I spent some time digging into the new sandbox war game, Foxhole, and, in it I found plenty to be enjoyed, whether with a sledgehammer in hand, or a rifle.
Foxhole is a war game made by Clapfoot Inc, a company in downtown Toronto, Canada, and while the peoples of Canada are known for being polite, the harsh, unforgiving environment of Foxhole is nothing of the sort. The players in huge multiplayer games like this ARE the content, and, luckily, in this case, the player base seems pretty easy to get along with, though that might change with further growth in the popularity of the game. It’s currently in early access, and my experiences are with the .01 build.
In Foxhole, you control an individual soldier in the middle of a fictional battle in an environment where every wall, rifle, magazine, grenade, and tank is built by players. It isn’t a game about war though, it’s a game about logistics. You can’t have men dying on the front lines without rifles in their hands, or uniforms for them to die in, so, you have groups of people who do nothing but mine and build for the war effort, and those men are protected by meatheads with rifles and SMGs, and the occasional howitzer. Every once in awhile, you’ll see a medic on the field, with nothing but a handgun, trauma kit, and a medic pack, and that guy just dodges bullets and picks up soldiers. It’s an insane game, where a map will run for 20 consecutive hours on a landslide victory, or longer if both sides put up a solid fight. Currently, at 60 soldiers per side, the game looks like an RTS, but each individual unit is actually a person, and, without the need to grind through ranks to unlock your favorite gun, you just have to hope there’s an engineer building stacks of them and their ammo so that you’re always ready for battle.
Just look at the trailer – everything is easily laid out and the graphics are simple, but effective. The major danger in this game, as well as one of the most beautiful things about it, is the complete lack of ability to see anywhere outside of your screen’s field of vision. This makes combat half guessing, and half following the orders of the guy with binoculars. When people leave your field of vision, they absolutely disappear, and it’s infuriating knowing there’s a guy behind a tree and you have absolutely no idea if he backed away and retreated or is still there. It creates a sense of danger – you’ll constantly be anticipating someone shooting at you, even when you’re alone in a field. Then – there’s the blood. You’ll know when you’re in the middle of a battlefield, even after the shooting’s stopped for a bit. There’s patches of blood everywhere, and bodies, backpacks, and the errant remains of the war machines. It’s interesting, but definitely not chilling or horrific.
The coolest thing in this game is hearing a mortar shell hitting close by and not being able to see it, but knowing to not head into it’s line of fire if you’re alone. I know, stereo headphones are the norm these days, but, there’s something satisfying about it in a war game, and this game’s audio does major justice to big weapons. Even the smaller weapons, the vehicles, everything has a distinct sound so you can anticipate what you’re coming up on.
One of the fastest ways to find this game to be boring or unplayable is trying to go at everything alone. You run into the forest and come out near an enemy base and you will quickly be mowed down by the proud defensive players protecting their base. The thing about Foxhole is, there aren’t any player classes, so literally anybody can jump into a bunker and make life more difficult for you, provided they have a weapon and ammunition. The game’s set up requires coordination and effort if you’re going to rout an enemy, but it’s very satisfying when it occurs. I followed around a single commanding officer for a number of hours, and we breached quite a long distance into enemy territory and ended up with a sizable force of guys with us. I will never forget my time with Sergeant Lavega, and, while nobody is going to be singing our praises about us destroying huge swaths of enemy encampments, there’s something to be said about the personal satisfaction of knowing you contributed to the war effort. I’ve heard the same feeling is felt by logistics players when they fill a base with shirts (respawn tickets, essentially) and ammunition, and allow the defense to continue fighting after the shouting and begging that goes on in team chat.
From a design aspect, this game plays very similar to Running with Rifles, though, I believe the game’s ability to create defensive structures and even static defense (AI operated “turrets”) bring this game much further and establish a much deeper time commitment and sense of duty to the genre. Another big change is that each player is definitely human, whereas in Running with Rifles, a large portion of the enemy force is guaranteed to be AI controlled. The game is designed with teamwork in mind, from the guy who gets the scrap together to make “bmats” (Building materials) to the guy who hammers out vehicles or builds weaponry, all the way up to the grunt on the front lines wasting ammunition, the team with the best communication is going to win. The game’s wiki is very helpful, and the community has already set up large clans. Just don’t expect to be a powerful single-soldier army.
This is a social game. Find friends, make groups. The whole point of the game is working together. That’s really why the game’s fun. A main thing to remember, don’t become cancer. Cancer is the kind of person who bitches about not having enough supply or not having the weapon they want at the base they want to work out of, but aren’t willing to work on the supply line themselves. Winning a war isn’t an easy task, and if you’re a soldier out there fighting the battles, make sure to thank your supply runners, logistics guys, and even your engineers. Without them, the war would be incredibly one-sided. This game’s $20.00 USD on steam. The game’s really worth it, if you’re into cohesive team based gameplay.
Disclosure: I did not receive this game for free.
Developed and Produced by: Clapfoot Inc