Steel Division: Normandy 44 Review

A Wave Styled World War 2 RTS

I don’t know how, but I forgot to review Steel Division. As I was reading through all the news about the upcoming free DLC, along with the Second Wave DLC, it just kinda dawned on me. This game comes from the makers of the Wargame franchise, but I’ve never played any of those either. This was a completely new experience for me, and I’ve enjoyed over 58 hours to date. This is easily one of my top three favorite strategy games to date. As usual, I never touched the singleplayer campaign, and went straight to multiplayer.

Steel Division: Normandy 44 Breakdown

For just $39.99, you can own one of the best World War 2 RTS titles out there. Steel Division: Normandy 44 is from Eugen Systems, the creators of the Wargame franchise. You get to play from the division level, commanding one of the historical armies that battled in western Europe during 1944. That includes the United States, France, Great Britain, and Canada on the Allies side, facing off against Germany on the Axis. Each country has multiple divisions from mechanized, to infantry, to mechanized infantry and more. The Second Wave DLC is coming soon, and is adding several more divisions for various countries. There are several different maps to play on, forcing you to make choices on what you bring and how you fight. Not every map will favor armor, for example. The standout feature of the game is it’s battle phase system. This is a three phase system where you are giving a strict point allowance to bring forward troops. Each phase that allowance can change based on your division and its historical performance. Some divisions may start with lots of points and scale down while others may start small and build up.

What Makes It Fun

Wow. Where do I even start? Probably my favorite part about this game is it’s adjustable scale. You can scroll in and out of the map to whatever scale you want. You can either watch the battlefield unfold in a series of icons, or scroll all the way in to watch your MG mow down enemy soldiers as they try to cross an open field. An adjustable view is phenomenal for those games where the fixed view is too close. The 10v10 games are AMAZING! They are HUGE, chaotic, suspenseful, and incredibly fun! I like the variety of different divisions. If you want to play an infantry division, paratrooper, or even with tanks, Steel Division has it all. I also am madly in love with their battle phase system. This actually starts while you’re setting up your forces, and deciding which phase you want troops and equipment to start arriving. During games, it gives that feeling of ‘desperate hope’, trying to hold out until reinforcements. When your troops come under attack, just before the next wave is able to deploy, there’s a rush that follows as reinforcements arrive to push back enemy forces! Another great feature is the sound effects; It actually sounds like a warzone. The machine gun fire, artillery, planes – it stands out more to me than in other games. It also increases and deafens as you scroll in and out, which is a nice touch.

What Makes It…Not

I only have one complaint about this game. Not all of it is the fault of the game either, so I wouldn’t weigh this as a full strike against Steel Division. When you get into the 10v10 multiplayer mode, whichever team drops the most player connections loses, and there is generally at least one or two. The team that wins is generally decided immediately. This is quickly followed by other players tilting and/or rage quitting. This of course leads to a 10 versus 7 or 8 if you’re lucky. The connectivity is hard to blame on the developer completely, some people just have terrible internet. The tilting is completely on the shoulders of the players though.

 

The Bottom Line

A lot of Steam reviews complain about game balance. I never really noticed a huge problem personally, though I did mostly play co-op versus AI. Those medium AI units were pretty difficult, let me tell you! I have noticed lots of balancing in the patches that have come out since official release, so there may be something to it. I still recommend the game for anyone wanting something fun or just to play casually. If you’re looking for some competitive hardcore multiplayer, this probably isn’t the game for you. If they put out Steel Division: Pacific tomorrow, I’d buy it based on this game alone. While they have a ways to go given that the paid DLC has just started rolling out, a Pacific (or really any other version) is something I really hope to see some day.

Monthly Gaming Update 2017.6

Current Game Plan

September is going to be a big month. In addition to multiple video games, I’ve also pre-ordered a booster box of the Magic the Gathering Ixalan expansion. Because dinosaurs. In addition to that, I’m also trying to build up my Warhammer 40,000 tabletop army. I’ve got about 1000 points, so I’ll need 500-1000 more points for a ‘standard’ size army. Plus whatever life throws at me, so money’s definitely an issue.

Creative Assembly

The new Arena bundles are the big news for Total War: Arena. You can check out my video detailing the bundles here. They range from $9.99 to $99.99 and all include beta access and premium time.

Total War: Warhammer 2 launches on September 28th 2017! I’m totally excited to start stomping out my enemies with an army of dinosaurs! Lizardmen, ho!

