The British Are Coming (To Squad) And Other Developments

 

Now for something we’ve all been waiting patiently for! Okay, okay… maybe a massive bit of hyperbole there on my part, but to me the exaggeration is closer to the reality of how I feel about this.

Squad fans, especially those from the British Isles are excited after having been given more of a look at the upcoming addition to the conventional armies of the game. Something that has been in the works since the Kickstarter campaign first began back in 2015. Today I’m going to take a look at what is in store for us fans and what we can expect from the British army faction. I have to say it’s seeming very good to me indeed and it looks like the team of developers from Offworld Industries have been having some fun along the way;

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Alongside the new addition of the British army I’m going to check out a few of the other upcoming updates due this year, that I haven’t yet touched upon. As well as a couple of thoughts and suggestions my pals and I have had on what changes we might like to see implemented.

 

 

The British Army

Okay … yes of course I am biased but the British army coming to squad is a big deal. I now get to play around with the kit and weaponry that the army of my country uses, as well as some of their pretty cool looking vehicles! Despite my obvious bias, it has to be admitted that objectively this is going to be good for the game all round in adding more diversity to it.
Check out this sneak peek at the funky looking British army truck;

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Here’s a little preview of a run-around with a British soldier, showing off the SA80 sights (I believe) and the British LSW (Light Support weapon) with its SUSAT sights, a 4×4 magnified scope which was developed by and still largely used by the British;

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The uniforms are looking spot on as does the weapons and the truck, in fact everything I’ve seen so far. They’ve done great with the models and I can’t wait to get to a grip on the look and feel of their vehicles, equipment and weaponry to see how they all handle, look and sound. As well as what their FOB builds look like, I wonder how they’ll add a British touch to them. This is the update I am most looking forward to but now let us take a look at more great updates due to come this year.

 

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More Models For Insurgent Forces

Adding more variety to the models of the insurgent faction is a very important thing to do and I’ll tell you why. This will better reflect the look of these unconventional military groups, further adding to the realism of the game through mirroring the real world. These unprofessional military units are usually more of a rag tag militia of civilians turned fighters and so have random equipment and limited uniforms, if any. This will do wonders for the immersive realism in the visuals of the game and I can’t wait to see them out and about when they’re released.
Boy are we in for a treat as in my opinion the models are looking pretty tasty and capture the authentic middle-eastern militant aesthetic chic, if you will;

 

 

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Insurgent 5

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As you can see from these pictures there is some nice variety that captures the truth of the forces much more distinctly. They truly look like the casual civilians turned fighters that a great many on the battlefields of today are in that sphere of conflict, swept up into the wars that have enveloped their nations.

 

 

Up-armoured Technicals

Another update for the insurgents this time with regards to vehicle types, with the adding of makeshift up armouring on some Technicals. This emulates the grim reality of the real world conflicts in the Middle-East, as these feature heavily in the arsenal of jihadist and rebel groups, using whatever engineering knowledge, equipment and scrap metal at their disposal to make their weaker vehicles stronger. Resulting in some mad max style post-apocalyptic looking armoured get ups. Allowing their vehicles to withstand more punishment as well as ensuring their VBIEDs (vehicle borne improvised explosive devices) get closer to the kill zone and in so doing, making them miles more effective.

 

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Here are some pretty tame and rational looking versions, but these vehicle creations that were spawned out of war necessity range on a spectrum of pretty well done as above, to just plain bizarre. Here let me illustrate that end for you;

 

 

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Seems more Star Wars than our wars don’t it?! So what are the developers of Squad offering for our insurgents’ vehicular arsenal? Let’s take a look and find out!

 

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Pretty dead on and true to life looking, these vehicles will operate differently to how the less armoured bog standard techies work at the moment. Instead of being fast and unable to take much punishment, more suited for fast drop offs, careful support and extractions. These uparmoured versions will trade speed and handling for the ability to take more punishment. Making them much better for sustained support and perhaps even challenging the better armed and armoured conventional faction vehicles. That is … if you get the drop on them or drop in on them with an IED attached ready to blow.

