The normally disparate realms of strategy and first-person shooters have seen their fair share of World War II titles – one might even say it’s become a tad overdone. Reto-Moto is taking the road less travelled with their free-to-play multiplayer title Heroes & Generals, combining the two genres to create a vast, never-ending online war where at any given time men are killing each other and territory is being desperately fought over.
It’s currently in beta, and you can play it right now, but should you? Here’s everything we know.
There’s plenty of shooting
The “Heroes” part of Heroes and Generals is the FPS mode. Just click on the big, red button in the main menu and you’ll be transported into the first available battle – be it a major conflict or an automatically generated skirmish – to scrap with a slew of other players while completing objectives, from capturing and defending areas to stealing important documents.
Scraps are split into major battles, skirmishes – where armies meet on supply lines between cities or strategic areas – and the aforementioned automatically generated skirmishes. The major battles take places like factories, cities and other strategic sites dotted all around the world. One faction attempts to defend the area, halting the enemy advance, while the other tries to take key objectives, eventually capturing the map. Once captured, the victorious faction is one step closer to winning the war. Unless they lose it, of course.
The automatically generated skirmishes, unlike the larger battles, don’t have an effect on the war itself, but let players participate even when the world altering conflicts are full. There’s still progression, however, as players may still get experience and rewards, even if they are not contributing to the war.
A single map might contain expansive woodlands, with enemies potentially hiding behind every tree; towns filled with walls for cover, tall buildings for snipers, and objectives just waiting to be captured; and rivers, splitting it in half, with long bridges that could become death traps for soldiers caught out in the open.
Surface deep, it’s an unassuming, simple shooter, but it’s elevated by the ease with which you can die. More often than not, a bullet or two will be the end of you. Communication is key, calling out enemy locations, planning ambushes and managing objectives. It’s not just communicating with fellow soldiers that’s helpful, you’ll also want a General on your side.
You can leave the front lines and lead men from afar
The “Generals” portion of the game takes you away from the battlefield and plonks you down on the campaign map. From there, Heroes & Generals shifts from shooting and dying to deploying resources and planning assaults.
Generals create assault teams made up of resources like men and vehicles, and these teams are used to instigate battles on the campaign map. Once players join the battle, these resources transform into reinforcements (for respawns) and tanks, jeeps or what have you for the soldiers on the ground to use.
If troops are getting picked off by snipers before they can reach an objective, a general can assist them by providing an armoured vehicle, allowing them to safely reach their objectives. That is, of course, if the enemy aren’t prepared with armour penetrating weaponry or tanks.
With a generals backing the troops, a short battle can grow into an hour long war of attrition, which each faction trying to whittle away the other’s reinforcements in the hope that the opposing general will run out of juice.
The locations a general sends his assault teams to has a noticeable impact. Controlling a factory ensures the production of more resources, like armoured vehicles and planes, which can in turn be used to reinforce assault teams, whereas cities produce manpower, generating more reinforcements.
Emphasising the “world” part of World War II
The war is restricted to the European theatre at the moment, but it’s already massive. The campaign map is saturated in nodes, representing cities, towns, factories and strategic objectives that can be transformed into battlefields filled with soldiers, tanks and planes.
The primary objective of the war is the conquest of Berlin or London, but for either faction to reach the enemy capital, they must fight through a huge chunk of Europe. It can go on for weeks, and when it does finally end, the server restarts and the war begins anew. More victory conditions are in the works, such as having an an army three times the size of the enemy’s, or controlling 75 percent of the cities on the map.
Reto-Moto are also planning to add more theatres in future, like the Pacific and North Africa, no doubt containing new weapons and vehicles. The potential scale is mind-boggling.
There’s no entry cost in Heroes & Generals, but there is a lot of currency to keep on top of. Credits can be slowly earned just by playing the game, and spent on customising your soldiers, while gold can be purchased (or occasionally earned) and it serves a similar purpose to credits, but can also be transformed into credits.
Warfunds are the strategy portion’s currency, and warbonds are basically investments, purchased with gold, which require a bit of maths to work out. It’s a bewilderingly vast economy for armchair generals to get their head around.
Assault teams must also be paid for, as those troops and vehicles don’t get generated by magic. Being a General is not cheap. To be an effective general, it’s worth spending time earning currency in the shooter portion of the game.
Let’s go shopping
If you’re willing to cough up, as a free to play game, there are tonnes of goodies to purchase. You won’t have to spend real cash, but as ever, proper money will get you the goods sooner.
Spending cash lets you put put together a squad of soldiers of various classes for use in the Heroes phase, and tweak every aspect of their arsenals. The standard US rifle the MG1, for instance, has five mod points (trigger, sights etc) and each has around 10 modifications, with varying costs, benefits and negative effects.
There are 12 different types of ammo just for that gun, all having a tangible impact on its capabilities. So even if you are stuck with the basic rifleman and his first gun, there’s still a sense of progression as you fine tune it.
The long list of weapons and mods are impressive, but more impressive is how realistic and detailed these tools of war are. Rates of fire, recoil, what ammunition can be used, these things are simulated believably but everything can still be tweaked.
All of this on your browser
And here’s the killer reveal: this is a browser game. Sign up for the beta, and a wee download later you’ll be up to your eyeballs in war. No faffing around downloading 20GB files here. Heroes & Generals isn’t able to compete with the likes of Battlefield 3 in terms of graphical fidelity and the massive, detailed maps are workmanlike rather than pretty, but when you consider that this is a browser game, it’s mighty impressive.