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Divided We Fall Early Access Review

The Concept

Take control of four soldiers and maneuver them into advantageous positions to take out enemy soldiers. Do that online, against players around the world.

Thematically, Divided We Fall is set in World War II, but that won’t factor into gameplay, aside from your choice of weapons. Your rifles are limited to firing either a single shot or a burst of bullets, or, when set to automatic you’ll suffer decreasing accuracy. Grenades are available as well, but are surprisingly weak. And when it comes to the maps, they have a simple layout composed of one-story buildings and the yards that surround them.

Take cover behind hay bales, fire through windows.

Though graphics are pretty simple, they also do a good job at portraying the era. Divided We Fall feels like you're directing a battle from above, the way a general might push around those little troop figurines in movies. You're not a soldier; you're all of them, and can only see what they can (assuming they have picture perfect memory of the map when it's empty).

The controls aren't bad, but how they are communicated is. A tutorial would be a nice alternative to getting eaten alive, running while trying to figure out what the heck is going on, but once you’ve mastered mouse clicks and key strokes, you’ll find a sound design for your grand strategy to conquer Europe, with several methods to select soldiers and scroll through maps. Now if you wish to customize them, there’s a very odd way to get that done, a way I didn't expect in 2016 and post 30 years of gaming experience. You’ll have to step out of Divided We Fall, open your Windows folders, and edit the text file that generated itself on your computer and that you’ll tweak in order to remap keys. What's written in said file isn't crystal clear though, and out of concern that I might irrevocably mess up my controls, I ended up just letting it sit. Early Access mechanic? Let’s hope so.

Get past these details, let’s agree to chalk up the initial chaos to a metaphor for military command, and you’ll find a bare bone but engaging game.

What took me the longest to figure out is how to shoot because, guess what, you don't. Your soldiers take care of that for you, as long as enemies are in sight. No fast reflex firing, no aiming, no lining up shots in the crosshairs. I wish I'd been told that from the start, in a way that explains why that is, because these original mechanics ended up being what I enjoyed most about Divided We Fall. There's a small amount of weapon-switching possible, including equipping grenades, but for the most part it's just knowing where to put your dudes. You're not in the fight, you're above it all directing. Control over enough soldiers to kick your brain out of FPS mode, but few enough that you feel each loss when one of them goes down. It’s well done.

Divided We Fall, is strategy, pure and simple. Straight no chaser. Put your soldiers where they can fire but are protected. Separate your group by enough to spot for each other, but keep them close enough for support. Work with your teammates to gain control of the map and take out the other team one by one. Personally, I've found that I perform better when listening to the war songs from Hamilton. Not well, mind you. Just better.

The community is friendly, glad to help, and growing.

One might worry about what will happen to the general feeling of camaraderie as the population increases, but the learning curve should weed out gamers who play simply to take people down and talk smack about it. Let us hope Divided We Fall will have one of those communities like Dwarf Fortress, where only the motivated remain and earn a deeply rewarding experience for time spent learning.

The game and community come together in a way that I like, which is that the highest ranking person on a team hands out weapons as they see fit. Rank comes from playing well overtime (or playing poorly over a much longer time), so theoretically those with higher rank are in a better position to lead.

Joe's Assorted thoughts

ok, how do i ... uh, do anything?

did i just kill someone off the screen? am i a wizard?

yes! now i know the controls and am only dying because i suck!

[Kronk's spy theme from Emperor's New Groove while sneaking around]



The Verdict

Rough around the edges but a satisfying game if you're into real-time strategy. Get in on the ground floor and watch this become an understated classic. If nothing else, you'll need the time to practice.

Joe Pilato
Written by
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 00:00
Published in Strategy



Joe Pilato works as an engineer and pub quiz host while developing his skills as a standup comic and storyteller. You may occasionally find him wandering the streets of NYC looking for adventure or possibly running into the woods to hide from civilization for days at a time.
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