Other Games

Foxhole is introducing an Amphibious Warfare update! The concept art for the amphibious vehicles has been my favorite. I’m SO excited to try this update out! Look for stream and videos soon.

Conan Exiles has launched it’s first free expansion, The Frozen North. If you like the Conan universe, and lots of snow, this is now the survival game for you.

Squids from Space is getting some cosmetic updates. You can change the appearance of your character with wacky colors and clothes.

Blizzard Games

Thanks to the new Wrath of the Lich King update in Hearthstone, you can get some free card packs. Just log into hearthstone before October 1st 2017 and you will be awarded some free Wrath of the Lich King packs.

The latest World of Warcraft update looks pretty fun. High Exarch Turalyon and Alleria Windrunner are leading the assault against the Legion’s homeworld. It’s kind of nostalgic, being that their statues are the first you see when you walk into Stormwind. I can still remember the first time I walked through the Stormwind gates for the very first time. I’m toying with the idea of checking it out, largely depending on if I can find enough Alliance players on NA servers.

Games To Watch

I saw World of Castles in my Twitter feed. It’s a game of building your castle, and sieging your friend’s! Keeping my eye on it, it looks really good. It releases September 16th 2017.

I also came across the VR game Soldiers of Freedom, which releases September 9th 2017. Think the singleplayer campaigns of the Battlefield games, but in VR. Looks really interesting!

Virtual Reality Games

I’m slowly edging into VR games. So far I’ve mostly played Island 359, a dinosaur hunting game. I made it through the tutorial and tried a little of the arcade mode. I don’t think I like the arcade mode, but the base game itself was a lot of fun.

I have also just picked up Star Trek Bridge Crew! It was half off, so I couldn’t resist. If you or someone you know also has Star Trek Bridge crew, please let me know! It takes four people, and i’d really love to play it with a full group!

Content Channels

I’m actually happy with how my channels are growing. YouTube is slow, but steady. Foxhole is the top content, with 5 of the top 10 most viewed. Twitch is steadily creeping up to that 1000 follower milestone! I’m most excited about this, as I’m told it’s the first big milestone for getting recognized by developers for getting copies of the games to showcase. Foxhole and Arena are the big games I’m playing now, both continuing to bring in new followers.

A lot of the new followers are coming from people signing up for the Twitch. I think it’s a good thing overall, it’s just hard to gauge just how big a channel is. Those people who signed up may or may not come back. While it could be considered padding of numbers, it’s still an opportunity that someone may pop into the channel to see what it’s like.

August 2017 Gaming Stats

Foxhole Open World Shooter $19.99
Clone Drone in the Danger Zone Lobby Shooter $14.99
Squids from Space Lobby Shooter $0.00
Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator Lobby Simulator $0.00
PWND Lobby Shooter $29.99
Fortnite Open World Shooter $39.99
Saurian Open World Survival $19.99
Legends of Ellaria Open World RPG $19.99
Total War Arena Lobby RTS $0.00
Arma 3 Lobby Shooter $0.00
Left 4 Dead 2 Lobby Shooter $19.99
For Honor Lobby Fighting $0.00
Team Racing League Lobby Vehicle $9.99
Conan Exiles Open World Survival $29.99
Blood Bowl 2 Legendary Edition Lobby Turn Based Strategy $44.99
Beast Battle Simulator Lobby Simulator $9.99
Island 359 Open World VR $19.99
Range Day VR Lobby VR $19.99
# Games Purchased 2
Average Per Game Savings $5.80
Average % savings 29%
Total Savings $11.59
Average Game Price $23.07
Total Spent $28.39
Total Worth $299.87
Total Hours Played 127
$/per hour MSRP $2.36
$/per hour Bought Games $14.20
$/per hour Total $0.22

Warhammer 40k Fate of Konor Story Campaign Battle Report

Story Mission 5: Countdown To Destruction

I’m doing something different this week. I played my first real Warhammer 40,000 game and it was a lot of fun. I managed to get some pictures, so I thought I’d share a battle report. Let me set the scene for you. The planet of Drenthal is under siege my the forces of Chaos. Imperial High Command has decided they would rather destroy the planet, then give a victory to the heretics. Terebral Station Sigma, a mining platform, has been overcharged, and will soon explode taking the planet with it.

