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Brief Review: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly


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Good day, good people.


With launch of Warfare Online announced for May 8th I would like to write a brief review of the current state of the game as of April 27th. 



A first glance at Warfare Online leaves the impression of a polished game with nice GUI and straight-forward gameplay. The concept of fighting the enemy with five out of eight units in 1v1 combat is easy to grasp and the core mechanics are learned quickly. Soon players realize the importance of cover and the effectiveness of units types against other unit types despite the lack of explanation and numerical values that reveal damage, range, and so on.


As a newbie you may get overwhelmed by ambushes with vehicles or infantry that have superior gear but that belongs to the process of learning how to play well. Any sane person will tweak their platoon to include anti-tank measures and luckily you can test your setup against bots at a difficulty level of your choice. To avoid matchmaking with strangers you can challenge Steam friends which was a frequently requested feature. Though incentive to play friendly matches is decreased since it does not reward XP/credits/mission progress. Therefore you are back to fighting random people that may have a similar faction level but superior operation and support assets.



At this point you will do some research to find out how to upgrade your platoon and will find yourself constantly buying Supply Boxes that require you to spend hard earned gold which is the premium currency in this free-to-play game. Such a box gives you four random items that can be support/operation assets or little munitions. "Luckily" you can also craft certain assets directly but this action deducts munitions which is gained by opening supply boxes or salvaging existing assets. The cost of most useful assets is extremely high and therefore requires many hours of grinding.


Direct progress towards upgrades can only be made for units. By using them you gain XP which unlocks functional and cosmetics items that can be purchased with credits that are earned during matches or can be bought with gold. Some players may agree that upgrades are best put into increased range of infantry units since it allows you to shoot at enemies that are not charging against you at all while taking cover. Two or three snipers teams with enhanced range can take out plenty of enemies even if their damage is reduced.


Otherwise you can use fire support to take enemies out that are outside of your infantry's firing range. Mortars can kill enemies quickly and destroy cover to force enemies into advancing. There are more options to sabotage your enemies or even kill them directly with assets. Having the right assets on hand can be critical for success, but these are determined by RNG and therefore skill is neglected.


Eventhough there is some kind of rock-paper-scissors logic behind the gameplay (anti-tank team > tanks > other infantry) the lines get blurred by various upgrades that make infantry-only platoons viable. With the right assets you can defend against tanks easily and attack the enemy before they have depleted their reinforcements. Here you see that balance is a problem because there are constantly changes with many updates that turn some units useless and others overpowered. Perhaps it would be interesting to have air units as well? One may argue it will be hard to balance the game with additional unit types but I think it would promote diverse strategies and therefore make unfair clashes rare since they are only a few powerful platoon configurations right now.


Generally gameplay feels highly repetitive and may lead to burnout quickly. Conceding opponents do not contribute to fun and even worse are players who leave the match before it starts. This is a problem because there is no penalty for repeatedly preventing matches from starting.



Player cohesion is extremely low due to the non-existent teamwork since there is 1v1 gameplay only, and non-existent social system (for example no text or voice chat). No wonder that Warfare Online had an all-time peak of 199 players and is now down to a 24-hours peak of 23 players. I expect exposure in Steam Store may give a little boost upon release in May but I doubt players are going to stick around for long. Talking about store: Funding the game by purchasing premium account access is not attractive due to high prices: 180 days cost USD 74.99 which is a ridiculously high amount of money for nearly half a year of premium memership compared to other games.


Technically the game is poorly optimised eventhough it makes use of DirectX 11. At low settings I never hit more than 60 frames per second eventhough other games on my system exceed 120 fps. This issue is worse in PvP than in PvE matches.


In conclusion the good thing about Warfare Online is that you get an easy-to-learn game that lets you kill a few hours of spare time nicely, the bad thing is the lack of social interaction and the long-term motivation, and the ugly is the heavy tendency towards pay-to-win.


I hope CON comes up with heavy changes within the next two weeks to prevent the game from being a gritty money sink. A released game must have a solid quality to be taken seriously, otherwise they will continue to face a high ratio of leaving/registered players. I would love to see the community growing due to new players being attracted by a well-running and fun to play game.


I am looking forward to comments on these thoughts of mine.





EDIT: On second thought my opinion has slightly changed: The game is not so much pay-to-win but fails at rewarding skill because careful planning can be countered by luck.


For casual talk you are invited to join our social hub of fellow players by following this discord link: https://discord.gg/QjQc4DB

Edited by Manuhart, 27 April 2017 - 03:16 PM.

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I've waited until launch to respond to this.  In general, I agree with Manuhart's description of the game.  If anything I'm a little more positive about the game, but in general Manuhart is correct.


Here are some additional positives that I think got elided, and deserve praise:



1)  Warfare:1918 and the like are fun games, but there is this nagging doubt in your mind that the only reason you're winning is because you're against an idiot bot.  Warfare Online scratches the itch to learn what it would feel like to play one of these 1D tug of war games against a thinking, breathing human being.  I must say, at least the first few times it's extremely gratifying.


2)  The community on the Discord channel is excellent.  They are polite, funny and helpful.


3)  The post-battle feedback screen is excellent.  It gives the player detailed information about how they won or lost.



Here are my concerns:



1)  There is considerable dissonance between the presentation of the game and the actual experience.  The gameplay is taken more or less from Con's previous Warfare series.  The Warfare series up to this point have been casual games; flash-based in-browser time-wasters.  Warfare Online is, as Manuhart describes, a considerably higher production value affair.  There is a lot of professionally-made art, pretty splash screens, and a more complex (but somewhat opaque) deck-building mechanic.

But what does this game want to be, really?  Is it a casual game?  If it's a casual game, why are there minute-long waiting times in queue?  A casual game is about scratching that itch, right here, right now.  With the business about discarding support cards and the camera pan over the battlefield, it can be upwards of three minutes before the actual game part of the game actually starts.  That's an eternity by the standards of instant gratification.

But if it's supposed to be a more serious game, even a competitive game (there is an unused slot for "ranked" gameplay), then why is it so random?  The outcome of an engagement will frequently be decided by whether your units throw their grenades at the enemy or have a case of the stupids and throw them where the enemy used to be a few seconds ago, or if their pathfinding derps up, or how the randomly-generated pattern of an artillery strike falls, or whether the guy with the rocket launcher or the guy with the carbine bites it when they get engaged by a BTR's autocannon.  The outcome of any given game is extremely dependent on RNJesus.


2)  The UI needs work, badly.  I know that Con has a vision for this game, and a model of complex, subtle interplays between units and balance parameters... and nowhere in the game is any of this conveyed to the player.  There is an entire game mechanic "targeting" that is only mentioned through unlock descriptions.  Hitpoints, damage, movement speed, even range are only vaguely described.  Unlock descriptions are sometimes contradictory.  There is apparently an accuracy mechanic, as hinted at by asset and unlock text, but nowhere in the game is this mechanic explained.  There is apparently some sort of matchmaking elo system, but nowhere in the game could I find out what my elo is.

This relates back to my earlier point; I could see this sort of interface being adequate for a casual game, but the quality of art and other game assets betrays an ambition that this should be something more than a casual game.


Fundamentally, if you want your players to take the game seriously, the game needs to relate to the players in a way that takes them seriously.

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