Wargame: Red Dragon Review

Wargame: Red Dragon Review

There’s often an argument that modern games lack a sense of depth, perhaps even a lack of attention to detail, Wargame: Red Dragon shreds this argument to pieces. The Wargame series strives for the most in-depth tactical realism to make the best use of the staggering array of real-world military units found in the game. Red Dragon expands the series further, increasing the amount of units on offer along with new campaigns, armies and the addition of naval combat. With all this range and depth, Red Dragon is a demanding beast.

At its core, Wargame: Red Dragon is all about tactical decisions and ensuring units match up well. On the whole, a player’s army is only effective if built correctly. Each unit has a counter unit ensuring a strong sense of balance in the spine of the game. This core value results in each mission never being an easy win, as the tides of battle can turn at any given time. This is where Red Dragon comes into its own; the notion of losing the most valuable unit in a heartbeat gives each movement and decision a real sense of importance.

Where a large section of RTS titles allow the player some wiggle room to recover from mistakes, Red Dragon is relentless. Not planning a certain step, or overlooking an enemy movement, can set off more than one problem. Much like a domino effect, one mistake can result in an abundance of failure across the board. Battles aren’t won by simply posting units onto the field; planning and appreciation for ‘what if’ plays a major role, resulting in some truly nerve-wracking skirmishes.

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Satisfaction is a feeling that will often consume the player. There is a sense of euphoria when a perfectly laid-out plan is carried out without a single botch. Seeing an enemy position via recon, moving in appropriate units, taking said position, is all hugely fulfilling. The feelings are further enhanced by the sharp visual presentation. Environments react to the battles they host, with burning forests and crumbling buildings. The power of the player’s units is fully on display, pixel by pixel. Being an armchair general has never looked so good.

While keeping a focused eye on the action close up is hugely enjoyable, it’s not exactly a good idea. The battle is still raging, and with the player zoomed in on one area, they become blind to actions going on elsewhere, which is never a good thing. It’s slightly annoying that zooming in on the action is nothing but a short spectacle if the player wants to be successful in the grand scheme of things. This is also a point that effects the Naval combat in a strange manner. The Naval combat feels like it’s using the lush visuals and zoomed-in camera view as its main selling point.

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While the Naval battles look stunning, when zoomed in the scale looks a little off. Ships appear too close together which detracts from the sense of realism Red Dragon nails in every other department. It’s a rather shallow complaint about a new addition to the franchise that legitimately enhances the overall product. There’s more enjoyment to be had from the Naval units when they are part of a broader land assault, rather than an exclusively Naval scenario.

As well as a multiplayer mode that keeps in tone with past titles, Red Dragon contains some rather impressive campaigns. While short in length, being pitted against North Korea in a second Korean War gives the game a slight sense of a ‘cheesy war film’ vibe. The campaign teaches the players the basics while exposing them to what the game is like at the higher grades. There’s a number of events in the campaign that allow the player to go on tours of various environments and situations, all with interesting narratives behind them. The campaigns result in the player learning the game while gaining an appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses of each army.

251060_screenshots_2014-05-27_00001The only real detracting issue of the single player is the A.I.. More often than not, they will deploy similar strategies and often repeat their unit selection. The A.I. is seemingly obsessed with rushing forward, allowing them to be easily defeated. There’s a slight issue that pops up for new players. The last thing they need is to be rushed without knowing the basic game. The lack of co-op feels a little bit odd, as each campaign feels like it could quite easily host an additional player.

The multiplayer is the main beef of Red Dragon. While the single-player portion is solid, the multiplayer is where the real joys are found. Facing off against human opponents in a battle of tactics is nothing short of thrilling. A large part of the multiplayer is all down to planning before the battle begins. This is where Red Dragon‘s ”Deck Builder” comes into play. Players build their army out of the units on offer in the deck builder; army restrictions are removed allowing players to pick and choose from across the globe. To balance this mix and match up, players are rewarded with reduced costs the more they stick with one army. Extra rewards can be achieved by building a specialized force e.g. armored force. It’s a system that keeps a sense of balance while naturally keeping a variety in each battle.

Wargame: Red Dragon isn’t a game for everyone. Its steep learning curve won’t appeal to everyone, nor will the unforgiving nature of the core gameplay. The learning phase can be overwhelming, often frustrating, but there are plenty of rewards for persistent players. There are a few odd bugs, mostly with the Naval units who often bump into each other, but nothing game-breaking or truly detracting. Single-player is a solid offering but remains a side order to the main meal that is multiplayer. It’s hard to deny the sheer sense of accomplishment when victory is achieved after a grueling tactical battle, and that is why Wargame: Red Dragon is a rewarding experience, as long as the player is dedicated to learning the craft.

 

 

Sean Halliday


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