Tannenberg is the latest First World War-set online shooter from the makers of Verdun, bringing realistic historical combat to the fore on Steam once again, only this time, M2H and Blackmill Games are leaving behind the crater-ridden trenches of the Western Front and taking players to the relatively unexplored battlefields of Eastern Europe.
The four maps on offer - East Prussia, Poland, Carpathians and Galicia - may seem a little stingy by today’s standards, especially with the developers stating that the game is content complete despite still being in Early Access, but each one is vast and most incorporate a variety of landscapes, from dense pine forests and grassy fields to more fortified areas. They also utilise alternate weather and time of day effects as a way of achieving more mileage.
It’s a simple method, but one that works; playing one map in a blanket of snow and grey skies only to go again a few rounds later in bright sunshine feels like two very different experiences, while some weather patterns, such as the vision limiting nature of heavy fog, can even impact upon gameplay, changing the way you approach battles, especially in Maneuver.
Of the three game modes on offer in Tannenberg, Maneuver is by far the most popular, with the game’s other two modes - Rifle Deathmatch and Attrition - unable to match the level of tactical play and the thrilling scale of warfare on offer in the former, thanks in part to smaller maps and lower player counts.
Tannenberg feels like a step forward for the series, albeit not a giant one.
Unlike Verdun’s Frontlines mode, which saw both sides competing in a tug of war match over a single control point at a time, Maneuver has players battling it out over multiple sectors and control points spread over the mode’s large maps. The idea is to outflank the opposition by encircling occupied sectors, cutting off the enemy’s headquarters and leaving it vulnerable to a game-ending capture.
This is a big ask however, as controlling all or enough sectors to capture the enemy HQ is surprisingly difficult, and more often than not victories are achieved through attrition rather than any tactical genius. Both teams begin each match with a set number of points that can only be reduced by capturing and holding the most sectors, meaning playing the objective is essential if you want to end up on the winning side.
Most maps are made up of between 9 and 12 sectors, with each of those (save for the main and often most contested one in the middle of the map) offering some sort of bonus for the team that captures it. These include being able to call in a recon plane that spots any enemies caught underneath its flight path, ammo dumps for resupplying and artillery strikes, the latter of which can be particularly devastating, especially considering there’s no protection afforded to those who have just respawned into an area that’s being bombarded.
The lack of spawn protection is one of the game’s biggest drawbacks, and an issue that’s exacerbated by the developer’s commitment to recreating an authentic wartime experience with the one-hit-kill nature of weapons. Getting picked off from afar by an unseen enemy when carelessly sprinting across open ground is one thing, but being dropped after respawning in a ‘safe’ area is incredibly frustrating, and something that happens far too often.
Despite this, Tannenberg remains an incredibly enjoyable and different online shooter, and though it was disappointing to see Verdun’s less-than-clear progression system once again in play here, as well as the game’s insistence on relying on players’ goodwill to ensure teams are evenly balanced, Tannenberg still feels like a step forward for the series, albeit not a giant one.