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Strategy First
Strategy & War
Release Date

World War II Online
August 7, 2002 | Tim Morgan

Click to enlarge

Two soldiers stumble upon each other.

The art of war
At the top stratum of this game is the command system. Planning and executing tactical maneuvers is not implemented as discretely as it is in, say, Starcraft, but the game would not be the same without it. Players gain points by accepting missions and, through these missions, inflicting damage on opposing forces. As players ascend in rank, they are allotted a number of “mission points” that they can use to create missions of various priorities.

Future commanders-to-be cannot expect to be presented with an interface similar to that of Command & Conquer’s — these officers will be issuing typed or spoken orders to real people in real time. One can’t simply click on a unit and give it a destination, the order has to be conveyed, and it has to be obeyed.

Broader strategic planning is handled by each force’s high command, which does not currently exist as a software supported entity in the game, but as a separate organization for the time being— players must recognize the authority of their commanding officers in order for the officers to have an effect on the game. For instance, in order to ensure its general strategy is being advanced, the Allied and Axis High Commands have constructed an Order of Battle or ORBAT where strategically minded players can sign up for duty on a voluntary basis. The players in these organizations work together within the ORBAT rank system to coordinate their Brigades and Kampfgruppes (made up of squads and individual players), in local skirmishes following the general battle plan. As of now the AHC and GHC have demonstrated great proficiency in maintaining an orderly army without taking the fun from the game.

Players with extra time to devote to the game can form or join squads to gain strength in numbers on the battlefield. Truly committed players will gain the eye of their superiors, and if they have the time and energy to spare, may just gain appreciable rank in the depths of the AHC or GHC.

Back to basics
One of the most paradoxical roles one can play in the game is that of the footsoldier. Soldiers are one of the most vulnerable units in the game; every offensive vehicle can easily take one out. However, WWII Online depends on an army of soldiers, as they are the only units that can capture buildings and thus advance the front lines of a given army.

Soldiers come in three varieties: the SMG, the rifleman, and the sapper. The submachine-gunner is equipped with an automatic weapon: excellent in close-quarters combat but useless beyond ranges of 100 meters or so. Riflemen have a more ranged weapon, a powerful and accurate rifle that maintains its accuracy outside of 500 meters. Both soldiers are also equipped with a 9-mm sidearm and a few grenades.

The sapper is a much more specialized soldier; he carries a pistol, six grenades and a few powerful satchel charges. Although in toe-to-toe combat a sapper is utterly useless, a player can make good use of his satchel charges if he or she knows how; with a lot of patience and a bit of luck, the lowly sapper can bring down a mighty Panzer tank.

Playing as a footsoldier is one of the most personal ways to experience the game. Driving a tank or flying a plane offers a shell of protection separating one from the outside world; the soldier has only his weapon and his small size as protection. Soldiers must learn to dart from cover to cover, and the game’s mechanics allow players to run, jog, walk, creep, or crawl.

World War II Online takes a much more in-depth look at human kinetics than the average FPS. Aiming is not simply putting the mouse cursor on a target; players must hold down the right mouse button to line up the sights on their weapon, or risk an errant shot if they do not have time to do so. World War II Online simulates energy and blood levels; players who hotfoot it from their base to the front lines will have to take breaks to catch their breath. Fortunately, WWIIOL allows soldiers to hitch a ride on many vehicles.


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