Heroes & Generals Pre-Beta Preview
A long time ago I played Battleground Europe. A massive MMO where the Axis and Allies fought in the Western Front, and everything was under the control of countless players. From the lowliest Rifleman to the High-Ranking Marshalls, there was no question of Moderators intervening in the events that unfolded, and the climatic battles bought me over, for some time at least. When I heard of Heroes & Generals, by Reto-Moto, I thought “Battleground Europe?”, but that thought was quickly washed away as more news unfolded. Recently I took part in the Heroes & Generals special Press Event and I would want to tell you about this upcoming great title, which should be worth your time if you enjoy a mix of Battleground Europe, with Battlefield 1942 and a strategy game which does not come to my mind yet.
In Heroes & Generals you are a Hero, a General or both. As a Hero you take part in land battles, in a tank, as a footman or as a crew member of a fighter or bomber. As a general you cooperate with your high command and other generals, ordering your “Groups” about on the gigantic warmap. First, let me tell you a bit about the Heroes. Hold in mind, the screenshots you might see here are of content still in development. If something seems rough around the edges, live with it, for now.
Heroes; You, me, everybody.
Heroes count as any “soldier” who takes part in combat. When a General orders his “Groups” to attack a town Heroes act as the soldiers taking part in the attack or defense. As a Hero you can play as: A rifleman, Anti-Tank Infantry, Machinegunner, Recon, Tank Crewman, Paratrooper or Air Crewman. Each one of these Classes has its own basic loadout, often a basic firearms or sidearm, and sometimes a grenade. You might think it is a bit dull, since you would be playing something similar to Red Orchestra, but thankfully you have customization. I personally took the Rifleman, and Tank Crewman. The Rifleman had only his rifle and two grenades to call his own. Realising this was a bit little I invested in an extra bayonet and then some upgrades for my rifle. Yes, you can not only customize your “Hero”, but also customize some of his equipment. When you upgrade your rifle in specific ways each upgrade will give you a bonus, and also a negative trade-off. You could have a rifle which causes far more damage, but has a substantial recoil, for example. My Tank Crewman in turn got himself an MP-40 and a bayonet, on top of his pistol. Although I knew he would be connected to his tank for most of the time you never know when you might have to scuttle.
At first I played mostly as a Rifleman, with mixed results. The three maps on which I played were akin to “Capture Victory Locations” and “King of the Hill”. The thing which struck me first when I entered a game was “How will I reach the enemy base?” The answer, bicycle. Depending on the “Group” which attacks a location infantry might have access to Mechanized Vehicles. If not, you are stuck with whatever you can get your hands on, including jeeps and bicycles. I loved the idea however, and past a certain point my exclusive form of transportation was the bicycle. It was a quicker form of transport to walking, but I also used it to enjoy the views. While I traveled through a ruined city I looked at the setting sun, how the colours changed around me when the in-game time passed. I even stopped for a moment at a bridge to look at the marvelous view.
When I did have to return to combat the situation was dire. Paratroopers landed within the town and we had to defend our positions from enemy attack. While our Riflemen fought inside a church I could hear a transport plane flying above us, dropping in fresh reinforcements. It was a hard-earned victory, but one which showed how Elite Infantry could cope better against ordinary riflemen.
My next adventure included, what I thought to be at first, a Riflemen vs Riflemen battle. We were holding out in a small warehouse, and keeping the Allies at bay. Then, a halftrack showed up, and united we fired off our rifles. As you can imagine, we did nothing to the plated behemoth. Another lesson learned from Heroes & Generals, infantry alone does not win battles. We lacked even a basic Anti-Tank group to counter halftracks, so you can imagine the trouble we had fighting off any such attacks.
When I became a General myself (more on that later) I ordered my “Panzer Division” into a demanding siege where numerous Axis and Allied Groups were taking part. This time around I decided to play as my Tank Crewman, which proved to be an incredibly useful asset. My Panzer Division was the only Armored Group taking part in the battle, so the Allied Paratroopers and Infantry were quickly pushed out of the city. However, this did not come so easily. Currently there are hidden Anti-Tank caches on each map, allowing Heroes to grab an appropriate weapon and fire off at tanks. In this tight-packed Urban warfare even though the tank had an advantage the numerous obstacles and hidden tank ambushes proved that Infantry support was necessary to eventually win. Later when we defended the city from an Allied counter-attack I felt it entirely unfair that my Tiger tank almost alone blasted away at defenseless Allied troops, driving jeeps and bicycles. This only further reinforced how Heroes & Generals is not jut a “Shooter”, it is a strategic and tactical game. If you do not invest much thought in your actions or decisions your “Groups” or entire team will lose each battle, eventually resulting in a total defeat.
