Burden of Command looks like a strategy wargame: Maybe Panzer General, maybe Hearts of Iron 3, or maybe something in between. Developer Green Tree Games insists that it is not, however. They describe it as "Band of Brothers meets XCOM," a blend of RPG and tactics that's "infused with battlefield psychology, where every decision counts."
Tactical battles are an essential part of the game, and players will have to master morale, maneuvers, recovery, and other basic military mechanics in order to succeed. But the scale is small, and the personal experience of war is the overarching focus: You play an officer in the US Army's 7th Infantry Regiment—the Cottonbalers—and must lead your soldiers through the second half of World War Two.
In case there's any doubt about its story-driven bonafides, Chris Avellone and Alexis Kennedy are onboard as two of Burden of Command's "top brass advisors." Avellone is credited with guiding the developers "on creating empathy, memorable characters, and compelling narrative arcs," while Kennedy provided "deft critiques through the process [that] have made our prose land on target more often."
"Avellone and Kennedy gave us early design advice and playtested the early version of the narrative," Green Tree's marketing lead Davide Pessach told me.
"Our writers are doing an amazing job, especially in squeezing every single word they use for meaning and atmosphere," he said. "Tactics really come alive when you factor in personal stories, skills and mindsets of your officers and soldiers."
That's why the developers are doing their best to avoid making too many connections with the wargame genre: Because Burden of Command is a game about war, which is more of a distinct difference than it might sound like.
"[We're] not bogging down players with infinite details, but focusing on men, tactics and stories. Accessibility is not a problem for us because the philosophy is really different from wargames," Pessach said. "That's why we think our game is more in the ballpark of XCOM or Shadowrun—games that deliver accessibility with tutorials and tooltips instead of lengthy manuals."
Even so, there's a strong commitment to historical authenticity: Other advisors on the project include historian and author John C. McManus and award-winning novelist William Bernhardt, and playtesting is being headed up by Adam Dials, a US Army veteran of Iraq who now serves with the Texas National Guard.
"We aim to recreate the personal struggles of officers—their 'burden of command'," Pessache said. "So personalities, crises, painful decisions, shocks... Everything is factored in the mindsets of these officers in the tactical battles they lead."
Green Tree Games hopes to have Burden of Command out sometime in mid-2019, but that's not carved in stone: "The team is small and the effort is really a gargantuan one," as Pessach put it. For now, a development roadmap tracking the plans and progress is maintained on Steam, and you can learn more about the project at burdenofcommand.com.