At EGX, I dived back into the mud and horrors of World War One, and no, EA hadn’t shown up with Battlefield 1, rather the combination of Dutch development teams, Blackmill Games and M2H were showing off Verdun and Tannenberg. For those of you unfamiliar with these, they are two parts of the developers World War One game series. Verdun takes players to the Western Front while the Early Access Tannenberg takes you to the Eastern Front. And I took them both for a ride at EGX.
At some point in the distant past, I had tried Verdun, and immediately bounced off it. It was full of hardcore sharpshooters who knocked my head off without a moments hesitation, and without getting the chance to find my bearings in this harsh world, I quickly (and unjustly) decided that it wasn’t really for me. My prejudice, based on a tiny playtest, meant I didn’t pay much attention to Verdun as it progressed through Early Access towards release in 2015, and for similar reasons, Tannenberg passed by my attention when it launched on Early Access towards the tail end of 2017.
It’s a great shame that I didn’t invest more time with Verdun all those years ago, for what I played at EGX was a game confident in its own skin. The developers have been busy working on bringing the code-base of both Verdun and Tannenberg into line, which will make future updates to both games much easier to deliver, both to PC and console players. Indeed, what I got to play at the show was the 64 player Maneuver mode that was new for Tannenberg, but is now making its way over to Verdun. The developers were showing off this game mode, for both games, complete with bots!
Some people might be aghast at the thought of playing an shooter these days with bots running around, but it reminded me of a more relaxing time for the first-person shooter genre…namely the countless hours I spent playing Unreal Tournament 2014 solely against bots. With such an unforgiving game as Verdun, the chance to get to grips with the basics of how movement and combat works, without the stress of being killed within seconds of spawning in the trenches.
Having the chance to play the same game mode across Verdun and Tannenberg helped me instantly realise that these are two distinct shooters, albeit ones that share the same DNA. They are clearly shaped by the battles that give them their names, with the map I played on Verdun full of trenches while Tannenberg was set on a glorious snowy wooded plain, somewhat making me think of the battle of Bastogne episode from Band of Brothers.
I still hold concerns that the skill of the experienced players of both games might server to put me off digging into them too deeply, but I am pleased to know that I can at the very least find my footing against bots. This is why a show like EGX is so good, games which don’t have the massive marketing push of something like Battlefield or Call of Duty can, and often are, very successful thanks to Steam. But by getting the game out to the masses, there is a chance for a new audience to find a diamond in the rough. Verdun and Tannenberg might just be the diamonds that you are looking for.