STAFF REVIEW of Tannenberg (Xbox One)

Sunday, August 2, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Tannenberg Box art If you were asked to name a few WWII or Modern based shooters, you could probably think of at least a half dozen without trying too hard. Now, think of some World War I based shooters. Can you think of any off the top of your head? There’s the odd one here and there, but it’s an era that got largely ignored for whatever reason. Blackmill Games and M2H have noticed the lack of shooters in this genre and decided to create a series of WWI Games. Their first outing a few years ago was with Verdun, and while it was authentic, we reviewed it quite poorly due to many bugs, design issues and a messy launch.

Since then they’ve fixed and improved the game quite drastically with its remaster, but I mention it because it made me nervous when Tannenberg was due to release, as I was unsure if history would repeat itself or if they took feedback and improved many aspects. I’m happy to report that feedback was apparently taken very seriously, so much so that all the console versions were now being handled in-house, built from the ground up. This is no easy feat, but shows the heart and dedication to wanting to craft a much better experience for their player base.

Games set in the World Wars have near endless history and documentation to derive from, and it's obvious they've done so as they’ve recreated a very authentic WWI shooter experience. Now, keep in mind, WWI was over a century ago, so weaponry and tactics were drastically different from modern times, but it’s obvious that the developers have a deep understanding and passion for the era. Tannenberg is a squad based first person shooter set on the Eastern Front, and you can expect an online experience with up to forty players in matches, though bots can fill those spaces if needed while waiting for more. Get your rifle, pistol, sword and gas mask ready, because trench warfare is brutal and unforgiving.

Don’t go into Tannenberg expecting some lengthy and epic campaign. Actually, don’t go in expecting a campaign at all, as there is none. This is an online multiplayer squad based shooter at its core. They decided to focus on that, and while some might find that disappointing, this also allowed them to focus on creating a more refined experience.

I’m no history buff, but of course I had to do my homework and read up on what and why Tannenberg was so significant in the War. I won’t delve into the details here, but it was a major battle within the first month of the War between the Russians and Germans that had quite an interesting series of events, and an even more shocking outcome; if you have the time and interest, it’s a fascinating read.

Authenticity is paramount in Tannenberg, so you can expect accurately recreated weaponry, uniforms down to the details, battlefields and squads. You’ll be able to fight as the Russians, Germans, Bulgarians, Latvians and more. For those history buffs out there, I know this is already exciting you.

As there’s no campaign, you can expect three different game modes to delve into the trenches with. If you’re a fan of Team Deathmatch, the Attrition Mode is where you’ll want to be. Here you pick a main rifle and a secondary pistol or equipment and try and defeat the other team. If you want to go solo, then Rifle Deathmatch is the mode you’re looking for, having every solider on their own versus everyone else.

The main, and most exciting, mode for Tannenberg is its Maneuver matches. Here is where 40 players can join battle across a massive battlefield (the Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch modes are quite small in size in comparison) that looks to emulate actual battles that happened on the Eastern Front during the War. While you’re fighting for the Russians or Germans, you actually pick smaller factions and allies, each comprised of four person squads. The large map is broken into a handful of smaller areas, much like you’d see in a Battlefield game, and if you can claim the landmarks for your team, you’ll slowly drain the enemies’ tickets. Do you try and go on the offensive and capture as many as you can quickly, or defend the ones you own hoping to make a push forwards once the barrage subsides? Deplete the enemy resources and you win; simple, right? No, this is War.

The map is broken into different sections, so if you’re not careful, the enemy could easily flank you and conquer your landmark for themselves. This constant tug-of-war can be exciting when things are going your way and you’re advancing, but frustrating when you get killed from stray bullets from who knows where, but that’s how War was; brutal and unforgiving.

You’ll never need to fight alone or wait for a lobby to fill, as you can load up to twenty bots in a Maneuver Match that players can replace as they join, something that’s always a welcome bonus. Your squad of four consists of different roles, though I tended to gravitate towards the leader role, as I can tell my squad what objective to go for or defend, gaining myself bonus points if they follow orders. I can also call in air support like mortars, mustard gas and recon fly overs should I capture a base and use its phone. While there’s not all that much variety between the roles, it won’t matter that much when you’re in the thick of battle.

Again, the historical detail is top notch, from the smallest details to the uniforms and weaponry, authentic battlefields, to actually being able to get stuck and die in barbed wire if you’re not careful. Trenches played a big part of the warfare, and it’s no different in Tannenberg. Encampments will have LMG’s that can be manned to stave off attackers, but obviously leaves you open from behind if they manage to flank your trench.

With dozens of different weapons to try, it’ll take some time to unlock and master them all. As you level from experience, you’ll earn unlock tokens that can be used to unlock certain presets with squad roles or specific weapons if you’re playing Deathmatches. Keep in mind, this is based in WWI times, so the weaponry is going to reflect the era. Don’t expect many mods or attachments for your rifle though. In fact, most will only allow a bayonet to be put on your rifle, though the odd gun will allow for a scope (that’s incredibly hard to use) but so much of the online shootouts are sniping from afar that it’s hard to get up close kills. You’ll need to lead your shots and keep a keen eye out for enemy movement, as I promise you you’re going to die more often than not, unknowing where your attacker actually was. It’s slow paced compared to modern games and eras of weaponry, but one single bullet can kill you, so the realism is there.

The map design is fantastic, though most likely because it’s been recreated from actual historic accounts. Trench warfare is chaotic and having a weapon with a clip of 5 shots only is something that takes getting used to. You need to be deliberate with your shots and try to find ways to flank the enemy. The WWI era is very authentic in Tannenberg and should be a history buff’s dream. While the visuals won’t wow you by any means, they are passable, though there is some major pop in and texture issues, even on an Xbox One X. Audio is impressive though, hearing the gurgles of a nearby brother in arms dying after getting shot, or the twang of the barbwire you’re entangled in. While I don’t know my guns very well, each rifle appeared to sound authentic and had distinct sounds when fired.

Tannenberg isn’t trying to compete with the Battlefields and Call of Duty’s, as it’s a completely different experience; one much slower paced, deliberate and brutal. Some will be turned off by is clunkyness and sluggish gameplay, but the realism and recreation of WWI battles is on a whole other level. If you’re looking for realistic trench warfare, Tannenberg will pit you in 40 player WWI battles that history buffs will relish in.

Overall: 7.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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