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Frontline: Fields of Thunder

Score: 78%
ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Nival Interactive
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Frontline: Fields of Thunder come to us from the Russian developers at Nival Interactive, makers of such quality games like Silent Storm, Etherlords 1 and 2 and Heroes of Might and Magic 5. Paradox Interactive picked up the publishing end, and they too are known for their background in strategy and PC titles, such as Europa Universalis, and Hearts of Iron. Interestingly enough, Frontline bears a very strong resemblance to one of Nival’s most beloved titles- Blitzkrieg 2. However… is this title just a rehash of the same tried and true formula from years ago?

If the graphics are any indicator, we might be onto something here…While engrossed in flashy explosions and particle effects such as smoke and fire, along with the myriad of animations taking place among the chaos, we have seen this before. The good thing is it doesn’t require a monster rig to perform well… but in such a competitive genre as the RTS market, it’s hard to get by with this. For example, one of the most exceptional RTS games in history came out less than a year ago, stealing any thunder (excuse the pun) from games following it, and setting the bar on a whole new level- especially in the graphics department. The name? Oh... just the PC Strategy Game of the Year for a ton of different media services, AKA Company of Heroes.

This title has so much going on that often the detailed animations suffer, reducing many infantry to wobbling blobs. Landscapes and buildings fare a little better, with some nifty looking cottages, bunkers, HQ installation and more, that usually end up as a hulk of burning rubble sooner than later. Speaking of rubble, in general the trees, bushes and other foliage will be eradicated as well, leaving some truly desolate landscapes. Some of the larger tanks like the feared German Tiger, show more detail than their smaller counterparts, with individual wheels in the track clearly visible, as well as the hull-mounted machine guns' sharp bursts of gunfire, but some of the other vehicles are nothing special. However, I will say that the combat train was a pretty unique sight, bristling with guns rumbling down the tracks, taking on all kinds of damage.

Soundwise, you have a pretty basic set of explosive weapons, and the general mayhem of combat, from the grinding of tank treads across scorched earth, to the cries and clatter of your vast horde of infantry. The utter cacophony during an artillery strike is also quite impressive. The musical styling also fits the militaristic theme quite nicely, but isn’t anything special.


Frontline: Fields of Thunder is set in the backdrop of World War II, but unlike many other WWII RTS games, this one concerns the mighty Red Army of Russia and the Fascist Nazis of Germany, set in and amongst the largest armor engagement in history- Kursk. Paradox has gone to great lengths to shed light on this battle, something well known among historical circles and military buffs, but not common knowledge in the general public (contrast this with D-Day or Pearl Harbor, for example). Battle maps and orders are historically accurate, as well as the amazingly detailed encyclopedia that lists nearly every piece of killing machine during the war. Such attributes like armor thickness, gun size, range and more are available, leading to many sessions of just reading through the countless entries, and totally forgetting about the in-game mayhem. To someone who owns nearly all the Jane’s vehicle guides, let’s just say this was a small slice of heaven. Besides the famed Tigers, there are Flammpanzers, scout cars, tank destroyers, a plethora of mass-produced T-34s, Stukas and many more - well over 100 playable when it’s all said and done. The game also provides ample amounts of replay value, as each of the 20 missions can play out differently based on tactical decisions, and the length in itself will take a few days to bust through.

The actual on the field action does seem slightly more realistic and complex than the earlier Blitzkrieg titles, relying less on massive artillery strikes and massing of armor/troops, and more real world tactics, such as using different terrain and flanking patterns to catch enemy formations in weakened positions. The reinforcement ability allows for some much needed help, but you will have to earn it by capturing key objectives throughout the maps. As your units fight and gain experience, they will be promoted and you will earn medals for your valorous leadership in combat. Cool! And like the previous games of this series, you aren’t tasked with the annoying resource collecting system; instead you are given the bulk of your army at the onset, and must rely on your cunning alone, and a few helpful reinforcements along the way. You can also pause the game and issue orders, which is a godsend considering how hectic things can get with hundreds of units dying for their country left and right.

The real interesting feature is the combination of real-time and turn-based strategy. A battle map is layed out, displaying numerous conflicts raging, and you get to choose easier ones at first, before you are allowed to tackle the truly epic conquests. This adds to the sense of a real theater of war, how one battle can affect another, rather than a string of linear missions seemingly apart from the larger campaign.

Lastly, multiplayer is available for up to 8 players, across 10 multiplayer specific maps. These can be played over the LAN, or via the Nival.Net service.


Frontline: Fields of Thunder isn’t terribly difficult, let me say that. Once you handle the tactical grouping aspects (such as whether to mix units, group smaller scout forces, infantry platoons etc.), along with the basic strategy of scouting out enemy territory with planes, prepping it with artillery strikes, and then ushering in a combined assault with mixed armor and infantry, you should blow through most missions.

The A.I. isn’t terribly gifted either, it uses basic straight ahead attacks, but it will cost you if you assault a well-fortified position. A patient general will win most encounters, slowly picking apart the enemy under a withering and steady advance.

Game Mechanics:

This title should appear quite familiar to most RTS gamers, with its isometric, top-down view, interlaced with a zoomable camera and mini-map. At times, there is a bit of slowdown when the carnage is thick, but overall it runs smooth enough to issue your orders. The camera is also flexible enough to shift around on the fly, essential for getting the best angle to ambush incoming infantry, or armor columns.

Overall, Frontline: Fields of Thunder isn’t extremely innovative, but it presents an important part of world history not very well known, and does so with solid visuals, accurate units and just good 'ol fashioned destruction. Plus, at a retail price of $29.99, this game is pretty affordable, and a wise choice considering it’s strengths.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 2000/XP, Direct X 9.0, 3GHZ Pentium 4/Athlon, 1024 RAM, 128 MB 3D Video Card Geforce 5/Radeon 9000, 4 GB install

Test System:

Windows XP, Intel P4 3.2 Ghz, 1GB of RAM, ATI Radeon X800 XL 256MB

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