Lately, my friends have had to endure hearing me lament about the apparent death of the real-time strategy genre. I believe that the genre as a whole peaked around the time of Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (1999), and although we did have some decent RTS titles after that, it began a slow and inexorable decline. And if there needed to be an exclamation point, the proverbial nail in the coffin if you will, as to the end of the grand ol’ base building RTS’s of yore, was the incendiary (and not in a good way) release of Dawn of War 3 which pretty much sealed the deal.
Well just recently, a gaming buddy of mine mentioned a new game that he couldn’t quite fully explain. He said that it had the comradery and teamwork of Squad but the top-down perspective and mechanics of Company of Heroes. He sent me the Steam link and I checked it out.
“Wow, is this game out yet?” I asked him.
“It’ll hit Early Access in a couple of days,” he replied.
This all took place a week ago. So, I bided my time and read preview articles about the game in question, Foxhole, by indie game developers Clapfoot. Foxhole is described as a massively multiplayer sandbox war game, features the classic isometric perspective and of course, plays in real-time.
What initially captured my attention about Foxhole was that, whereas in typical RTS titles such as Company of Heroes, you control squads or whole platoons of soldiers, in Foxhole each and every soldier you see on the map is controlled by a player. It made me think back to the past when I’d wondered why no one had implemented that style of play mechanics in an RTS before. In other words, each individual soldier/player would be free to form their own squads or otherwise do as they wish, as long as they were contributing to the team.
In Foxhole, the developers designed their game in a way which teamwork is essential to survival. An individual soldier can’t really have much effect on the outcome of how a war plays out by himself. But each one can contribute to the war effort in their own individual ways.
For instance, for my first game I spawned in and was immediately greeted by some friendly players who wanted to show me how to play. They said that I could perform various roles, such as reconnaissance, logistics, front line combat, resource gathering—let’s just say there is plenty to do in Foxhole. I decided to learn the game from the ground up and so took a logistics role. Since vehicles don’t spawn in as they do in other RTS games, I had to go and build my truck using basic materials. But first, I had to go out and scavenge for scrap in order to convert it into those basic materials I needed to construct the truck.
Once I had my truck up and running, I met with the quartermaster at our main base and soon I was ferrying supplies and weapons back and forth between the rear and the front lines. Apparently, logistics was very popular because the roads were darn near choked with other trucks zipping up and down them. In this way, each of us (logistics) greatly helped our boys battling it out on the front lines and soon we were pushing the enemy back. It was really a great feeling to know that you and your little truck were really making a difference.
After someone stole my truck (you can lock them but I forgot to), I switched to a combat role and got down and dirty with the front line boys. Let me say right off the bat that the combat in Foxhole can be extremely intense. I saw men inching forward on their bellies towards enemy emplacements with bullets whizzing by overhead, while others ran boldly forward tossing grenades at our foes, only to go down in torrents of apparently self-sacrificial blood.
But the real fun was to be had once we’d finally pushed the enemy back to their nearest town. A buddy and I went totally specops and snuck into the town, assassinated a few enemies, and then hijacked a truck full of supplies and drove it back to our base. It was quite a blast, and showed the emergent gameplay that the developers accurately portray the game to have.
I also really loved that when you talk through the game’s local voice controls, the enemies can hear you too. There were several times that I overheard enemies before I even saw them and was able to hide in bushes and let them pass by. There were other humorous times when downed opponents talked smack to me before I walked up and finished them off.
Foxhole really captures the ebb and flow of war, as each side reinforces their front lines, attacks and counterattacks, flanks, and performs reconnaissance on the other side. The main map is subdivided into six smaller maps. And by smaller I don’t mean little. Each subdivided map is pretty darn big, and contains all sorts of strategic elements, including rivers, peninsulas, bridges, hills and valleys, you name it. These environmental features lend themselves to endless strategic possibilities as each side seeks to gain the upper hand over the other and seize as much territory as they can.
Granted you have the right resources, there are many different things that you can manufacture in Foxhole. From basic rifles and grenades, to SMGs and mortars, to vehicles such as nifty motorcycles with sidecars, and even halftracks and light tanks.
What also really impressed me about Foxhole was how its backstory fits its general aesthetics. Foxhole takes place in an alternate timeline where the Great Wars never ceased. Therefore, the art style reflects an amalgamation of WWI and WWII sensibilities, but also carries with it its own uniqueness. The visual effects department also really nailed it. Weapon fire, explosions, blood splatters—everything looks very polished and fluid, making it hard to believe (and somewhat scary) that this is still only an Early Access title.
Foxhole is one of the most impressive EA games I’ve seen for 2017 so far, and I’m very excited to see what its developers have in store for the future. It’s very immersive game that offers true emergent gameplay, player manipulated environments, stylish graphics, and a super-friendly player community. Not to mention that the developers are highly responsive to their rapidly growing player base. I’d say that’s a combination that is pretty hard to beat.
Foxhole features pretty good graphics that make its endless war theme come alive. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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