Combatants

The Fate of Conor campaign takes place in the Ultramar system, home to the Ultramarines, which are who I brought today. My force was as follows:

  • 2 Primaris Intercessor Marines Squad
  • 1 Primaris Hellblaster Marines Squad
  • 1 Primaris Inceptor Squad
  • 1 Primaris Ancient
  • 2 Primaris Lieutenants
  • 1 Primaris Captain

My opponent went the xenos route, bringing Orks. Nuff said right?

Armies placed in their deployment zones.

Victory Condition

As the Imperium player, I was the attacker for this story mission scenario. My objective was to escape the planetary destruction with more than 1/3 of my force. This would be considered a major victory (lol). I had a slight speed advantage over Orks, but as you can see they had quite a numbers advantage. Not pictured is my Primaris Inceptor squad, which I elected to keep in high orbit to drop down on a later turn.

What really made this campaign fun was the planet collapsing behind me. After each turn, 6 inches would disintegrate behind me! I would have to push across the board fast.

The Battle Turn 1

I immediately started moving forward and shooting. The big swarm or Orks you see on the right gave me a lot of trouble. I rolled lots of 1s and 2s, only killing a few of them. On the left I did a little better. I tagged his big monster unit with a couple of good shots, and started wiping out his melee squad.

The Orks used their turn to close the gap, but thanks to their generally slow speed, I would get another round before they were on top of me, which would be a problem.

The Battle Turn 2

With the board now starting to collapse behind me, my only option was to push forward and keep shooting. Another round of fire into the huge swarm of Orks on the right was only mildly successful, so I had to charge in with my Primaris Marines. The Ancient and Lieutenant stayed on the outskirts to support them. On the left I was having much better luck, I managed to wipe out their heavy melee squad before it could do any damage. My Primaris Captain made it to cover, breaking line of sight from all immediate threats. The Hellblasters also managed to destroy the walking melee monstrosity. This was quite a productive round.

On my opponents turn, he wiped out my Primaris Marines squad on the right. He also began to wipe out my Hellblaster Squad the left as well.

The fire really starts moving in!

Battle Turn 3

On the right, I did what I could, but I just couldn’t make a big enough dent in the Ork squad. My Primaris lieutenant threw a grenade which only killed one Ork. One. Whole. Ork. On the left I laid down some fire but couldn’t connect with much damage. Meanwhile up top, I landed my Inceptor squad this turn behind the building second from the left, opening fire on the Orks atop the tower wiping out several of them! My captain used a special ability that nearly doubled his move speed, edging him closer to the escape route!

The Ork swarm, well, swarmed my Primaris Ancient on the right. The flag bearer went down fighting in the melee. The big gray Ork boss/leader you see on the left decimated my remaining Hellblasters and then began to chew on my Intercessors.

Battle Turn 4

This was the final turn. I charged into the Ork swarm on the right, tying them up to keep them within the encroaching fire’s reach at the end of the turn. A noble sacrifice. On the left my other Primaris lieutenant did a simliar remover, preventing the slow moving Ork boss and support crew from being able to stop my Primaris Captain.

At this point my Ork opponent conceded, as the fire was rapidly encroaching and his units would not be able to get away from it, and he had no way to prevent my Captain and Inceptor squad from moving to safety and scoring me the win.

VICTORY FOR THE EMPEROR!

Oculus Rift First Impressions

How It Started

I was semi-following along with Amazon’s Prime day sales when I found one for the Oculus Rift. The deal was $399 for the Rift and Touch, with a $100 gift card. Wow. Unfortunately it had not only sold out, but was only for a very short time (Something like 4-9 AM EST). As I began to click around, I noticed the sale ad for the Summer of Rift and a $399 price tag. I thought about it for a day or so, as I didn’t want it to be an impulse buy. I obviously decided to pull the trigger, and I want to explain to you today my experience thus far.

Price

I think the price tag of VR sets is what keeps most people away. Normal price for the Rift+Touch is $599, and the HTC Vive is $799. I personally look at VR as a computer accessory. Like a joystick for flight games, or a headset for voice comms, it’s something thadds to your experience. I’ve spent $80 on Razer gaming mice, and over $120 on headsets, so that is kinda my guiding point. Given that it’s a different gaming experience, more in your face so to speak, I think paying more is acceptable. There are headsets on the $200+ range, and I’m sure you can spend just as much on mice and keyboards as well. I don’t think $399 is the price point we’re looking for, but it’s oceans closer than $599 and $799. Given that I’m doing all the content creation, I thought it would be a good way to liven things up for me and my audience. What finally made me decide to take the plunge was that it might help me stand out a little.

