A long time has passed since the release of a decent, turn based strategy title. So it was only natural that the, although perhaps a little small - but none the less very enthusiastic -, community interested in turn based strategy was more than excited when TriNodE Entertainment announced it was developing a turn based strategy title taking place during World War I.
The development of 1914 wasn’t without problems and hurdles although. The original publisher, Fishtank Interactive, was acquired by JoWood Productions and TriNodE Entertainment itself had to announce insolvency just 2 months ago. During the last months the release of 1914 was uncertain but JoWood did its best to bring the gaming world this highly anticipated title. And now it is here ...
“Great engine - for a turn based game”
Personally I never understood why most turn based strategy games up to date always looked so cheap. On the other hand the word “cheap” is perhaps the very problem itself. With the turn based player community being not as big as others, developers and publishers alike perhaps didn’t want to risk their investment and always saved money by the means of keeping the graphical quality to a minimum and the success of a game often depended on the gameplay component alone.
TriNodE on the other hand made one thing clear from the very beginning - THEIR game would have decent graphics. And they kept their promise. Compared to other reference titles from this genre 1914 comes up with a nice 3D engine with a lot of detail put into every aspect. Only one of the features which makes 1914 unique compared to other turn based strategy titles is that units don’t freeze once they have completed their move. The soldiers inspect their weapons or have a good stretch while waiting for your next move.
The landscapes look realistic - although perhaps a little desolated from time to time - and the more than 60 units are so detailed they can stand up to many RTS games. Some players I have talked to even asked me when this RTS game will be released. They were quiet surprised that a turn based strategy game can look so good.
The free camera gives you a good over view of the battlefield at all times although you have to get used to the auto centre - can you say feature? - which flashes the screen black to reappear with the now selected unit in the middle. A little odd when you select a unit which is in direct neighbourhood to the unit you had selected before.
“Click, click, click, click, click”
The gameplay will offer no great surprises to experienced “generals”. You move your units in position and - hopefully with a tactical advantage - attack the enemy. Sadly the AI is only average form what I can say. The strength of the computer player often only depends on his supremacy in numbers which makes tactical deployment of your forces even more important - except to be annihilated the first few times if you aren’t experienced.
Besides the warfare on ground you can also control planes for aerial combat and bombardment flights. Red Baron anyone? Sadly TriNodE decide to not include any naval units since they had the opinion that all relevant battles of World War were fought on ground and in the air. In my humble opinion this is only partly correct but TriNodE decided to take this approach.
Besides the basic commands like attack and movement the player can issue unique commands to special units. The player can use Pioneer units to construct barbwire-barriers or to remove obstacles or use ammo trucks to reload larger cannons.
Personally I felt that 1914 is missing some small (and bigger) features in gameplay although what might be excusable since the company already lacked money during the final steps of development. Features like the possibility to give a unit auto move commands to certain positions or the possibility to issue attack commands to several units at once would have been nice features. Especially later in the campaign when you command 20 units and more it is sometimes a question of endurance for the player - and get a spare mouse to be on the save side. The lack of research possibilities, no way of unit or building production, and no form of diplomacy are all features which often CAN’T be found in turn based strategy titles. The lack of ALL these features is a little disturbance of its own.
“The bad and the ugly”
Nowadays it happens way too often that games are released full of bugs and issues and often some players can’t play at all before they install a patch. The fear that a game like 1914 which was finished under financial pressure might be a candidate for a “bug fest” is understandable and as expected it isn’t without flaws. With TriNodE being not existent anymore players might fear that they will be left alone with their problems but JoWood ascertained me that players can trust in their support regarding every problem they might encounter.
Two bugs I encountered while playing I wan to mention here.
The first includes problems with the tutorial menu which won’t show the next tutorial entry unless you click on the tutorial menu button again (the previous entry will open without flaw on the other hand) which is no problem once you know how to circumvent it.
The second one is perhaps more serious and I hope it wont happen too often. The AI sometimes has problems finding its way around the map, especially when several units are close to each other. Once an enemy unit wanted to change position - but instead of getting where it wanted it collided with one of its own units but kept moving and moving - still standing on the same field - until it ran out of movement points. An annoyance for sure which I hope will be fixed if it happens noticeably often - personally I encountered it twice in about 3 hours of gameplay.
Concerning the graphic engine alone 1914 is definitely the new turn base strategy reference. But slight flaws in the control system and annoying, but perhaps in a future patch removable, bugs in the AI prevent the title from claiming the genre throne although. Hardcore turn base fans shouldn’t miss this one anyway since it not only offers great graphics but is also finally an other title covering the first World War.