Blitzkrieg 3 (PC) Preview

By Chris Leebody 27.03.2017

Review for Blitzkrieg 3 on PC

Back in May 2015, a famous staple of the RTS genre made a renewed attempt to capture the frontline. As Cubed3 discovered back then, the army that came over the gaming horizon was one that was a little bit inexperienced compared to some of its battle hardened competitors in the market. Particularly noted were some of the habits picked up from contemporary mobile titles and also the general lack of depth in strategy and significant content. Blitzkrieg 3 has been, and continues to be, in Early Access since that point, with updates to the content being a regular feature. Newly released is the ability to battle against a specially designed 'neural network AI' in skirmish battles. Cubed3 couldn't resist testing our mettle against 'Boris' the computer, and taking a revisited look at how Blitzkrieg 3 has developed the last two years.

It would be fair to give credit where credit is due; since the last viewing, Blitzkrieg 3 has come on a great deal. A glance at the Steam page gives an indication of the regular updates, many with fairly significant chunks of content.

From new maps and campaign missions to regular bug fixes and balance improvements, it's safe to say the days of it launching with no real-time PVP, limited campaign content and a lack of PVE custom matches are in the distant past.

Indeed, AI custom matches are just the latest significant update to the package. However, this isn't just any old addition slapped on; this AI has his own name, no less: 'Boris,' the world's first 'Neural Network AI in RTS,' as he is proudly noted. The claim and promise is that Boris provides the closest realisation of battling against another human. In fact, with the computing power he is famed to possess, it could be argued he is a much tougher opponent.

Having duked it out with Boris over a number of battles, now, it is quite clear that this is a tough challenge, and certainly on the face of it, seems to be a level above a lot of other AI faced in other RTS titles. At the very least, it is a welcome upgrade from the 2015 version of the AI, which was rudimentary and limited to following the scripted pathways of the barebones mission on offer back then.

Screenshot for Blitzkrieg 3 on PC

There is a limited pool still to test him on, with custom PVE skirmish battles still restricted to point capture on a limited number of four maps. However, the impressive thing is the level of unpredictability and adaptation to the strategy of the human player.

In other games, when setting up a defence of a point, once the groundwork is done it's usually hard for the computer to break it down, with frontal assaults usually coming to naught. Here, even on the easy difficulty, the AI imitates the unpredictability of a human combatant with attacks coming simultaneously from all sectors of the map.

One memorable moment came when defending a point, the enemy launched an attack from the front, captured one of the anti-tank emplacements, and at the same time as inflicting damage and distraction on one side, launched another offensive from the flank. This mirrors other experiences, such as them making good use of the available 'off map' assets, such as calling in bombing raids or artillery strikes, as well as paratrooper drops.

It is undoubtedly interesting AI technology, and hopefully it stands true to be as authentic as claimed, with the developers stressing that the computer is not using any additional information not accessible to the player or any other cheap workarounds. It will also be interesting to see if they can develop it to work on the other 'assault' mode, an 'attack versus defence' style gameplay.

Screenshot for Blitzkrieg 3 on PC

What else is new? Well, the most significant upgrade is the presence of a full 60+ mission campaign for the three factions. Although these missions are still quite fast paced and simplistic compared to some other titles (as was the original observation back in 2015), it would be unfair to not acknowledge a lot of work that has gone in to give a good representation of fighting all the major battles of World War II.

Thankfully, it hasn't developed the way many originally feared it may have. The danger was a system that focused on building a base that needed to be attacked and defended would lead to a prevalence of microtransactions due to the way the army system works.

It is still the case that units need to be unlocked and then have to be deployed to each mission. However, these units are unlocked through completing objectives within missions rather than any sort of purchase. The base building mechanic generally seems to have taken a back seat to the more traditional RTS elements, which is a relief.

Screenshot for Blitzkrieg 3 on PC

If there was still, two years on, a criticism, it would be that gameplay is still too focused on arcade action above all else. It is fair enough to stand apart from other titles such as Men of War and Company of Heroes and try something different, but battles become far too chaotic and unrealistic, with blobs of tanks and masses of units clashing a frequent sight.

Fans of this genre rightly or wrongly expect a detailed and high standard, and many coming into this type of experience expect the deepest knowledge of the craft. Some of the lack of infantry control that have become standard, or even the tactical placement and position of tanks, is lacking a great deal still, which is disappointing.

Additionally, mechanical control - that is to say the basic act of moving units - is still so cumbersome, with path finding still to this day a problem, as well as units generally feeling like they are constantly doing their own thing.

The one positive thing in this regard is that Blitzkrieg 3 is still in Early Access, so there is plenty of time for further refinement, and hopefully developer Niven continues with the pleasing pace of updates, as well as fulfilling their specified language of taking on board player feedback when it comes to the final launch day.

Screenshot for Blitzkrieg 3 on PC

Final Thoughts

Blitzkrieg 3 is a different beast from when Cubed3 first got hands on it a few years ago. The introduction of a very impressive AI in the form of 'Boris' gives another added interest in the custom matches, and it will be interesting to see if he matches the claims of adaptive strategy in the longer term. Additionally, with the campaign fully added, it has fleshed out the single-player further. That said, there is still some way to go, and it would be great to see the added touches of polish in the core gameplay to bring this series back to its heyday and also increase the player count in multiplayer, which is a little lacking.

Developer

Nival

Publisher

Nival

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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