Delivery

The order process itself was easy, like most online shopping stores. What I immediately didn’t like however, was that I wasn’t given a shipping estimate. Not ‘a few days’ or ‘a week’, just nothing. This in turn meant that at some point there was going to be a surprise $399 charge on my credit card. I could have driven 30 minutes to a nearby Best Buy and had the thing in an hour, which is what made it frustrating. I wanted to make sure Oculus got the lion’s share of the money, supporting them directly. Finally after about a week, and more than one unhappy support request, I got a notification that my Oculus Rift was shipping. Smooth sailing from that point, as it arrived in a couple of days. It arrived in style too. The boxes that the Rift and Touch were stored in were top notch. I’m not usually one for packaging, but I was really impressed with the cases. They look like they’ll hold up longer than the Rift itself.

Online Market

I was really surprised at how full the Rift’s online game market was. There are even free to play games. While I have read that some of the games don’t offer much playtime, for example one game is only about 5 minutes worth of play for $2.99, their prices seem to reflect that. There are a lot of cheap games for the Rift. Of course Steam has plenty of VR games as well, and they seem to be priced pretty cheaply too. I’ll have to do a little testing to determine if there is the same value in VR games that there is in regular games as far as money per time spent goes.

Expectations versus Reality

My actual time spent in the Rift so far has been mixed, but positive. Learning the controls is like learning to play on a keyboard for the first time. Adding to the difficulty is that every game has its own movement and control scheme. Some games are more streaming/content creation friendly than others. For example, King Kaiju lets you assume control of a Godzilla-esque monster. While you get to see things FPS style, the audience simply sees a pair of hands. Most games so far share the same view, but it’s a buyer beware kinda thing. Thank goodness for Twitch and YouTube right? I’m enjoying VR gaming so far, though I do get some eyestrain if I play for too long. It’s a very cool experience, and different enough from regular gaming. If the trend continues, I think I will get my $399 worth.

Contemplating Foxhole Early Access

Top Down Trench Warfare

Foxhole is a unique game experience. The main goal is simple: kill your enemy. If it’s red, it’s dead is a very successful and storied approach in video games. While Foxhole offers a variety of, shall we say, artistic supplies to paint the world red with, it also offers completely different paths. You can literally never fire a single shot in Foxhole, and still perform completely valid and necessary functions for your team. You can stay far behind the front line, scraping together materials and sending supplies forward to fuel the war machine. Alternatively you could go Hacksaw Ridge style and be a combat medic for your squad as all hell breaks loose. Whatever your playstyle, Foxhole fits you.

Everyday Life

I’ve stuck to the Colonial faction, or the Colonial Legions according to some of the bits of lore floating around on the maps. Bouncing from server to server, I generally come across at least one person I’ve played with on a previous server. It’s an easy way to start a group, because there’s generally always a new person around wanting to learn the ropes the right way, instead of following after someone who screams cliche war movie lines into their microphone. You generally also pick up that one person running alone on the road as you head to the fighting. Finding a group isn’t hard at all. Staying together once the fighting starts however, is another story.

Whatever role you want is chosen by the gear you carry. Rifles, HMGs, Carbines, SMGs and more are there for long-to-close range combat. Trauma bags and first aid kits for medic-healer types. HE grenades, frag grenades, gas grenades and more await you. You do have a weight limit which, if exceeded, slows you down considerably. The little encumbered warning that pops up is orange for a reason. Foxhole encourages you to specialize. Carry as much as you want, just don’t expect to move quickly, or at all if you want a little of everything.

As a general rule, I despise in game voice chat. It gets abused consistently, and I disable it as soon as I realize it’s in a game. With Foxhole, however, it’s an integral part of the game, and I like it. It’s purely based on distance, a very realistic mechanic. Enemies can also hear what you’re saying, so it adds an element of strategy to communication. It does need a little work however, primarily in the form of volume controls. Currently it’s tied to in-game sounds, which means you have to temper the game volume with the morons who think screaming into their microphone is a good idea. It is decent-sized problem, but not enough to turn away from the game. It’s my biggest complaint with the game in its current state.

