Days of War Early Access, studio Driven Arts' first release, has soldiers facing off in 32-player skirmishes during WWII.
The developers have "aimed for quality over quantity of content."
As you might have guessed from that excerpt, Days of War lacks content, but no more so than most Early Access titles. On offer is a domination and detonation mode as well as four maps, though each one has variants that mix up weather and times of the day. With no single player, story or multiplayer progression system for the time being, Driven Arts is banking that the product's quality will pick up the slack; something I can report they've mostly succeeded with.
Upon loading the game, a static image of the logo is all that greets you, save for the settings menu and server browser. The presentation is minimal, but it does its job. After jumping into a match, players are given a choice between nine classes such as Assault, Marksman, Support and so on. It's the weapons tied to each class that gives Days of War the most diversity in gameplay. In some shooters, mastering one weapon means you'll probably be good with most others. This is not the case here, where recoil is a huge factor to contend with automatic weapons, to the point where accuracy becomes a mere suggestion moments after firing. The belt-fed heavy machine guns used by the MG class demonstrates this need for specialization as they are nearly unusable when hip fired, only becoming accurate when mounted with their bipod. Opting for a rifle requires your reaction speed and accuracy be at the top of your game, due to how quickly bullets will take you down.
The lethality of combat is what makes Days of War a punishing, but rewarding experience.
One shot with a bolt action rifle is a guaranteed kill in almost any case; likewise, machine gun fire will down an opponent with a few well-placed hits. Because of this, running and gunning or "lone wolf" approaches are sure to fail as you'll be cut down immediately in a combat scenario. Learning how to wield a weapon efficiently and start to push the odds in your favor is very satisfying.
While the gunplay is top notch, Days of War is somewhat let down by map design. The towns look authentic, but they feel less so from a city planning point of view. Trying to avoid the "no man's land" that are the main roads requires navigating disorienting maze-like paths on the outer edges of maps. The layout of some of these alleys seems too illogical to be anything other than a video game level. What's worse is that these areas are packed with choke-points making any approach feel like a deathtrap. Similarly, spawns for both sides are funneled into choke-points allowing a skilled team to halt their opponent's progress entirely. This decision regarding spawns is not a bad one though, as it forces an aggressive approach in Domination, a mode requiring teams to capture and hold all flags on a map.
The standout mode and the map attached to it, is Omaha's Detonation mode.
In this war-torn beach side that recreates the battle of D-Day, allies are tasked with storming the beach while avoiding gunfire from above. After breaching the outermost defenses, the objective is to destroy several Nazi war assets with dynamite. Upon reaching the top of the hill, you can choose to wind your way through trenches where Axis soldiers are sure to be plentiful, or risk being picked off by snipers by running out in the open. It's a well-designed map on its own, but its asymmetrical design goes perfectly with the attack and defend objectives of Detonation.
Gameplay is not the only area where Days of War shines though, as its graphics and sound design are leaps and bounds above most Early Access titles, excluding the lack of German voices for Axis soldiers. Shotguns are thunderous, explosions shake the room if you have a subwoofer, and overall gunfire sounds as intimidating as it should be. It's not just the obvious areas where audio impresses, as hitting wooden objects with a melee shovel creates a distinct splintering sound while smacking a tank produces a metallic clank. This attention to detail carries over to the visual design of weapons as well. When firing a pistol after the last bullet has left the chamber, the slide will lock back. In another case, the allied rifleman cannot reload before exhausting the clip's ammunition, while the respective Axis' rifle can reload at any point thanks to its use of magazines. A particularly unique example of the developers' attention to detail is the German shotgun wielding class using a combination gun, which is a double barreled shotgun with a third rifle barrel underneath. These hunting weapons were more common in Europe, and it's great to see the Driven Arts strive for accuracy, not just historically, but also with the distinctly rifle-sounding shot that rings out when the third barrel fires.
Days of War looks impressive.
The textures are sharp, and the lighting is well done, particularly the nighttime variant of Kayserberg where streetlights shine realistically through the foggy snowfall. Unfortunately, the eye-catching visuals come at a cost to performance. Currently, having too many players in a server causes frame loss, though the developers have stated that optimization is a priority for them.
Days of War features addicting and strategic gameplay that forces you to learn the handling of the weapons to succeed. Its sound design and graphics are also top notch, but the title slightly suffers from a lack of standout maps and some lackluster optimization. That being said, for 25 dollars and with more maps and modes already announced, not to mention the upcoming level editor, it's definitely worth a look.