 

 

Guided Missile Systems

Squad is getting its first guided missile systems introduced this year, in the form of the BGM-71 TIW, complete with a long distance magnification sight. It will be a bane for vehicle drivers but a much needed defence for infantry that will find them very useful on American FOBs, as the US are the faction these will belong to. All too often one vehicle can bring a badly or even well placed FOB to its knees even with anti-tank infantry, so perhaps these will give a bit more of a bite to FOBs under fire from vehicles. They can fire over a very large distance very accurately, can’t wait to see them flying through the air taking out the Russian 30mm BTRs. They’ve been destroying me recently and I am still holding grudges.

 

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Here’s a Gif of what the optics look like and how it fires;

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Heavy Machine Gun And SPG Optics

Both conventional factions are getting kitted out with better optics for their heavy machine gun classes. The US M2A1 Browning will get an M145 ACOG scope optic;

 

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And the Russian NSV will get an SPP optic for their heavy support weapon;

 

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Now I absolutely love ‘laying down some hate’ with these high round capacity fast firing killing machines, they’re great for suppressing enemies who are attacking or those your squad are attacking. It’s a versatile support weapon and now with optics will become even more effective and accurate as it can be hard shooting with iron sights beyond mid-range. Especially if you’re as awful as spotting enemies as I am, that’s why I always favour optics and am looking forward to getting a go with them as I spray hot lead to better effect.
As well as the heavy MGs getting optics, the SPG is going to get a new optic that will make it much more accurate and easier to use at range. Something I find will be welcomed since your first shot must count, with the length of time it takes to reload and all. Now you can judge range and target better giving you more chance of getting that first shot on. Check out how the optics look and what looking down the sight looks like below;

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Realistic Armour Thickness

Another update for the realms of realism – relative vehicle armour thickness and how well it would withstand being hit by munitions. Meaning vehicle drivers will have to consider what areas are exposed and be mindful of enemy movements in efforts to reach a clear shot of their weak spots.

 

wastefulshockedasianpiedstarling-size_restrictedfantasticmajesticarcticfox-size_restrictedConversely anti-tank classes will need to be wary of where they’re hitting the target for maximum efficiency. A nice touch bringing more aspects of MilSim realism and tactics into play.

 

New Maps And Updates

It’s clear that Offworld must be perfectionists or at the very least care about their game and its fans enough to constantly be improving and updating things. I like this, as they stated in their press release ‘with a new year comes a new year of mapping!’ To those who play the same map rotation over and over again and possibly getting a little tired of them this will be a god send.

The map Kohat is being expanded to improve areas that are empty and providing more variety alongside more capture points. The most exciting addition I think is the proof that the plan to add helicopters is coming closer to fruition! A new US army FOB is going to be put in …. complete with HELICOPTER LANDING PADS!!!! Get in.

 

Kohat

A number of other maps are being expanded and retrofitted in areas, adding more in buildings and ruins as well as new roads to make vehicles more utilisable and able to move quickly with more options. A new map known as Kamdesh Highlands is also in development with the subject matter being a rugged area of Afghanistan featuring lush pine forests and hilly terrain perfect for ambushes.

 

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  There is also some news on what has been a project in the pipeline for quite some time, the map Fallujah. They are moving on to the second phase of creating the city working on large buildings that will reside in the city centre. Looking to be ready by the end of the year, so check for monthly updates. The layout below shows it’s a pretty urban map, with heavily built up areas.

 

 

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Thoughts And Suggestions

Sometimes my buddies and I like to play in smaller tight knit squads and not have to deal with the hassle of leading a full squad of random people who often don’t listen or are back seat squad leaders. We got to thinking perhaps there should be a number of different squad types and set ups. Say a dedicated 4 person Anti-Tank team or perhaps a 6 person vehicle squad with drivers, gunners and support infantry for two vehicles. Just an idea that might add a little bit more flexibility in what type of squad you can play as effectively with smaller numbers.  I don’t know what people think about this one, if you have any thoughts feel free to leave a comment.

Another thought was more randomised patterns and variants in capture point progression in already existing maps, this would keep them fresher and give a different playing experience with each different layout. Not a massive issue and seems to be something that the mapping team are constantly working on as noted above. However just a thought that would keep older maps feeling newer without having to develop or build too much, less work but with similar effects to tide us heavy players over between expansions and new maps.

