By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
Wargame: Red Dragon is the latest installment in Eugen Systems Wargame series. This time around, Wargame is focusing on the period between the 80's and 90's. This means hundreds of new units have been added, along with a new naval portion of the game to add even more strategy. The Wargame series is known for its extreme detail which means a lot of planning and strategy goes into the battle, and no single battle will be the same thanks to the huge maps and massive variety of units. Wargame: Red Dragon has all it needs to be an amazing RTS experience.
Customization comes into play before you even begin a match. You can create your own “deck” of units to be used in battles. This means, before you even know who you're playing against, you will need to set up your army to be able to handle whatever will be thrown at you, while still being able to carry out your own strategies. Choosing your deck nationality, specialization, units, etc... is about all the customization you'll find in Wargame: Red Dragon. However, that's as you would expect in an RTS game, so it's more than enough.
Sorting out your deck can be a bit difficult without some help. Thankfully there's a lot of out-of-game resources (such as deck-sharing threads) to help you get started. There's also a built-in deck sharing method for the less patient player. Each unit has a ton of variables – from the weapons it has, to the types of ammo, to how stealthy the unit is, and more. You're going to be hit with a lot of information and somehow you're going to have to build a deck that can help you in any situation. It's both mind-boggling and exhilarating having so many choices and possibilities available to you.
The game looks superb. Both from the top-down “satellite view” and the close-up ground view. The world is greatly detailed, so you can zoom in on individual units and see how great they look. Everything is animated, too. Even the missiles you'll be shooting at your enemies – if you wanted to, you could zoom in and see the actual missile itself flying across the terrain. The over-head view is great, especially when a decent sized battle is going on with bullets and explosions everywhere. All-in-all, I was extremely pleased with how great the game looked.
The game uses a combination of keyboard hot-keys and the mouse. When you first start out, you'll be using the mouse and the interface for the majority of your actions. Thanks to how smooth and easy-to-learn the UI is, that isn't a problem. Later on, however, you'll begin to use hotkeys more and more and eventually you'll end up using the mouse for only a few things, such as telling a unit where to attack. I never noticed any problems with the controls, and it was all fairly simple to learn, with plenty of tricks for veteran players to master to up their game.
The Wargame series has been around for a number of years now. In that time, it's managed to amass a very dedicated following of (mostly) helpful players. This is no different in Wargame: Red Dragon, where a lot of the community has migrated. Every time I've logged on, there's been at least two-thousand people also online and the general chat was full of helpful discussion. If you're new to the game, you'll easily find someone willing to show you the ropes, either in-game or on the forums (or perhaps the sub-reddit). In short, Wargame: Red Dragon has an outstanding community.
Being the latest installment in a series, you may be wondering what has changed from previous games. There are two major changes, as far as I can tell. The addition of several hundred new units is the most obvious change, making for almost 1,500 available units in the game. However, a lot of these units are different variations of the same type – different vehicles, weaponry, etc... The other major addition is the new naval units. This brings in a whole new layer to the strategy of the game, and there's a lot of naval units to choose from. Different naval units are useful for different types of water as well, from ocean vessels to river crawlers.
Everything about Wargame: Red Dragon is about strategy. Even before you get into a game, you'll have to plan-out a great deck to take into battle. Once you're in a battle, you'll have to manage a lot of things at once – land units, tanks, supply trucks, helicopters and jets. At first, you'll find yourself a bit over-whelmed, but at the same time you'll be awed with all that's going on. The game has just about everything you could want from a large-scale conflict RTS.
The maps are generally very large, with a varying number of zones that can be captured. At the start of the match, you are given a certain number of resource points that can be used to build up your first wave. From the time the match starts, it's a rush to try and claim as many territories as you can while at the same time preparing them for attack by an enemy. Each zone will give you a certain amount of capture points (usually +2 or +4, sometimes more on the bigger maps) per tick, which will go towards your victory. You can also get points for destroying your enemies units. It's in your best interest to control as many zones as you can to accumulate points, while denying your enemy zones. Your end goal is to either have the most points at the end of the timer, or meet the point goal before your opponent.
These matches can be played in a variety of ways from a simple 1v1 match against another player, to a full-scale 10v10 team match. There's also a nice campaign mode available – four story-style campaigns that put you in certain points in military history. A skirmish mode exists as well that can be played to help hone your skills and test out new decks. Everything you could want in a modern(ish) warfare RTS.
The game is mostly played on a macro scale, rather than a micro. That is, you'll spend more time looking from above, rather than zoomed-in micro-managing a single squad of infantry. You'll be controlling platoons of infantry, tanks, jets, helicopters, ships, etc... Trying to micro-manage all that would require a huge know-how of the game, along with very quick resources. Needless to say, early on you're going to end up forgetting about some units or accidentally sending others to their destruction by clicking on the wrong place and not keeping tabs on them.
Terrain, line-of-sight and other factors do play a huge role, though. Sending your vehicles through a dense forest may offer them more cover and make them less likely to be sighted, but it might result in a track coming loose or some other damage. You'll have to pay close attention to how you position your units, as setting up your anti-aircraft guns close to a building may result in them not being able to actually “see” incoming helicopters or jets, which can be extremely dangerous. You have to balance the ability to see with protection via the terrain.
Being set in a more modern time period, Wargame relies a lot on air and heavy artillery. Finding yourself being hit with a massive barrage of artillery or missiles is not unlikely. Jets can swoop in and drop napalm on your infantry, obliterating them in an instant and severely damaging any vehicles you might have around. You'll have to balance defensive equipment (such as anti-aircraft missile units), with infantry, tanks and anti-tank weaponry... And you'll also have to make sure you have recon out and about to make sure you can actually see your enemy (never underestimate the importance of recon). The game causes you to think about war at a depth that you may not be familiar with, and it's a truly eye-opening experience.
With it's incredible attention to detail, massive selection of units, and huge maps, Wargame: Red Dragon is a top-tier RTS. There aren’t many games that can claim to be on par with the Wargame series. On the whole, I had nothing to complain about while playing the game. I had a blast building and fine-tuning my decks with the help of the community, and then trying them out against other players. In my opinion, Wargame: Red Dragon is definitely worth the money and I would suggest it to any RTS fan, be they casual or hardcore.
Features: 5/5 – Fantastic features for an RTS, and everything worked well.
Customization: 4/5 – The customization was great.
Graphics: 5/5 – That game looked great, from both far away and up-close.
Controls: 5/5 – Smooth, responsive, and easy-to-learn. All you could ask for.
Community: 5/5 – A great, mature and helpful community.
Overall: 5/5 – Definitely one of my all-time favorite RTS games, and I would suggest it to anyone who likes the genre.