There's no shortage of games based on the two World Wars, but this one has plenty to make you sit up and pay attention. For one thing it's developed by Petroglyph Games, the developer that rose from the ashes of Westwood Studios—best known for the Command & Conquer series. You likely won't be surprised, therefore, to learn that this involves RTS battles. You may be surprised to learn that, here, WW1 hasn't been relegated to just set dressing.
The quote that kicks off the reveal trailer is taken from the end of Dulce Et Decorum Est. This poem was written by Wilfred Owen, who drew on his own traumatic experiences in World War 1 for his work. Petroglyph's decision to quote him is a clear statement of intent, as is the decision to partner with the Imperial War Museum in the pursuit of realism. Indeed, the studio has declared that it wants to express the "harsh reality of the First World War". One way it aims to do this is through the use of persistent battlefields. Revisiting areas you've previously fought in, you'll see the destruction that you and the enemy left behind. Actions have visible consequences.
There will be two aspects to the game. Acting as Field Commander, you'll be in familiar territory with real-time battles—making decisions and changing plans according to how well (or how badly) things are going. Representing the majority of the experience, you'll dig trenches, order troops, and do whatever it takes to secure victory against your opponent—including deployment of the notoriously horrific poison gas.
The second part of the game is acting as Theatre Commander. This turn-based element will require you to look at the bigger picture, researching technology to use in battle and directing entire divisions. You'll even have to manage your nation's morale, which will doubtless be dictated at least in part by your actions. By managing both individual battles and the overall allocation of war resources, you'll have nobody to blame—or applaud—but yourself.
As the name suggests, this game concentrates on The Western Front in Europe, and lets you play as either the Allies or Central Powers. Starting at the beginning of the conflict following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the campaign will follow the real events of the war. Things will begin with the Central Powers advancing through Belgium and France, with new technologies being introduced as the war progresses—aerial combat, for example, didn't become widespread until 1916.
Outside of the main campaign, The Great War: Western Front will also offer a Historical Battles mode. Skirmish meanwhile will be a more freeform experience, with plenty of customisation and—crucially—all unit and technology variations unlocked and ready to go. It won't just be a solo experience, either; a multiplayer mode will allow for 1v1 battles.
Despite the drive for historical accuracy, Petroglyph isn't aiming for a restrictive experience where deviating from the history books will result in a fail state. If you set yourself the task of following the course of WW1 as closely as possible, then you can totally do that. Yet if things go a different way, whether by accident or design, you can carry on regardless. The First World War was full of senseless loss of life, and terrible strategic decisions. If you want to create an alternate history where things went more smoothly and a little less tragically, this just might end up being your chance.
PC Gamer Newsletter
Sign up to get the best content of the week, and great gaming deals, as picked by the editors.