 

 

Clearly Squad is an ever developing game that does justice in capturing the look and simulated experience of some of the biggest contemporary theatres of war. It really aims to be authentic with enthusiasm and zeal and just looking at what they have planned, they’re hitting the mark. I’m just so eager to see what else they’ve got envisaged for this game and its future with every announced update, I can’t wait for the next, despite the game being great as is Offworld Industries just keep making it better.

Total War Saga: Thrones Of Britannia- A New Legacy For Some Old Familiar

 

 

Developed by Creative Assembly, Total War is a game series for history enthusiasts and strategy game lovers alike. Spanning many ages and geographical locations, from the Shogun age of Japan, the Roman ages all the way through to the times of the Napoleonic Wars and the age of Empire which featured new continents as the known world expanded. Most recently the franchise has dived head first into a series of Warhammer Fantasy Total War games to great success.

Just take a look at Creative Assemblys’ long lineage of titles beginning at the start of this millennium with Shogun, they’ve started to become a part of our history themselves;
Total war list

This article will be focusing on the Thrones of Britannia title, which has been pushed back to be released on the 3rd of May. Good, you can’t rush a good thing. Unless you’re just in it for the money ….
For those of you who don’t know the franchise I’ll give you a quick rundown on the style and gameplay of it just to set the scene a little, those of you who do. Maybe skip this section now and move on to the next subheading where I get stuck into the newest instalment.

It is essentially a grand strategy campaign map in the vein of the classic Civilization games of the 90’s and beyond, but with the twist of real time strategy combat thrown in. To speak of it in 90’s gaming terms of antiquity it’s as if the Civ and Command and Conquer series had a child at the turn of the millennium. Kinda …  I’m getting a bit carried away there, but I digress.

What I’m saying is, this series combines RTS battle gameplay and tactics with a large-scale grand strategy turn based campaign map which features management of different aspects of your faction, from keeping the populace happy, city building, tech researching to army building. As well as of course army movement and depending on which TW game you’re talking about, potentially much more.

But usually the faction management isn’t too in depth like other such grand strategy games, for example, Crusader Kings which has a great more deal to consider and deal with. TW on the other hand is usually simpler than most but with enough depth to make your decisions matter and for you to take note of your actions, for the most part of the series at least. I felt it lacking in some titles. Overall though I find you can take control without things getting too bewildering, which is a plus for a simpleton such as I who manages to give away my entire kingdom in Crusader Kings with a simple confused click.

I love this intertwining of slow, turn based planning and decision making combined with the faster paced action of unit based RTS combat of large scale armies. It’s just a mix that works so well, as I find I often get disinterested without controlling units in combat and feel like I’m watching the computer play out the game for me personally when I can’t influence battles directly. I like to have a say in things at a ground level as well as at an overarching god emperor level.

Without further ado onto the game at hand and what’s new and old this time round with a focus on what I’m looking forward to and what I’m fearful of…
Setting And Historical Focus

Since my younger days I have always wanted a TW game that focused on an historical aspect of my home islands … small though they may be, there has been some big history here, as with most places. I’ve always wanted to see one that focused on the isles where I was born, being biased and all, so I’m super excited about this one and supposedly it’s going to be the most detailed version of Britain ever to feature yet, 23 times bigger than the Atilla campaign map! Which is interesting considering the size of the subject matter being one of the smallest areas of land dealt with, more on that later.

Britannia takes place after the eventful saga of Viking Ragnar Lodbroks’ epic insurgencies into the British Isles through which the raiders from the North gained a foothold amongst the existing kingdoms. Ragnar died at the hands of the Anglo-Saxons, his sons swiftly took revenge raiding the isles and splintering kingdoms in a trail of slaughter that swept westwards. This game is focused around the clash of kingdoms between the Welsh, Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon and both the Great Viking army and Great Viking sea kings. Your fight to rule Britannia will ensue between these clashing cultures and ambitious powers.