Solo Play Versus Group Play

I’ve had a few ask if you can play the game solo. The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it is a long and lonely road, and that in the mid-phase you’re probably going to hate life playing soldier. Logistics players most definitely can solo the game and feel very little impact. Soldiers are heavily impacted in contrast. You can’t heal yourself, you can only carry so much, and of course trying to take on four enemy players alone usually ends up bad. Usually.

Phases of Battle

If combat is your game, the battles in Foxhole follow a crescendo. Initially in game there’s a lot of infantry action. This is my favorite part of the game. There’s a ton of small arms shooting, doing the initial carving up of territory. Once the builders reinforce behind, the skirmishing comes to a screeching halt.

Now comes the age of foxholes and explosives. Pushing comes in small spurts, and only by the team with the best logistics support. HE grenades, mortars, and artillery field guns are key during this phase. Infantry plays a much smaller role during this phase. This phase can be a little slow as hauling enough grenades to take out a single foxhole, as well as a simple rifle and ammo, encumbers you. You become an easy target, and even if you succeed, you’ve simple knocked down one of 99 bottles of beer on the wall. I’m not sure if this is some kind of balancing issue or just not geared towards my mentality. My only other complaint with the game, but again it’s not a deal breaker. There’s usually more than one front to fight on.

Finally comes the steamrolling face. Howitzers, halftracks, and tanks are the tip of the spear. Infantry once again becomes invaluable, logistics more important than ever, but vehicle teams are what stand out here. Once all the foxholes are cleared away, the infantry has to clear the remaining soldiers hiding behind every wall and building. Cranking out the high end explosives, tank shells for example, is top priority for logistics. Vehicle teams have to keep their vehicle fueled up, full of ammo, and leading the push into enemy lines.

Logistics

Scraps are converted to basic materials(bmats), which are the life blood of production and construction. You can make all kinds of weapons, ammunition, gear, vehicles, and other equipment with these. Higher tier vehicles like tanks require refined materials(rmats), which come from somewhere. Storks for all I know, as logistics isn’t my cup of tea. Front line soldiers place orders in Team chat, and logistics players generally fulfill those orders, hurtling down roads towards some nameless FOB in their supply trucks like the fireball express. Logistics players arguably have the most important role in the game once battle lines are drawn.

Progression

You have to play Foxhole because you love the game. You don’t get rewarded with powerful weapons or legendary loot of any kind. There are no infinite staircases of levels and skill points to grind. Loving PvP for the sake of PvP should be your motivation for playing. The only real means of progression comes from ranks, which are gained by getting commendations from other players. Usually players hand out commendations for bringing much needed supplies or fulfilling a supply request. I’ve been given a few commendations for rushing out into the middle of a fire fight and reviving downed players. I’ve also handed out a commendation for best use of the phrase ‘satchel charges’ in a sentence. Whatever behavior you want to reinforce in the community is what you reward with a commendation. It’s actually pretty stress free in that there is nothing to keep up with. Someone could pick up the game a year from now and not be behind. There are a few privileges with rank, most notably being able to leave the equivalent of a post-it-note on the map to send a message. Otherwise, a fresh player has the same advantages and disadvantages as a major.

Bugs

Prominent features in early access games include bugs. Foxhole is pretty light in that regard. I’ve not crashed once. I have experienced a sound bug once which was fixed by restarting. There is a bug with crouch which I experience regularly. It can be fixed by crouching and un-crouching a few times though. There is also a stuck bug where you can’t move, and only dying will fix it. That’s it. Foxhole has had a seriously smooth launch in my experience.

Personal Notes

As I said before, Foxhole is an experience. I’ve gotten more than a couple of friend requests on Steam. I’ve had loads of fun chasing Gandalf the Grey around, talking Warden propaganda, and working with a group of people to take an objective. I get this sense of camaraderie from the community that I wouldn’t want to trade for anything. Foxhole is probably the closest simulation to WW1/WW2 that there is. At the same time it’s still a sandbox that you can get whatever you want from it. In it’s current state, it’s worth the $19.99 price tag. Any kind of DLC or updates are going to make it worth even more. Yes, I did get a key from the devs being a streamer, but free doesn’t always translate to fun. Truth is though, I’ve played over 60 hours of Foxhole since it’s release less than a month ago. That’d be less than $0.30 an hour for entertainment. There are very few games that reach that threshold for me, and yes, I do track my play time and spending. With Foxhole’s future wide open, I doubt the battles will be getting any less intense.