Flash of Steel header image 2

Working out Aggression

November 21st, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · Preview, RTS

Playlogic has acquired the rights to Lesta’s upcoming RTS Aggression: Reign over Europe. Year old screenshots from an earlier iteration dubbed Aggression: Europe 1914 can be found at Gamespot.

Highlights from the press release, with some of my own whining:

Choose your side – Germany, France, Russia or England – and become the most powerful force on the continent, using historical figures and equipment.

Historical equipment is nothing new, but historical figures could be, depending on how it’s done. Are Hindenberg and Zhukov generals who increase fighting ability? Does Bomber Harris give you an aircraft bonus?

Send your diplomats across Europe on the real time tactical map and pick your battles well.

Diplomacy on a tactical map? I have no doubt the designers are smarter than I am but do they mean the strategic world map? Because that’s the only level I can see diplomacy working at. Assuming that it, as well as the battles, moves in real time, I wonder if this will something like the mostly unappreciated Knights of Honor.

Stefan Layer, VP of Marketing and Sales of Playlogic: “Aggression is a great game and another welcome addition to our portfolio. The historical setting combined with real time action and diplomatic strategies makes Aggression a must for fans of the genre, so I have no doubt it will perform very well.”

I love marketing and PR people, because they have to say things like this. Here’s what Mr. Layer said about the dog Ancient Wars: Sparta back in 2005: “The potential for Sparta in the world market is extraordinary, not just because of its general appeal and gameplay elements but many unique features” As always, I hope Aggression is a great game that proves to be a huge success. But I don’t take Mr. Layer’s assurances to heart. (Though Sparta was a minor hit in Britain…)

Fight your battles on the real time tactical maps and control your ever expanding empire on the strategic map where you control diplomacy, science and industry.

So diplomacy is on the strategic map. But the idea of an “ever expanding empire” sounds so 19th century. Of the four playable nations – France, Britain, Germany and Russia – only the latter two ever built much of a continental empire in this period. Italy grabbed some stuff in the era, too. Of course, France and Britain did add some Middle Eastern mandates to their territory, but once again it seems that a strategy game designer has gone the easy route with conquest as the marker of power.

Choose your own play style. Play as a diplomat and create profitable trade agreements with your allies, push science to gain a technological edge over your opponents or play as a war mongering general and use your military forces to take control over Europe.

Multiple play styles in a RTS generally means that only a couple will be really viable. I can’t see economic power being a useful counter to a guy who has more tanks unless there’s a way to starve him of steel.

Aggression is an early 2008 title.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • Scott R. Krol

    So is it supposed to be some sort of ‘through the ages’ game? Because I’m confused as to why on the screenies I’m seeing things like A7s and triplanes, but then there are also JS-1 and Tiger tanks!

    And since it’s a Russian game I’m guessing that you’ll be able to have 100,000 units on the map at once, and oh, you’ll have to order each one individually.

  • Troy

    You move from 1914 to 1950. I’m assuming the units (and that art is over a year old) change with the tech you research. Like many Russian RTSes, it will probably just appear and then disappear with very little fanfare. But I like games that have strategic layers over the tactical ones, so I thought I’d give this one a mention.

  • Alan Au

    As for economic vs. military might, you’ve been following the drama in our Civ 4 PBEM game, no? Libraries aren’t going to help when the chariots come calling.

  • Bruce

    Why would “Bomber” Harris give you an aircraft bonus? Isn’t the whole effectiveness of the strategic bombing campaign a point of contention? Rather, shouldn’t “Bomber” Harris force you to spend a certain number of resources on strategic bombers in lieu of something else?

  • Troy

    I don’t know, Bruce. I just made that up like the rest of my examples. Maybe he helps your bombers be more accurate or durable or causes you to suffer less bomber attrition.

    But you do raise an interesting point about the use of personalities in game design. How restricting should they be?

  • Bruce

    Like I said, your amended proposals for a “Bomber” Harris character don’t seem to correspond to the historical effect of “Bomber” Harris. Which I point out in order to ask your question: what’s the point of historical personalities in games, anyway? Clearly, the point is to “touch history” rather than to “teach history”. So, in the end, the best use of personalities in a game is to put a face on a clever game mechanic. As long as the mechanic works, it doesn’t matter.

  • Troy

    I like the distinction between “touching” and “teaching” history.

    Have you played Hearts of Iron? There are hundreds of historical names in there, but all stuck in categories. So wildly different real men are given powers to improve resource production or improve diplomacy. It’s like a Myers-Briggs version of history, and has no inherent value greater than a wikipedia entry on war cabinets. Names are stand-ins for +/- variables in a range of mechanics.

    As for whether, in the end, the names matter, I think that designers and many gamers see them as no different than naming a group of Union soldiers the Iron Brigade and giving them a morale bonus. They can make the historical world seem a little more convincing. Putting Patton’s name on an army doesn’t do any more than give you some geographic sense of where Patton is; giving that army some sort of command advantage is intended to make you feel like you are driving Patton.

    Now, of course you could just reflect that by giving the army a higher combat value without specifically attributing it to a detachable leader. But if you want to, for example, move Patton to another theater but not the army, you might want his command talents to go with him. If you want to give the gamer control over this sort of thing, as some strategic level games do, then the name can help either as a mnemonic (Guderian should go with tanks) or as a reminder that my knowledge of Bomber Harris is hopelessly vague.