Check out this trailer that does more justice than I in setting the scene for the newest fight you’ll be swept up in for your quest to make history;

 



As a history lover in general, with a particular penchant for this period of time in the formative years of the now apparently ‘United’ Kingdom in which I live, I cannot wait to play out this saga. And am looking forward to seeing how the history aspect of the different cultures and lands plays out in this one. Something TW is usually pretty good on although not always 100% in the name of balance and gameplay. Which as a self-proclaimed semi history buff can be forgiven, if it makes it a more enjoyable experience, after all it’s foremost a game and not History 101.

 
Campaign Map And Style

As previously mentioned (as far as my geography knowledge goes) this is the smallest location ever put into TW form,  and it is the most detailed map of Britain yet.  Splintered down into many provinces inhabited by a wide variety of factions, 10 of them playable. As can be seen below;
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Each province has a capital city with a web of connected smaller and weaker towns unfurling outwards across the land about the capital. I suppose this is where the most detailed part comes in. There are much more building slots for capitals focusing on military and more prestigious buildings, with the little orbiting towns being more focused around fewer slots and economy slots more specifically. However, of course these profitable towns and villages are smaller easier targets and so being, must be protected more closely or can be exploited in enemy territory.

I think this will suit the play style of factions well and add dynamism to the game, what with the raiding and pillaging of Vikings as well as the castle and garrison style warfare of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms for example. I feel this will do nicely especially since there’s so much more to focus on strategically and tactically in both defensive and offensive situations, with the extra detail added. Nice one but as ever we shall see how it works once released.

If you’d like to know more in depth facts about the map and the historical aspects of it as well as size comparison to previous games, check out TWs’ blog post map reveal here.

Just a quick note on style, I love the sort of ‘Ye Olde’ look they’ve gone for with the unit cards and character portraits, nice to the eye and thematically pleasing as well as varied enough to tell units apart. See below;

 

 

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Tech And Recruitment

 

Now for something a bit different and new, which I think in theory sounds grand. Instead of your unit upgrades being linked to what level buildings you have, they are now to be linked to what tech you have. Sounds much more logical and realistic if you ask me, you wouldn’t need to rebuild training grounds every time you get a new type of advanced unit, just the equipment and training really, right?  So once the required training grounds are completed, you need to upgrade using your tech tree choices.

Tech is also more difficult to reach, making you work more for those unlocks and advancements. You have to meet prerequisites such as having enough of a specific unit type before being able to research further down the line of tech. It’s more learning by doing than just choose, click, and wait. More of a goal to aim for. Additionally there are restrictions on the type of tech re-searchable by each faction that can be unlocked by discovering their potential from other locales and cultures on the map.  The building options remain geographically specific, however you can unlock the tech to utilise them once you venture into these areas and capture them.

Again, logical and realistic I feel. Making the maps location more geographically meaningful and influential, something I’ve always liked in TW games, with regards to holding resources and region specific unit types. So glad to see this being taken into account with tech giving variety to play style depending who and where you are.

When you unlock units to recruit, armies that are in the stance ‘fortify’ can recruit from a global pool wherever they are on the map. Not exactly new, except when you take into account you do not get the full unit, only a quarter of their full size.  You must spend longer, waiting turns to muster them up to the complete outfit. I think that to be a nice touch that also brings a bit of, (third mention now) logical realism to the matter and I’m a sucker for the more realistic side of gaming so am very happy about all this. It brings a nice bit of balance and another side of strategy to it, meaning that you can’t just whip up massive hordes if you’re rich. You too have to wait and therefore make better prior planning and preparation.

Making strategy and tactics the name of the game (as of course it is)  as well as a bit of historical realism, like it, like it.

 

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Character Progression, Loyalty And Dilemmas

In Britannia there is some old familiar in the progression of generals and rulers, however they have done away with the skill trees and allowed a more natural development via action based progression. Characters have 3 fundamental stats; governance command and zeal. They will each develop as they do the respective jobs of fighting or governing, with zeal acting as a bonus multiplier on the other 2 stats.

I really think this is great, giving you more choice to focus and hone the characters for the roles you want, rather than choosing from an almost identical blanket of perks from a skill tree. In the past you would gain followers of your court by sheer chance, now you can influence which you get by picking them yourselves whenever a character levels up, giving specific bonus boosts to the character.

