Battalion 1944 studio splits with Square Enix, announces free Legacy edition coming to Steam

Battalion Legacy
(Image credit: Bulkhead Interactive)

Battalion 1944 launched into early access in 2018 as a throwback to the early days of the Call of Duty games. There were some troubles, predictable for an early access game, but it seemed like a very strong start for a niche multiplayer FPS. Square Enix, which had published Battalion 1944 under its indie-focused Square Enix Collective, apparently thought so too: It acquired a 20% stake in developer Bulkhead in November 2018.

Unfortunately, neither the game nor the relationship between Bulkhead and Square Enix worked out quite as hoped. Battalion 1944's average concurrent player count has been stuck in single-digits since mid-2020, a console release that was promised in a 2016 Kickstarter never happened, and today Bulkhead announced that it has "formally ended" its relationship with Square Enix.

"We are deeply disappointed that Battalion 1944 never made it to console and we will be refunding all console Kickstarter backers," the studio said. "Thank you to everyone that backed the console version and we’re sorry it has taken so long to rectify this."

The announcement brings to an end an unhappy process that dragged on for years longer than intended. Bulkhead promised as recently as April 2021 that the console version of Battalion 1944 was "still being made."

"Loads of stuff we can’t talk about currently sorry," community manager Aaron Baker wrote on Reddit. "Will become more apparent in the future. I know it’s a shitty situation but that’s just the way it is for the time being."

Ironically, Baker said in the same thread that a shift to free-to-play "won't be happening," yet Bulkhead also announced today that a "revisited and final version of Battalion 1944" is being released on Steam for free as Battalion: Legacy.

In Baker's defense, Legacy doesn't appear to be free to play, but just straight-up free: Players can rent or purchase game servers, but otherwise it looks to be all there for everyone. It also promises to be more than a quick dump of a rough, unfinished game: The new version of Battalion will add the British as a new playable faction, along with more than 30 weapons and various upgrades.

"We have taken the best aspects of Battalion 1944 and honed in on these to create a fluid bug free experience, featuring a working server browser, an added faction, new weapons, classic Search & Destroy game mode with all weapons available, complete UI rework and visual overhaul," the studio wrote in an announcement on Steam. "Battalion: Legacy is the culmination of work consolidated into one old school experience for all to enjoy."

Despite the looming launch of Battalion for free, the reaction among supporters is not widely positive. Many of the replies on Twitter expressed frustration at the long and ultimately pointless wait for a console release; a few are unhappy that Kickstarter backers can get their money back, but those who purchased directly from Steam cannot—presumably overlooking the fact that the refund offer is specifically for people who backed console editions. 

One follower, though, shared a wistful farewell to what might have been:

(Image credit: ThatLysanderGuy (Twitter))

As for the future, Bulkhead is working on a new Unreal Engine 5-powered FPS called Wardogs, and it's got another project in the works that it will have news on later this year. "We just wanted to close a chapter," Baker told PC Gamer. "[Battalion 1944] no longer represents the quality bar we’re aiming for as a team and company, both in ability and direction—despite being proud of what we’ve achieved with Battalion."

For now, Battalion 1944 remains available for purchase on Steam. Obviously, at this point I would strongly recommend that you wait a week and get the upgraded version for free—Battalion: Legacy is set to go live on August 16.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.