The problem with rooting for the underdog is that we often forget that they’re the underdog for a reason. Gettysburg: Armored Warfare was a long shot from the very beginning. Its one man development team attempted to tackle one of the most iconic wars in history with a novel idea. However, Gettysburg not only falls short of its goals, but there isn’t a single aspect of the game that doesn’t either feel rushed or simply unfinished. I don’t get any joy of beating down the small guy, however it needs to be said: in its current state, Gettysburg stands to be remembered as yet another horror of the civil war.
Let’s start with what is good here. The concept is absolutely fantastic. Gettysburg: Armored Warfare allows players to answer questions that have plagued historians for years, such as “Would the Confederacy have had better success if they had access to Zeppelins?” Gettysburg plays as a strange hybrid of RTS and third-person shooter mechanics, where players lead armies made up of units from the 1860s and the 2060’s. To call the idea “ridiculous” is an understatement; however there’s an unmistakable charm to be found in the premise.
The two game modes available do offer a bit of variety compared to usual RTS offerings, however there’s nothing really remarkable to note. Both modes focus around a capture-the-point mechanic à la Battlefield 3’s Conquest mode. The Army Skirmish option has four players facing off in a more traditional RTS mechanic as you issue orders to your troops from above, while Deathmatch offers 64 players the ability to jump into any unit of their choosing and duke it out on the battlefield. Sadly, any enjoyment that can be found from these modes is grossly marred by the glaring faults and bugs that litter the title.
It doesn’t take long for Gettysburg to start showing its faults, and by the time I had reached the main menu, I already knew that I was going to have some issues. The loading times for the game are borderline obscene, routinely taking upwards of 2 minutes on a fairly beefy rig. Alt-tabbing out of the game will force another 2 minute loading screen even if a game is currently underway, and will often result in missing textures and/or terrain. Multiple attempts at loading levels would fail to load fences, water or at times the entire sky, leaving only a grey matte plastered above the battlefield, rendering a game with an already sub-par aesthetic in a deplorable fashion.
If you manage to make it into a game without it crashing, you’re immediately left to fend for yourself. While most games offer the user a chance to change key bindings, Gettysburg has made the questionable decision to not offer any sort of control scheme whatsoever. Outside of looking for a manual of some sorts in the official forums, I was forced to blindly hit keys at random and hope that something would happen. This is outright inexcusable.
Once I did manage to discover the control scheme, I quickly found out that most of it simply didn’t work. Attempting to play the game as an RTS was nigh impossible as my units simply wouldn’t attack on command. The game offers multiple control options such as “defensive stance,” “attack position” or “attack ground,” however there doesn’t seem to be the slightest difference in the outcome. My combat options were essentially limited to directing my troops to stand directly next to their opponents in the hope that the AI would retaliate after being fired upon or I would have to assume direct control of one unit and hope that I could outgun the entire enemy platoon. There doesn’t appear to be any sort of hot key option for unit selection, so you can expect to spend plenty of time looking around the battlefield for your units in hopes of getting them turned in the right direction.
Team Deathmatch was a bit more serviceable at first glance; however, once the game started moving, that all changed. The balance of the game is absolutely atrocious, and with only a limited amount of “good” units available per team, the unlucky players are forced to play as Calvary. As a result, they must simply hope that they can cut down a tank with a sword. This approach to warfare works about as well as you would expect. It would be impossible to have balance between the units without destroying any level of believability that is offered; however, in its current state, there is no incentive to play unless you happen to be in a tank. Even then, only the most sadistic of gamers will find more than a few moments of enjoyment shelling riflemen from a distance with zero fear of repercussions.
There is no single player campaign to speak of outside of a “practice mode,” which seems to only push the bugs and failings of the game into the spotlight for all to see. After multiple attempts at starting a game to have it crash as I was picking my units, I finally was allowed to progress long enough to field an army and start going after the point. Immediately after my army was put on the battlefield, two thirds of it had decided ritual suicide was the better option and died in the spawn area. This was followed by the only other thing Gettysburg: Armored Warfare seems to succeed in at this point: yet another crash.
Gettysburg: Armored Warfare is an unfinished game. There is no way anyone could have played this title for more than 15 minutes without seeing its massive failings and plethora of bugs. While Radioactive Software certainly is at fault for these failings, it’s absolutely disgraceful that Paradox would agree to publish it in its current state. Given enough time, Radioactive Software could turn this around with proper bug fixes and continued development but the fact that it was released as a completed title in this state may have burned bridges. It’s always a shame when a fantastic idea falls flat on its face, but unless there are massive changes, I can’t in good conscious recommend Gettysburg: Armored Warfare to anyone. Pass on this title, and don’t look back.
This review is based on a copy of the game that we were provided for review purposes.