|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Nival||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Paradox||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 20, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-10||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
If you're looking for some action, you may have come to the right place. But this may not be the kind of action you're looking for. Frontline: Fields of Thunder can definitely be considered a challenging game, but the challenge relies less on strategy and smarts, and more on luck and trial and error. Progress is slow, and successful completion of missions rely heavily on avoidance of the enemy in addition to obsessive-like saving.
From the first few seconds, it's apparent that this game has Blitzkrieg written all over it - at least in terms of code. From the interface to the animation, the graphics to the gameplay, Fields of Thunder is so closely related to the Blitzkrieg family that it's downright incestuous. The gameplay is pure war-game formula. There is nothing original about Fields of Thunder. It's not that I expect Nival Interactive to reinvent the wheel, but by not giving this game the Blitzkreig name, it's implied that there is something different with it. Using the same old engine, same old style of missions, and the same old WWII backdrop, you could say things have gotten a little stale. Sure, the location is different and it replicates one of the greatest tank battles of all time, but those kind of differences are what one expects from an expansion pack.
Field of Thunder is a RTS game that heavily favors tank combat. You will play two major campaigns as both the Germans and the Soviets. Despite some minor differences in equipment, the two play so similarly that you'll probably forget which side you're on. This is partly due to the enemy A.I. that is programmed to beat you by having more firepower and troops always concentrated in your direct path. It's not as though they actually know where your weaknesses are as they can rip right through your strongest defenses. The enemy A.I. works with precision like meticulous mechanical gears in a sophisticated timepiece. Your troops, on the other hand, require babysitting through micromanagement that shouldn't even be an issue.
Emulating the realities of war, reinforcements are extremely limited. This forces you not to be reckless with the units that you start each mission with such as the infantry, artillery, the AT guns, and the tank units. Once you get to a certain checkpoint, some reinforcements will be made available, but until such time you have to play a conservative and patient game. This requires a lot of saving. You never know when you're going to face an onslaught, and at what disadvantage you'll find yourself, but it's guaranteed you will find yourself at plenty of disadvantages throughout the game.
Commanding your units is a requirement of such RTS games, but having to tell your units exactly when to open fire is a little much. These are supposed to be experienced soldiers, but they will proceed right into the line of fire to be exposed to enemy projectiles long after they had the opportunity to strike first. To be fair, I've seen this problem in a number of games, but usually the enemy A.I. is also similarly disadvantaged, making it more balanced even if it is entirely unrealistic. But this game takes advantage of all your weaknesses. It's for this reason that you're forced to play slowly. It's more like a game of chess - without the strategic depth.
Utilizing the air force is your ace in the hole. While these crafts are not unlimited, they are the closest thing you have to unlimited reinforcements. Send in recon planes to scout the enemy's location, and then call for a squadron of bombers. They will help to clear away some of the more concentrated defenses, and level the playing field somewhat. But after a few missions this technique becomes redundant. It feels like you're going through the motions. It also doesn't help that the missions are so unimaginative. Even though this game focuses on the Battle of Kursk, a different location than we're used to, you will still perform the same variety of capture and defend missions. The Battle of Kursk is legendary for its tank battle. It was the largest collection of armored vehicles battling it out in history. It just doesn't feel like it.
Even though this game is driven by an old Blitzkreig engine, it still manages to churn out some impressive graphics. There are plenty of details, such as the fully animated tanks with rolling tracks and smoke-spewing guns. The environment is totally destructible as you flatten houses and trees, and reduce buildings and bridges to rubble. Bombs will leave craters. Zooms give you a clear indication of what's going on in the field, and despite some blurry textures, the graphics hold up to such close scrutiny. The sound effects don't match the intensity of the onscreen action. They sound weak and distant. Even the music is ho-hum with its formulaic military theme. The interface is easy enough to access. History buffs and war nerds will delight in the information they can access in regards to the weaponry and tactics used in this battle.
I expected more from the world's largest tank battle. You just might find yourself saying, "Tanks, but no tanks."
CCC Senior Writer
Rating out of 5
Even though it uses the same old Blitzkrieg engine, the graphics are still impressive.
The interface is easy enough to use, but there are some micromanagement issues that need to be resolved.
/ Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are weak and the music is generic.
If you like this style of gameplay, be prepared to knock yourself out time and time again.