There's no shortage of games set during World War II at the moment, from strategy (including Sudden Strike 2 and Blitzkrieg) and simulation (IL-2 Sturmovik and Panzer Front Bis) to all-out action (Medal of Honour and Castle Wolfenstein). One genre that has largely escaped this madness to date is the role-playing game, but all of that is about to change with Another War.
Bricks And Mortyr
Crafted by veteran Polish developers Mirage, Another War is "a game we always wanted to do", according to product manager Pawel Kalinowski. "Using World War II as a backdrop, we wanted to attract an audience bored by the usual fantasy appeal of role-playing games."
Mirage themselves are no strangers to the Second World War, having used an alternative history in which Nazi Germany won the conflict as the basis for their first big international release, Mortyr. Indeed, this background was a big factor in deciding the basis of Another War. "The primary reason for choosing World War II as the setting for our game was previously abandoned work done on Mortyr 2", Pawel explained. "We gathered a lot of material on World War II, and it would have been a waste not to use this."
"Another reason was the eternal fascination with World War II. It's a little bit like dinosaurs for the big kids we are - they are scary, they are dangerous and you can't find one in your neighbourhood. Few people realise that although we were taught about the war in school, most of the knowledge we have is from films - primarily comedies like Allo Allo and adventures like Raiders Of The Lost Ark. We haven't seen it ourselves, and the picture we know comes from silly TV series!"
In keeping with their love of Allo Allo and Indiana Jones, Mirage are going for a relatively lighthearted approach to the subject matter. "Although we realize how painful a period it was, we decided to avoid making the mood of the game depressing. Instead, expect lots of fun."
"The player will visit France, Yugoslavia, Germany and Russia. It's not the real world, it is just a projection of our wicked imagination on that unfortunate period of history. To some extent we tried to show the reality of war, so you'll need to deal with communist guerillas in Yugoslavia and escape from a concentration camp. I believe that you will easily recognize the territory you are playing on at the time, and both architecture and people's clothes are as close to reality as they could be."
"We wanted to create something different from classical titles like Diablo or Baldur's Gate. This started from placing the plot in the real world, with real people and adventures and historical background. The main difference [though] is the long-range battles, as players will use a semi-automatic MP43 instead of magic. You can use everything you want from your very own fists, a pistol, semi-automatic and automatic rifles through to flame-throwers and grenades. Certainly all of them are as realistic in terms of look and use as they can be in a video game."
Despite the more realistic setting, many familiar role-playing features can still be found in Another War, including character development and skills. "Giving the most powerful weapon to a guy who doesn't know how to use it is just a waste of a weapon and, possibly, his life", Pawel told us.
"As our beta testing experience shows, it's most effective to specialize your team members in a particular weapon class. When using the tactical abilities, teamwork abilities, and correct use of the combat system, it's pure pleasure to sweep the Nazis out of the way."
Developing these abilities works in much the same way as it would in a more traditional fantasy role-playing game. "You collect experience and distribute it to the characters. The player needs to concentrate on the specific abilities of a character instead of making the hero the ultimate killing machine. The correct use of special abilities (unique for every hero class, similar to magic in other games) is the key, and the choices [you make] at the start effect dialogue and plot and determine the tactics you will use."
Mirage are aiming to deliver "a relatively complex but easy to play role-playing game with both fast action and a deep storyline". We should know soon whether or not they have succeeded, as Another War is already available in their native Poland and is due to arrive in the west at the end of the summer.
"All we need to do is record the voices for the English version and we got the game ready", Pawel was happy to report. "We will certainly pay close attention to the response from the Polish market in case of any feedback. And in the meantime we are working on the Czech and Russian versions of the game."
With any luck Another War could help give Mirage and their Czech-based publisher Cenega a foothold here in the west. As with many other east European countries, the Polish gaming industry has come a long way in recent years. "There were no old game companies in Poland", Pawel told us. Indeed, Mirage (founded in 1989) is one of the longest serving developers in the country. "What we have is the Codemasters generation - guys who were playing with their home computers and started to make something bigger out of this. A few others are foreign companies looking for a cheap work force, something which turned out to be an illusion as costs here are the highest of the Eastern Bloc countries, and possibly higher than in some EU territories."
"But for me personally, working in Poland has one advantage - most people understand what I am saying!"