Generals, become the next Rommel.
A general buys himself “Groups” for credits. These credits are gained through battles as a Hero, and they can also be spent on Hero Upgrades as well as buying more Heroes or Group Slots. During the Preview game I bought what I called a “Panzer Division” (1 Mechanized Group, 1 Tank Group, 1 Tank Destroyer Group). Once bought, and after I named each Group, my “Division” started in the Axis Capital, Berlin (the Allies start in London). I asked through the team chat where should I proceed and I was directed to Southern France. Within moments my “Division” was on its way, driving to the battle described above.
Mine was a rather unique “Division”, because it tried to be versatile and quick, offering protection to the troops in order to minimalise casualties. At this stage of the game development there was no difference in speed between the Group types and instead you had to rely on forward thinking. After the Axis won by conquering London a new Campaign started. Each team started in its capital and had to quickly spread its forces and conquer neutral towns, airports, factories, etc. Interestingly enough I had a chance to see how paratroopers are a useful expansion tool, as well as a good method of distracting the enemy. If you dropped a Paratrooper group behind enemy lines you could spread out your claims, forcing the enemy to disengage some of his divisions to handle the “threat”. While they chase after you paratroopers you simply move them to the next area.
Fighter/Bomber groups can also play an important role, but unfortunately I did not see them take an active role during any battles. The possibilities are present however, and you could defeat enemy tank superiority with a quick bomber run to save your infantry.
What I did not mention yet are casualties. When you buy a Tank Group you will have a number of tanks and Crewmembers at your disposal. Think of these as your Respawn Pool. Whenever you lose a Tank or Crewmember the Tank Group will lose that one tank or Crewmember. It is possible this way for a Group to run out any strength. How do you regain strength? Patience, for the most part. Any reinforcements or supplies have to travel all the way from the Capital to your Group. The pathwaying is flexible, so even when you advance your reinforcements will reach you, though it might take longer.
Groups that lose all their strength become immobile, and during the event there was no clear bonus for surrounding and cutting off an enemy force, but this will change in the future.
Another upcoming improvement is the overall Strategic Control each team will have. At the start of each Campaign a High Command will be elected, composed of the top commanders from each side. The High Command will be responsible for production, campaign theatres, organisation and overall strategy. In other words, while currently the Generals are a “Wild Mob” trying to work together, the High Command will create order out of chaos. Not only this, but also Generals will face new challenges of Supplies, weather conditions and speeds. Their Groups will have upgrades (for example, Motorised Vehicles for Infantry Groups) and much more careful attention will have to be paid to the evolving situation around them.
Awards and Advancement
As a Hero you get awards. At first they are Ribbons, but when you collect specific ribbons you will then receive Combat Badges. Combat Badges offer a bonus of some sort. For example, an Infantryman can have a Combat Badge which allows him to more efficiently use motorised vehicles. As such, there will be progression, but Generals too will have their own advancement system, gaining higher ranks and specializations. As you earn more credits you will further upgrade your equipment become a real Hero among your peers. One day you might become not only a great “Soldier” but also a respected commander, especially since you can be both.
Keep your eyes out
Heroes & Generals is well worth the wait. If you did not apply for the Beta you should do so, even if only to see for yourself how great a game is Heroes & Generals. Here I have to underline the game is still in development, and a lot of features might be buggy, not work as intended and the game itself might be incredibly demanding on weaker PCs and laptops.
Overall, when I played I had a feeling as if I returned to Battlefield 1942, while also having an option to play on the campaign map strategically. Everybody will find something for themselves, since there are planes, tanks and infantry. I, for one, know that I shall be returning to my “Panzer Division” time and again, to conquer London one more time.
Alex “WriterX” Bielski