features combined provide a more realistic and interesting gameplay at the same time.

None-the-less, for people who don’t like it, we integrated custom settings in multiplayer that allow to disable all such units or super heavy tanks in general. Or contrary to that, allow to set up a game with lots of super-heavies to have big slugfests.

RPS: How do you feel about the way Men Of War was received by Western audiences? I mean, previous games from Best Way seemed to gain some critical favour, but there seemed to be real excitement about Men Of War - is that true?

Kramer: We are very happy with how well Men of War has done in reviews and the general feedback of our users. Even a year after release, we have a steady increase of new players to the game, though in my opinion we are still below the potential publicity and excitement we can achieve with the series. This is something we are trying very hard to change with Men of War: Assault Squad.

RPS: Can you talk a bit about why you decided to produce Assault Squad? Do you really think there's enough of an audience for a multiplayer-focused RTS of this kind?

Kramer: Actually I think it’s the future of the market as a whole, whether people wish to share their singleplayer achievements online with friends, play cooperative missions with them, or set up competitive matches with random players. They all can be connected through a much more online focused game without leaving anyone out. The skirmish mode with its 15 missions for 5 factions generates a lot of offline singleplayer value as well. So regarding the reason why we decided to produce Assault Squad, we have a lot of trust in this concept. We've seen how well the online community of Men of War is doing and we see a lot of potential to make Men of War a lot better than it is. In fact, we will push even harder into this direction in the future.

RPS: The idea of being able to set up skirmish co-op games with friends online sounds intriguing - can you talk exactly what sort of options we'll have available? Perhaps talk through the user experience a bit?

Kramer: Our skirmish is not just random bots vs. player on the very same multiplayer maps everyone knows, for each faction we have 3 huge exclusive maps that are filled with strategic points to capture over extremely diversified landscapes. These points provide new units and resources players can use. Also of great importance is that players share their budget and spend it together to buy new troops. The options we give players is to choose between 5 nations (USA, Germany, Soviet Union, Commonwealth, Japanese Empire) and 4 difficulty modes, ranging from easy to heroic. The higher the difficulty mode the less resources players have right from the start and the more the AI will vary its forces. That means, new players may start off with easy, once they improved their skills and are up for the next challenge, they will try skirmish on normal, now the AI will use different type of units and more powerful ones, the same will happen when changing from normal to hard, those people who are up for the ultimate challenge play heroic and face a furious AI throwing the best of the best at you. So in each difficulty mode you will see different equipment used by the enemy, increasing the longevity of the game mode a lot.

RPS: How much do you value modding and user-generated materials? The editor was pretty versatile before, but do you have plans to release any more tools?

Kramer: See, we evolved out of the modding community as well, so we always feel attached to our modding community and try to support them whenever possible. Frankly speaking, we gave away most tools we are using ourselves. People are capable of exporting custom vehicles, weapons and any other objects to the gameworld, there is pretty much no scenario that can’t be added to the game, though it requires an enormous amount of dedication from our modding teams to create their very own gameworld. We are seeing a lot of mods that are focused on Vietnam, Sci-Fi, Modern Warfare etc. Mods of high quality require a generous amount of time to be developed so we expect many mods to come out for Men of War over the course of the year that were in development. With a few small tweaks they are compatible with Men of War: Assault Squad and will look even better!

RPS: Related, a few readers mentioned how much they enjoyed using the dynamic campaign generator mod. Any plans for something like that?

Kramer: Yes we do have, for quite some time actually. I will put it this way, if we succeed as we hope we do with Men of War: Assault Squad, it’s something that’s certainly a possibility for Men of War 2. Please bear with me that I can’t unveil details, I only can say that I think that online games (especially coop) and dynamic (online) campaigns are the future for the series.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

This is being tested at the minute, which you can, er, pay to join in with, for some reason. Anyway, we have a completely best hands-on preview coming up soon. Hooray!

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