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Early Access Second Look: Verdun’s Improvements

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This is an early access game, and is not in a complete state. Features described below may be subject to change.

While Andrew may have not been sharing his first experiences with the WWI FPS Verdun, I certainly will be in this article. If you haven’t had the chance to read Andrew’s article, absolutely give it a read, but keep in mind there’s been a massive update to the game that includes improved graphics performance (I can get high FPS in the Ultra settings now). It’s no accident that my first hands-on experience with the game came after a update. Verdun is an Early Access title available on Steam right now for around $23, and it’s a fresh perspective to the military FPS because it’s gone back in time. This isn’t Advanced Warfare or a modern military shooter by any means. That’s also exactly why the game shines.

In Andrew’s article he mentioned the historically accurate features of the game and the unique challenges they provide. “Frontlines,” the trench warfare mode is probably one of the more unique versions of “capture the objective” I’ve seen in a game, and that helps Verdun stand out from any other FPS released within the past few years.  Keeping the teams 16 v 16 prevents the maps from feeling too crowded, yet the power of the guns (which are mostly 1-hit kill) and the cratered, labyrinth-like maps keeps the gameplay intense and frantic despite the need for strategy and gradual physical progression. Spray-and-pray shooters will not only give away their positions but get killed fast in this game. Instead, the intensity of the game shines through when players poke their heads out and take quick pot-shots before hiding from the bullets whizzing overhead, or when players have to charge through the crossfire to attack an enemy trench knowing that one shot is all it will take to end your advance. I recently streamed the title on Twitch so if you want to see how it plays, feel free to have a look there at the unedited gameplay.

Verdun trench

Trench warfare is fast, frantic, and brutal.

The new “flinching” mechanic is a welcome update. Bunnyhopping (a popular Counter-Strike mechanic) is now much harder which in my opinion keeps with the setting and aesthetic of the game. It’s not supposed to be a twitch shooter, but rather one that shows just how brutal war was back in the early 20th century. Melee was also improved, and let me tell you: using a bayonet is fun and satisfying if you can manage to get close enough to someone. It’s also a rare enough occurrence that I never felt it was overpowered or a core focus on gameplay.

Fans of PC gaming will also be happy to know there are some pretty intensive setting options available including a good field-of-view slider. Individual graphical additions can be flipped on or off including water reflections, motion blur, depth of field, sun shafts, and more. Controls also have the option to be individually mapped for people who are particular. Mouse acceleration can be toggled as well. One feature I haven’t played around with is manual bolting which I assume means manually pressing a key to pull the bolt back, then again to close the chamber. I will have to look into this further.

Look at all those options!

Look at all those options!

Andrew previously brought up his desire for destructible environments and for tank warfare. When I heard the idea I’m wasn’t sold on tank warfare improving the experience, at least not if it’s handled the way Battlefield handles tanks. Perhaps a push system a la Enemy Territory from back in the day might be good, but even then I think that would drastically harm the fun of Verdun‘s “Frontlines” mode. Of course, since the developers have given the firm “never” to that idea, it’s a moot point. Tanks will remain only window-dressing in the game. As for destructible environments such as craters coming from artillery, I don’t think an indie developer will have the technology or time to develop something that intensive. I’d be too afraid of game-breaking bugs popping up.

Speaking of bugs, since Andrew’s review there have been plenty of fixes. For one thing, grenades are no longer pink. That’s absolutely an improvement. The graphical fidelity also received a massive overhaul to not only look better, but work more efficiently with computer hardware. Where as earlier on this computer Andrew reported to me the game looked like it was having issues maintaining a stable framerate above medium, I am able to run the game on ultra and stream without issue after the most recent update. Sights still take practice to get kills with, and I often found that if I got close enough, proper aiming was an afterthought for me as I could just get shots off via hipfire and still land a kill or two. Once I adjusted to the sights, I was able to pop off a few long-distance shots and get the kills expected. Judging by this, I’d say hit detection and shot distance indicators have probably been fixed.

The game's graphical fidelity improved a lot and it looks awesome with everything set to max!

The game’s graphical fidelity improved a lot and it looks awesome with everything set to max!

Despite these bug fixes, the game is far from perfect (as expected with any Early Access game). I watched one player fall through the map, and he wasn’t able to get out (or do much of anything), so that’s absolutely something that will need to be fixed. Also, moving around in trenches is sometimes a problem as I get stuck around people if we’re too crowded. Being unable to advance or retreat properly because one person is behind you is frustrating (though that may be more feature than failure depending on your perspective). As of writing, there are only two game modes and of those two only one is truly unique. That one game mode I think makes the whole experience worthwhile, however if you’re someone who is prone to wanting to play various modes that may be something to take into consideration. That can absolutely be a deal-breaker.

In under a month the experience for Verdun has drastically improved, and if you’re ready to deal with the experience of an early-access FPS, this is one worth taking the risk on in my opinion.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends!

Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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  • Mike Hergaarden

    Thanks for this great preview-update!