Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare

Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Platform: PC Exclusive
Release Date: 2011

We've never met someone quite like Danny Green, Radioactive Software’s founder, programmer and sole employee. His industriousness and passion is made evident by the fact that he’s built Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare all by himself in an astonishingly small amount of time, making use of features not even found in most AAA games. These include terrain deformation, procedurally generated worlds and 64-player multiplayer.

However, the first indications of Green's personality were evident when we sat down to watch him present his new game. Tempering his presentation is a humility made of equal parts self-deprecation and optimism. He doesn't have some huge cutscene or carefully orchestrated battle sequence to show off; instead, the first bit he demonstrates is his favourite bug in the Alpha build of his strategy-action hybrid. Gettysburg takes place in the American civil war and its central feature is a Dungeon Keeper-like ability to possess any of the soldiers on the battlefield, moving from a birds-eye-view to a third-person viewpoint.

I’ve not patched a bug with one of the weapons just yet,’ he says as we're still getting comfortable. While he's playing the game, he possesses an infantryman and demonstrates how his rifle can auto-fire unrealistically by mowing down half of his own men immediately, then apologising profusely.

Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare Preview Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare Preview
Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare pits US civil war forces against steampunk time travellers

We ask what stage this build is at, trying to gauge if bugs such as this will be representative of the finished product. He says it’s in Alpha stage and then, before we can point out that bugs are surely to be expected this early on, says that he’ll probably patch it within the week. He goes on to show me some of the other features and glitches in the Alpha build – the procedurally generated terrain and how the Havok physics system has been integrated, for starters.

Green is so busy showing off these small features and errors that it takes a while to gather what the game as a whole is about, and where it fits into Paradox Interactive’s recent push towards free-to-play games with micro-transactions. Eventually, though, it becomes apparent that Gettysburg will be a free-to-play multiplayer strategy game in which players can take the role of individual combatants supported by AI troops.

It also emerges that Gettysburg doesn’t just confine itself to the American civil war setting either – opposing the natives of the era are steampunk time-travellers from the future. A hangover from Gettysburg’s original design, these time bandits apparently compensate for their fewer numbers with superiority of arms; it’s they who bring the tanks and zeppelins that give Gettysburg its suffix.

Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare Preview Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare Preview
Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare pits US civil war forces against steampunk time travellers

The result of pitting steampunk future soldiers against Confederates and Unionists is that Gettysburg feels strangely at odds with itself, however; like two halves of very different games that have been awkwardly sandwiched together. Essentially, that's what it is too; Green's original design and work is available to peruse on Radioactive's official site and shows a strictly sci-fi take on the series. The American civil war apparently only got involved when Paradox Interactive bought up the game.

There’s depth and potential in either a sci-fi or a civil war game, but putting them together feels confused – especially in a multiplayer game in which story naturally takes a backseat.

It’s a shame, really. Radioactive Software’s sole employee has clearly put all his effort into creating Gettysburg, and what we’ve seen so far seems promising on both a technological and theoretical level. However, we can’t help but be a little confused by how hamfistedly the two factions are rammed together, nor can we stop ourselves from worrying that the final game will appear poorly balanced and confused despite all of Danny’s hard work.

Gettysburg: Armoured Warfare will be published on PC by Paradox Interactive later this year.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04