Between the best RTS and strategy games, whether it’s Hearts of Iron, Command and Conquer, Age of Empires, and myriad others, there’s a recurring problem with how you manage your attention. At a certain point, the action gets so big and widespread that you’re torn between the big dramatic battle over here and the big dramatic battle over there, and everything becomes just scale and numbers. It’s still impressive and it can be spectacular but, beyond a certain size, the drama and the emotional connection you have to your soldiers start to go down. Enter The Troop, a WW2 strategy sim that takes the close-quarters, tactics-driven style of XCOM, Company of Heroes, and Commandos to the next level, and which you can try via a free Steam download right now ahead of its full release. PCGamesN speaks exclusively to one of The Troop’s creators.
Focusing exclusively on the D-Day campaign, The Troop is a WW2 strategy game where you command a small number of units throughout high-intensity, tactical-scale skirmishes and battles. You’re not trying to conquer entire nations or swathes of enemy territory. Your objective is to capture a single machine gun emplacement, or successfully move a handful of tanks through a small French village. After almost two years in early access, The Troop is preparing for a full release on Steam. Tom Page, studio director at PLA Studios, which publishes The Troop, explains more.
“Most of the missions are conducted with one or two troops of tanks and one or two troops of infantry. We’ve taken great effort to try and make the game look particularly nice. And we’ve tried very hard to combine historical accuracy and tactical realism within the game format. We try and stay true to the spirit of the combat.”
There are three modes. In Story, you play as various Allied or Axis units throughout the entire D-Day and post D-Day campaign. Beginning with the first drops on the morning of June 6, 1944 you take the beaches, push through the towns and hedgerows, and fight to slowly advance or hold the line across 30-plus missions.
Campaign is more intense. In this mode, rather than swapping between different units and perspectives from mission to mission, you play as one single company or platoon, meaning casualties and losses can have much graver consequences. Lastly there’s Skirmish, a more freeform mode where you can choose which units you want before the battle, and customize your force however you like.
Games have a maximum of 30 turns, though Page says that a lot of games resolve after around 20. Every unit matters. Every move has to be carefully deliberated and planned. In The Troop, there’s no such thing as just building up a massive force and winning through sheer numbers. You’re not controlling an army. You’re controlling maybe 15 people, separated between tanks and infantry squads.
“The smaller scale stuff and tactical fighting just seems to be the right level for analysis,” Page says. “If you read books about the war, the first-person accounts of what the fighting was like always seem to be the most compelling. A machine gun opening up from a window isn’t lost in a sea of gunfire. An individual casualty actually matters at this level – if you get much bigger, it starts to get lost in the numbers. Hence why we call the game The Troop.”
The Troop is scheduled for a full release on Tuesday, October 18, 2023. In the meantime, you can try it via a free Steam download which is available right now. If you like intense, tactics-driven combat, which takes an interest in history and finds the drama and emotional resonance in individual lives and decisions, The Troop is a must-play.