In world where shooters are both very common and also painfully similar at times, Tannenberg’s development team deserves credit for crafting something rather unique.
I enjoyed Verdun when I reviewed it about four years ago on PlayStation 4, which was a port of the PC game that had released prior to that. Tannenberg is the next effort by M2H and Blackmill Games, and it once again aims for massive battles and a slower pace that is focused on realism. I don’t say ‘slower pace’ as an insult – not at all. You can die really quickly if you are not careful, because the emphasis here is on realism, which means characters are not bullet sponges. I have gotten numerous one-shot kills while playing – and suffered the same as well.
The maps are expansive, similar to Battlefield or Ground War modes in other games where you are trying to take or control points of interest in Maneuver mode. Here you have two very large teams with 40 players as you battle it out with half a dozen different types of units and a half-dozen different maps focusing on the Eastern Front of World War I. The maps are incredibly well designed, with different levels of elevation, natural protections such as trees to man-made ones like trenches and makeshift forts. The visuals are a little stiff at times, especially some of the character models when compared to other AAA shooters on the market, but the environments and sound design are really well done.
That being said, there is an air of authenticity here that has to be mentioned. Everything from the loading of ammo into the weapons to the uniform designs to the actual different languages spoken by the different countries represented throughout the game really demonstrate the care that went into this game. The stages are further enhanced by a weather system. Creeping through trenches when it is raining hard or through a thick patch of forest in the fog is an appropriately tense affair – especially near the end of a match that is close and those deaths really matter.
While I enjoyed Verdun well enough, I will say that Tannenberg just feels more approachable. Play recklessly and you will still die a lot, but Tannenberg is more forgiving in terms of providing coverage (Verdun relied almost too heavily on its trench warfare). There is a very tactical side to Tannenberg, as you can issue command and interact with different parts of the various forts in a way that really does sell the idea that you are just one small part of a much grander scale of war. Mercifully spawning options are plentiful, making the large map less of a chore when you do get killed.
These battles in Maneuver are a bit of a commitment. You will drop half an hour into them if it turns out to be a competitive match, but the different types of squads, weapons and unlockables gave me plenty to experiment with. There is something oddly satisfying about having fired my rifle and missing and having to draw my sword to charge the person in front of me before they can take me down with their own shot. It suites the theme of the game – after all, this title is based on a terrible battle that saw many people die that day. There is a grim, grittiness to Tannenberg that works well, even if it is perhaps not as polished visually as some bigger studios are putting out there.
There is no story mode, which I can take or leave for the most part these days. I enjoy the spectacle of the stories in a game like Call of Duty, but they tend to be short, leaving me to spend most of my time in multiplayer anyway. To that end, there are a zillion trophies in this game, which gives a good indication of how much gameplay variety is baked in, even without a campaign. I will say however, that the other two modes that are provided are pretty stock and far less interesting as they amount to a free-for-all and team deathmatch options. They work fine, but are really only for people looking for quick fixes as the depth found in Maneuver just isn’t there to be found in these modes.
I would say the biggest thing holding Tannenberg outside of its visual product values and somewhat thin selection of modes is that the online community just does not appear to be there yet. There are modes you can play with bots, but on release day I struggled to find any active online games. It got better a couple of days out, but for a game that hangs its hat on massive player versus player battles, the lack of a robust player base could be a concern. Again, thankfully you do have the option to plug some bots into some of them – but that is really not quite the same thing.