Interest surrounding Bulkhead Interactive’s Battalion 1944 has been paramount since it was announced on Kickstarter back in 2016, promising competitive multiplayer action across a wide range of maps and modes and fast-paced, team-oriented gameplay. Having spent nearly a week with the game since its official launch on Steam’s Early Access program, I’m confident that Battalion 1944 will be a huge hit in the long run, though there is some way to go in achieving that.
At its core, Battalion 1944 is all about quick movement and fast-paced gameplay. Bulkhead Interactive have smartly done away with killstreak rewards and monotonous grinds seen in the current tide of shooters on the market, and this has made the experience more focused around having fun with friends and your team rather than focusing on the single-player aspect of challenges, unlockables, and tiered rewards in these kinds of shooters.
For the most part, this works well. Having players focus on objectives and co-operation — rather than working as a lone wolf to unlock a new weapon or complete a challenge — has pushed players into caring more about the score than anything else. Having complete focus on this has been a far cry from what I’ve experienced over the last few years with the annualised shooter franchises, in turn making the experience a really good one. This enjoyment only escalates when you’ve got a few mates with you, as well.
That said, I was surprised to see the game including loot boxes (or war chests, as they’re called) from the get-go. Even in early access, this machine to drive revenue took me by surprise. I’m all for player and weapon customisation, of course, but I don’t think this system should be in place, especially with the game still in early access. It’s also worth noting each box is $1.75 USD to buy and you get one skin for a random weapon, which just doesn’t feel rewarding at all. I did notice you get a war chest every time you level up, though I’m worried players will find themselves in a similar situation to other loot box-driven games in the future, as Battalion’s popularity continues to rise.Straying away from that, Battalion 1944 includes five game modes to venture through. All of the classics are included, like Team Deathmatch, Domination, Capture the Flag, and Free For All, alongside Battalion’s competitive mode, Wartide.
Wartide is a 5v5, Search and Destroy-themed game mode with an added layer of economy. Teams start out with a handful of class ‘cards’ that can be taken by either team when a player is killed, much like collecting a player’s dog tags in Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed mode. Instead of gaining points for nabbing a player’s card, though, you’ll instead add that player’s selected loadout card back into your team’s stash. As rounds go on and cards begin to dwindle, players may be pushed into picking other loadout cards and forced into a different playstyle, in turn hampering a team’s chance of winning.
If your team fancies using submachine guns and snipers, and most of your team die during a round and don’t pick up any loadout cards off of fallen soldiers, they’ll likely be out of sniper and smg cards and will have to choose something else in the following round. This added depth creates a nice risk and reward dynamic, and places further emphasis on teamwork and communication in order to get the win. Each match has 13 rounds, though much like S&D once you’re taken out, you’re out for the round. So strategy, communication, and teamwork is vital.
Wartide is currently only playable through the unranked mode in Battalion 1944, though it will be included in the ranked mode when it opens up on February 8th. This mode’s an absolute joy to play, and certainly adds a degree of tension to the game as the rounds pass by and player cards dwindle. With the developers intent on growing the game into an esport, I’m really excited by the possibility seen here, though it’s still early days.
If you’re keen to just jump into the classics, Battalion 1944 includes an arcade mode, which cycles through all of the classic multiplayer modes across a range of maps. The modes themselves are great fun, as per, though I found the map design and spawn system currently used in the game to be tedious. Some maps, like the jungle-focused Outpost and trench-laden Battery, are plagued with bad spawns. There’s been at least a handful of occasions where I’d spawn and die from an enemy grenade instantly, and this was really frustrating.
I found the aforementioned maps a bit too open, as well, allowing campers to set up with their snipers in a bunch of spots without too much worry. Of course, due to the fast-paced gameplay they’d regularly get flushed out, but it wasn’t before a handful of annoying deaths would send me to the brink of insanity. I also noticed spawns would sometimes place players behind enemies at times, leading to a lot of random deaths on both teams.
Though my experience with Outpost and Battery were particularly poor, I found the other maps included in Battalion 1944 fun to play through and learn. Most had a nice range of sight lines alongside a handful of areas to get up close and personal with enemies in close quarters combat, and it made the experience way more enjoyable overall. I’ve read that the developers will be adding free content and maps to the game overtime, so I hope they continue in this direction as the game is at its best when it’s frenetic and fast-paced.
It’s also worth mentioning that Battalion 1944’s sound design is top notch. Hearing footsteps and pinpointing an enemy location is a vital way of surviving and winning rounds in the game, and Bulkhead Interactive have clearly made an effort to ensure everything sounds excellent while you’re playing. Weapons also sound good, and fit well within the time period the game finds itself in.
That all said, Battalion 1944 is plagued with early access issues right now, from performance problems to crashes in-game. It’s all a bit of a mess, and it’s expected considering the game is at version 0.1 at the moment. Long load times also hurts the experience, though I only found the load times to be ridiculously long when booting into the game. Loading into maps seemed to be ok for the most part.
When you get into the game and everything plays well without issue, though, Battalion 1944 really shines. After a week with it, I’m confident in saying that Battalion 1944 is shaping up to be a great competitive multiplayer shooter, as long as the developers keep listening to player feedback and ironing out gameplay issues. The war chests are a bit of a sore point for me, but unfortunately there’s not much that can be done on that side of the coin. For now, though, players looking for a fast-paced, competitive shooter should definitely give Battalion 1944 a go – it’s certainly worth your time, and will only get better as we move through the year.