Loyalty has been brought back into play for this one meaning your generals and governors can defect if things aren’t favourable regarding you in their eyes. You can appease people with landed titles and estates dished out when you want to placate a particularly ungrateful bugger. Bringing this back is great as it gives a bit more to keep an eye out for with regards to ambitious jealous rebels, like back in the good old days of the earlier games such as Medieval TW.

Dilemmas are pop-up text events such as the ones you would get in the likes of Crusader Kings or other such Paradox games. These offer you choices on how to respond , as well as giving a more eventful play through, adding yet another avenue with which to influence the game. They are designed to give historical context and help influence your fight for victory, with possible negative outcomes also of course.

Often there is very little choice to how to respond which lets these kind of in game choices down, so I’m hoping they will be done justice, be interesting and be more than just an annoyance you rapidly click off the screen.

 


War Weariness And War Fervour

Not exactly a new mechanic, however it has been updated. Using a sliding scale which you have to balance to keep your populace content. To keep it short and sweet, if you aren’t at war for a long period – people are going to get mad and want to fight. If you’re at war too much, they’re going to get mad and need a break.  Some people eh?

This is great for the strategic and planning aspect of the game, you can’t just have all out …. erm … total war? Can you? It’s in the name … but like … it’s not really possible in reality. Something the Americans learnt in Vietnam.

I look forward to this annoying me as I love to constantly be fighting and over expanding to point of collapse. Ah well, better put a leash on myself in that case.

If you’d like to have a closer look at some of the new developments in this game I’ve touched on in a way which explains them with visual aids of the gameplay and UI have a little look at this. As it embellishes a little on what I’ve touched  upon;

 

 

DLC And Non-Playable Factions

In the good old early days of the franchise you could actually unlock previously unplayable factions by completing campaigns. Now and for a long time, the game has been taking every opportunity to introduce micro-transactions and DLC. Payable features to unlock more diverse parts of the games,  that just used to be a part of the game. Widespread practice these days I know, but that doesn’t mean we should accept it as their consumers. It just sours the whole experience and takes away from the progression and meaning of victory and the overall diversity in who you can play as, what units you can field. Variety is the spice of life after all.

Take one of the hitherto latest instalment in this long line of great titles, the Warhammer takes on the game. Both amazing in many ways in my opinion however not without their criticisms. My main gripe being they brought out two separate games in quick succession with absolutely oodles of DLC which when combined cost more than the game itself and didn’t really add more than factions you could have been rewarded with as unlockables…. ah well. Profit is profit. But when you’re bringing out a £1.99 blood and gore DLC to be added to the game, you’ve gotta start questioning your morality.

I haven’t seen any news on DLC in this game but I’m not holding my breath for a micro-transaction free game knowing the history and trend. Ah well, can’t have everything but we will see, perhaps this can be the redemption and return of rewards for beating the game in the TW series. Considering that previous  negative backlash disheartened Creative Assembly, it seems likely it’s their end game to make these extra costs a permanent feature.

 

All in all what seems to be minuscule changes to the outside eye, seem to me to be actual fine tuning and honing the game to better deliver the crème de la crème of what TW can offer fans. Except in the world of DLC and the game actually rewarding you.

Using their years of experience to deliver and effect positive changes that are going to have big implications on play style and the strategising and decision making side of things. Switching things up for the better. It appears the team behind this game have designed the map and factions around historical accuracy and great gameplay. Combining both to create what I feel could be the best TW title to date.

This focussing on yet more specific periods of history shows that we can expect yet more new sagas to come in this old familiar series. I for one welcome this, as every culture and region of history should be explored in this game style I believe, it’s a game series that just begs for more to be released and justifiably so I’d say. Even with the new found tendency for DLC and micro-transaction cash grabs …. the games themselves tend to not be cash cows.

I wager that this release will be what lovers of the game are looking for, the old tried and tested formula that works well, with a hint of added freshness for us to all salivate over. Exactly why I’ve pre-ordered it and am subconsciously counting down to its launch.