Heroes and Generals is a new browser-based game set in the wonderfully bright and shiny world of... World War II. OK, so it's really a gritty game, and it's sluggish at best, but I have a feeling that combat during that amazing time was from the "two steps forward, one step back" school of warfare anyway. I tried to keep that in mind as I slogged through round after round of being shot in the head.
It's not that the game is boring. It's fun-ish, but when I compare it to many other MMOFPS titles, I find it small and slow. It's an instanced-based lobby sort of design. That's not normally a bad thing, and we certainly cover that style of game here on Massively, but this one just sort of felt a bit too small. There's more coming, I hear, so maybe in the future, the game will feel larger.
You can pick the side you want to play, Axis or Allies, and will roll into the game as a basic solider equipped with only a gun, a sidearm, and a grenade or two. You'll feel weak, especially when playing against other more experienced players, and the experience comes in at the pace of your grandmother's knitting. I played several matches and seemed to move barely an inch toward the next level, and unless I missed something, it seemed as if I was unable to use any superior equipment and would not be able to for a long time. I understand that the designers want players to feel what it might have been like to be suffering through the hell of WWII, but I didn't really want to feel that close to what those soldiers went through.
I think the problem comes from the pace of gameplay. You'll die easily, respawn, and move a bit closer to the target. Then, you'll die again and again, and hopefully over time your side will gain more objectives than the other and eventually win. It's not a bad game. It looks absolutely fantastic, and I hate to compare it so much to other games, but it just sort of falls flat. WWII is an intriguing setting for an MMO or even for just a multiplayer game, but we have to remember that designers are often trying to make players feel the "realism" of WWII, which works against itself. When you find yourself being shot in the head (realistic) and respawning moments later (not so much), it's counterproductive -- it's lacking the power that you might get from more intense but less realistic single-player WWII games.
Having said all that, I know that the fun in a game like this is joining a great team of players in order to capture the map and rule the game. A great bunch of strangers or friends can really make almost any game more fun (thus the success of so many multiplayer titles), but I had a hard time finding a group in this game that would communicate, much less work well together. In the last match I played, I found myself being screamed at by someone in a fighter plane. "Cap it, you *beep*!" he would scream. What did he think we were doing, playing hopscotch? I couldn't speak for my other teammates, but I was busily crawling on my belly through grass that was impossible to look through, hoping to make my way to a capture point without being shot in the neck.
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The game is in beta, and so I forgive it for many of its smaller bugs. Often I found my game crashing and many times that it just wouldn't start, but again it is beta, and a beta is always a work in progress. In order to lie down, I would hit the Z key, but much of the time it would take four or five or even more times before it would register. Often I was shot before I could get on my belly. I'm guessing that vehicles are something that players unlock as they play, but I did spawn into a match one time while behind the wheel of a half-track. It was fun to drive around, but it didn't feel very powerful or useful. Running around and tossing a grenade was more useful, but just barely.
Normally in a squad-based game, I run around with my teammates. There's usually safety in numbers, but most of the other players I met were so eager to capture a point that they would leave me behind. I tried to join a group to communicate but found mostly blank stares and empty chats. The game seems to support an international community, so maybe the language barrier proved too much? The Axis side almost always seemed to win as well, so maybe there were more folks from overseas than not.
In those rare moments when I found myself surrounded by competent players and people who were willing to work together, the game was pretty cool. I really liked working my way through clumps of buildings, sniping from a bullet-ridden windowsill or tossing a grenade down onto some unexpecting meanie. That part is fun, but the more-common, wide-open spaces that I found on most maps made for some real slow, boring combat. Perhaps later versions of the game will offer larger and more varied maps. If not, I can see repetition will set in fast.
You can play the game for free, and it appears to use a similar system to other games like World of Tanks. There's going to be a cash shop that speeds up experience and such, but I don't see much of real power being sold. That means that you'll also be fighting in the slow-motion combat that WWII games can be known for. Some players love it, but I prefer the non-stop chaos of shooters like PlanetSide 2.
Next week I will be jumping back into Mabinogi to check out another year's worth of changes. I will be streaming the game live on Monday, the 6th of May, at 5:00 p.m. EDT, right here on our livestream channel!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!