It's your daddy's strategy game
Wargame European Escalation lies somewhere between Men of War and the Total War series of games. Maybe even with a hint of Supreme Commander thrown in when it comes to you getting a really good look at the battlefield. If you like either of those games, chances are you'll enjoy this game.
The game has somewhat of a steep learning curve, and it doesn't do any kind of hand holding. The story of the campaign is extremely generic it's the 70s, cold war, bla bla bla, something happens that sets the whole ball in motion, shazam, shit hits the fan, time for fighting. The first 3 hours of the game felt pretty dull because every map looks the same, and I got the impression that there really wasn't anything separating one from the other. After a while you will notice that this isn't the case. The maps may look alike, but they are very different indeed. Once you start seeing just how important placement actually is in this game, the tactical differences between the maps become apparent. There's a tremendous amount of shrubs, forests, hedgerows, swamps and so forth on each map, and placing your units correctly becomes absolutely essential. Line of Sight is probably the most important factor. If you've played board games like Memoir '44 or any kind of miniatures game, this game has a lot of the same rules, only done in real time. In fact, it feels very much like a real time version of a miniatures war game.
Make no mistake, the primary focus of this game is on the multiplayer. From the little I've played online, the multiplayer seems to have great potential. I'm pretty bad at online RTS games so my enjoyment of multiplayer is hampered some by suckage, but the community seems OK with people being scrubs. Unlike what you'd expect to see in more hardcore competitive RTS games.
Seeing as the single player campaign is pretty poor, I would actually advice you to play the first ten or so missions of the campaign to get a nice batch of stars(stars are used for unlocking units). At that point you'll have enough of them to build yourself a decent deck for either faction; NATO or PACT. NATO consists of the US, West Germany(BRD), the UK and France. The PACT, or more commonly known, the Warsaw Pact, consists of The Soviet Union, East Germany (DDR) CSSR(First wikipedia entry for CSSR is Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric, which, for comedic effect, is what we'll go with) and Poland. You can think of decks as you would a deck in a collectible card game. You get 25 units (Variants of tanks don't count towards the total 25. So if you add the M1 Abrams, the M1IP Abrams and the M8 AGS will be yours to use in that deck provided you've unlocked those variants.) per deck, and after 10 or so single player missions you will have enough stars to unlock somewhere around 20 units on both sides. That should be enough to start honing your skills vs the AI in skirmish mode to get ready for multiplayer, either player versus player (1v1 up to 4v4) or yee olden comp-stomp.*
As for unit types. There are tons of units in this game. Some are subtypes of base units, like the soviet T-80 has a total of 5 variants, the newer and more powerful versions costing more to deploy. There are five different unit classes, if you will. Logistics, Recon, Tanks, Infantry, Support, Vehicles and Helicopters. I know I said five, and I'll stick to that because that's the number my mind came up with at the time, even though my fact checking proved otherwise. It's important to have a variety of these units. You will always want recon units to spot the enemy early, because the enemy often uses forests for cover, and with no recon units, all you'll see are shells striking your units and you have nothing to fire back at. You'll want some infantry even if they are cumbersome to lug around. Infantry costs very little, and is great for fortifying forest edges or towns, and they can be a real pain in the ass for tanks and choppers. Another key aspect, aside from tanks and choppers which will be your primary damage dealers, is the need for logistics units. Logistics units are basically supply trucks and choppers. You'll need these to keep your forces all fuelled and ammoed up. If your front lines are out of ammo, especially anti tank missiles, which each vehicle typically has very few of, they'll crumble in a matter of minutes. This is kind of a nightmare until you get used to shipping fuel trucks back and forth between your resource base and front line. I could go on and on for ever about every minute detail... There's a lot of stuff going on in this game, and it's a hard game to write about as it's pretty different from other RTS games.
A few key things that separate it from your traditional C&C/StarCraft type RTS:
- Large maps
- No base building what so ever
- Cover system in form of forests and whatnot
- Terrain having an influence on vehicle performance. Example: Driving fuel trucks through swamps often means they'll get stuck for a given period. Driving tanks through dense forests can sometimes make them lose a track.
- Having to keep your units repaired, supplied with fuel and ammo.
- An alarmingly low percentage of crazy assholes ranting and raving when playing online.
- Heavy focus on line of sight/scouting.
If you want a real time version of a more serious large scale war game, this is as close as you'll get. It's a really good strategy game, and most people seem to like it. I'm actually somewhat surprised about how little coverage it's gotten. On launch day there were huge banners all over Steam, and also over on RPS, yet almost no reviews to be found anywhere.
*Comp stomping is not yet available, developers say they'll have that out within a month