WARNO has a bright future, despite its roughness

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While not the biggest developer of strategy games, Eugen Systems has certainly been ahead of the curve in innovating real-time strategy game design. The Wargame and Steel Division series have been the most formative for the company over the past decade, the former introducing the signature tactical gameplay loop, while the latter iterating on key quality of life features. Eugen’s WARNO aims to bring together the best parts of both franchises and write a new chapter in quality strategy game design.

WARNO is a real-time tactics game with an emphasis on large-scale and engaging single-player and multiplayer battles that features a robust deck-building system that can easily count as a separate mini-game. At its core, it deviates little from its predecessors, which will immediately familiarize Wargame and Steel Division veterans with the flow of the game. However, WARNO, even in its rough current state, sports a number of exciting elements. which hint at the awesome potential of the game.

Preview Warno

The biggest point of attraction is the refreshing return to the Cold War backdrop, itself an underutilized but mechanically rich and engaging setting. With a few rare exceptions, the Cold War has mostly been dominated by simulation wargaming, a niche subset that doesn’t exactly offer the best accessibility, although that seems to be moving in positive directions.

Aside from the obvious excitement coming from the “what if the Cold War got hot” counterfactual scenario, this setting is also a goldmine for deep tactical gameplay that’s unlike many strategy games of a similar style, thanks to units and weapon systems of the time period. There are, of course, bright and impressive tanks, but it’s really the presence of deadly anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), infantry fighting vehicles, helicopters and an expanded arsenal of ammunition types which really gives this era of combat a distinct complexity. and dynamic style.

Preview Warno
Preview Warno

Many vehicles in WARNO now come equipped with short-range smoke launchers, giving players more tactical options to protect their forces, especially against ATGMs. This addition is both thematically sensitive and tactically interesting.

Aircraft received a major overhaul in WARNO, the first of which is an increased speed range for different airframes. For example, close air support aircraft, like the A-10 Thunderbolt, are quite slow but maneuverable, while the MIG-31 Foxhound as an interceptor is extremely fast but struggles in long dogfights.

Preview Warno
Preview Warno

This modular approach to speed means that aircraft will have more defined roles on the battlefield and require a wider range of player tactics and skills to use effectively. Closely tied to speed, planes now have a timer when en route to the battlefield, prompting planning ahead and loitering more for greater battlefield presence.

A change from the Steel Division series is that Control Zones are returning as the primary victory condition in intense WARNO battles. Players will need to use leader units to claim these areas in order to earn victory points and ultimately prevail. The shifting frontline system still exists when opposing leader units claim the same area of ​​control, though it’s not as prominent of a system as in Steel Division.

Preview Warno
Preview Warno

The result of this change is that battle lines become more porous, opening up opportunities for sneaky maneuvers and surprise attacks, as there is no front line to act as an artificial reconnaissance tool. Maneuver warfare and ambitious tactics definitely seem to be the name of the game for WARNO – a welcome state indeed.

It wouldn’t be a modern Eugen strategy game without a robust deck-building system, which makes a welcome return in WARNO. This time the system is actually closer to the Steel Division approach where players will compose their troop formations from historical divisions or army formations, giving each battlegroup a tactical identity and playstyle. distinct due to division-specific unit selections.

Preview Warno
Preview Warno

WARNO’s presentation is almost as good as the fundamental gameplay loop. The developers have clearly devoted special attention to improving the graphics and audio, with the maps particularly vibrant and crisp, while the planes have engine roars that shatter the air and bring every game to life. The UI is more stylized, but unfortunately feels clumsier and finickier than even Steel Division 2’s interface, so there are clearly areas for improvement and optimization.

Speaking of which, WARNO has a number of issues that give it a raw, raw quality in its current Early Access state. Online games aren’t the most stable, a number of unit controls are buggy or don’t work at all, and unit balancing isn’t quite there yet. However, the benefit of Early Access is that most of these annoyances should be resolved by the full launch of the game.

Preview Warno
Preview Warno

The biggest problem for WARNO right now is a significant lack of content, even compared to other Early Access launches like Age of Darkness or Wartales. There are only four maps, two divisions, no tutorials (apart from an incomplete manual), and a game mode for both single and multiplayer, which is enough to last, maybe, around a week of focused gameplay before exhausting what the game has to offer. . The developers have already indicated that they will be aiming for weekly content updates, so this issue should be fixed soon.

Ultimately, WARNO seeks to be a welcome return to the Cold War setting with lessons learned and quality of life features from the Wargame and Steel Division series. While the lack of content and questionable technicalities make WARNO feel more like a demo or early beta test, it’s already showing potential for a bright future, especially since it has a solid core gameplay loop. almost down to a tee and an assortment of awesome features in the pipeline. For now, it will be interesting to watch the development of WARNO and the success of content updates once it is finally released.

A Steam key was provided by PR for the purposes of this preview.

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