Frontline: Fields of Thunder PC DVD-ROM
Published by Paradox Interactive
Developed by Nival Interactive & N-Game Studios
Release Date: April 6th 2007
In the latter stages of 2005 we reviewed a World War II flavoured RTS title by the name of Blitzkrieg 2 and it was developed by Nival Interactive. All things considered, the game was a great RTS and definitely one of the better RTS games we reviewed that year. Personally I thought there was a little too much emphasis on using tanks (a personal niggle I had with the original Blitzkrieg game) but on the whole it was very enjoyable. Frontline: Fields of Thunder is the latest World War II RTS game from Nival Interactive and N-Game Studios. If you've played Blitzkrieg 2 you're probably looking at the screenshots and are thinking it looks pretty much the same but in truth, Frontline: Fields of Thunder is quite different.
Frontline: Fields of Thunder focuses on The Battle of Kursk that took place in 1943. The single player game consists of two campaigns, one for Germany (Wermacht) and one for Russia (WPRA) that each consist of ten missions. There is also the option to play custom missions. On the multiplayer side of things you can either play with up to eight players over the Internet using Nival.Net or play over a LAN. You'll also find an Encyclopedia that details all of the units that appear in the game. It's also worth mentioning that when the game is released here in the UK, a full retail copy of Hearts of Iron II (a game which we gave 8.8 out of 10) will also be included.
If you're an RTS gamer you'll know that there are many World War II RTS games, far too many in fact. New WWII RTS games don't just have to be very good in order to sell; they have to be significantly different. Frontline uses the Blitzkrieg game engine and this might mislead some into thinking it's simply more of the same but this isn't the case. Frontline aims to be a more realistic RTS than Blitzkrieg. The scenarios all claim to be historically accurate and there hasn't been any loose interpretation of the battles, which is usually the case in WWII RTS games. Of course that's not saying that through your own efforts you can't alter the course of a battle and achieve a different outcome. Battles usually require you to either defend or capture locations. Like Blitzkrieg 2 you'll get to control a lot of tanks but there are many other types of units at your disposal. Once you've got a few successful battles under your belt, you'll have the ability to choose which battle to take next. It might seem like a small thing but it enables you to have a say in the matter and also adds quite a bit of replay value to the two campaigns.
In Frontline you don't get to create your own units and you'll only receive reinforcements once you've completed the objectives on a battle map. This forces you to think and come up with effective strategies. Where possible you'll want to make use of aerial reconnaissance to gather information on where your enemies are lurking. Before reconnaissance is carried out you'll only see your objective locations and your own units highlighted on a mini-map and it's possible to walk straight into the line of fire. Making effective use of the units at your disposal is also very important. The AI behaves in a more natural fashion than in most WWII RTS games and never seems unnaturally overpowering although it is very challenging. The pathfinding of your units can be a little problematic and at times they will take a route, which doesn't make much sense. They will simply drive through trees and fences etc. when there's a perfectly clear path or road to travel down. It's not much of an issue but still it's a shame it wasn't sorted out. Both campaigns are about as difficult as each other, which makes a refreshing change from having one campaign that's very easy and the other one being extremely challenging, which is so often the case.
Graphically the game is pretty much identical to what you will have seen in Blitzkrieg 2, which is to be expected since it's using the same game engine. When Blitzkrieg 2 was released it actually looked very good at the time. Since then of course 3D RTS games have moved on quite a bit and look significantly better. As a result Frontline looks dated but it's still more than acceptable and some aspects, such as the explosions and environmental destruction that your tanks can cause, still look impressive. One advantage of the game not looking completely up to date is that the system requirements are very reasonable and most should be able to run the game absolutely fine. I played the game on my aging PC, that's running Windows Vista, and had no problems at all which is impressive seeing as the computer only has 1GB of RAM and most games that were fine in Windows XP have been very sluggish under Vista due to the operating system being heavier on memory usage.
Frontline: Fields of Thunder is fine for deaf gamers. All briefings and objectives are shown in text. Objectives can be recalled at any time during missions. The tutorial (which bears a striking resemblance to the one in Blitzkrieg 2 it has to be said) is delivered in text and you'll be able to follow it without any problems. What you won't be aware of is the comments made to your units when orders are given to them. Of course this isn't a real disadvantage and even hearing gamers won't be aware of what's being said unless they understand German or Russian.
If you're looking for a WWII RTS with a more realistic feel to it then Frontline: Fields of Thunder is well worth the asking price. In fact if you don't own Hearts of Iron II then Frontline is a superb bargain as you'll get two impressive strategy games for the price of one when it's released on April 6th. Don't be put off by the game's appearance. It may look like Blitzkrieg 2 but in essence it's a different experience and one that fans of WWII RTS games should appreciate. If you like a more realistic edge to your WWII RTS games then Frontline: Fields of Thunder is definitely one to put on your wish list.
It might look like Blitzkrieg 2 but there's a greater emphasis on realism in Frontline: Fields of Thunder and in some ways it's a more satisfying experience.