Tannenberg follows on from its predecessor Verdun, bringing the focus to the Eastern Front of the First World War. While Verdun brought us a unique outlook on the war, is Tannenberg a worthy successor, or an overpriced expansion? Let’s have a look.
If you’ve played Verdun, then you’ll know exactly what you’re getting here. A stripped back, tactical first-person shooter set during one of the most destructive conflicts in human history. This is not the stylised, artistic-liberty filled experience offered up by Battlefield 1, this is something far, far closer to real life. Meaning you’re going to die. A lot.
The reason for these continuous deaths? Tannenberg shares the same realistic damage model as its predecessor. You take a round from a rifle you’re laying stiff on the floor, not hopping around like a bunny to avoid the following bullet aiming to kill you off. here’s looking at you, Battlefield snipers. What this does mean, is that regardless of your loadout, you feel powerful, but at the same time, incredibly vulnerable. It’s an interesting dynamic that creates an atmosphere of peril without leaving you feeling helpless. It’s a nice dynamic.
What doesn’t help with this, however, is the fact you never know if the enemy aiming at you (or teammate beside you) is a real person, or an AI. You see, Tannenberg fills empty slots on teams with AI soldiers, which is great for ensuring that the games are full and not being played between teams of 6 instead of 32, but the AI soldiers are rather uninspiring and prone to doing some rather basic, bordering on stupid things. I’ve seen several emerge from a trench having just seen their friend have his brains blown across his uniform, only to be swiftly met with the same end. For a game that puts its emphasis on tactical, focused team play, having AI with such tendencies does water down the experience a little and takes from the feeling of power knowing that the enemy could have simply been the computer.
This, of course, wouldn’t be much of an issue if it was a small percentage of the server that was filled with AI soldiers, but the sad reality is that Tannenberg simply doesn’t have the player base to fill its servers. February 2019, the month of the title’s release, saw a peak of 481 players. For reference, that’s 7 and 3/4 servers worth of players. with Tannenberg having just 6 maps and 3 modes, you’d be hard pressed to find a server that fits exactly what you want at times. Thankfully, the figure for the last 30 days at the time of writing has broken 4 figures, sitting at 1,139. Sadly, however, you’ll still struggle to find servers with even a single human player in some game modes.
The mainstay of the player base, and by that I mean 99%, are playing Manouver. The game mode will feel familiar to people coming over from other large-scale FPS titles, with the map split between points of interest. Where things differ, however, is that all of these points share a border. Move from point A to point B, you cross a line, which in the heat of battle, becomes a frontline. Clever. These sectors offer you advantages as well, creating an even greater incentive. Honestly, this might be one of the simplest, yet most engaging objective-focused modes available right now. Taking the now age-old formula and changing enough to make it simple, and captivating.
The other modes, take on the classic deathmatch formula, be it as teams, or individual. These modes are fun, but really don’t offer the focus of Maneuver that really makes the gameplay of Tannenberg shine. These modes are also rarely inhabited by people, so rarely in fact, that you’ll be playing against bots 99.9% of the time, with the occasional human who pops in to shoot you in the back. It’s a shame because these modes are a nice change of pace, but with tactical shooters like this, the core experience has always been the objective game modes, which does soften the blow somewhat.
A shooter is more often than not only as good as the maps it puts soldiers in, and oh my what maps they are. All based on real-world battlefields, the maps capture the feeling of war perfectly. dirty, desolate, and echoing with gunfire and infested with clouds of poisonous gas. Realism is the name of the game in Tannenberg and these loving recreations of famous battlefields do wonders for building a title that feels fully embedded in the period of the First World War. While 6 maps might seem a little on the lapse side, the developers have added several different states for each map, from changing weather conditions to simple time changes. It could simply be night time, or there could be fog rolling in, or glistening snow on the ground making the environment even more treacherous. This system is honestly a fantastic addition and helps to keep alive what could otherwise be an experience with a limited shelf life.
No, it won’t be stealing any beauty awards from Battlefield 1 anytime soon, but Tannenberg is far from an ugly game. The gloom and somewhat washed out nature of the presentation does wonders to set the scene of a desolate bloody battlefield, and while the contrasts of bright fields and bloody conflict can have an impact, sometimes its nice to get down to how we imagine things being. Dark, and moody. There’s definitely love here, with the character models all having their own charm, and the addition of historical uniform progressions really helps to add to the authenticity of the title, which is really what sets it apart from that big AAA title released a couple of years ago. That being said, the menus could use some work to remove some of the clutter that is frankly a little intimidating to new players.
A nod has to go to the sound design too. While it might not be on the level of DICE’s almost infamous attention to detail when it comes to audio, there’s little to be sniffed at here. The guns have weight to the sound and there’s a deep contrast when things get distant. The silence of rising from a trench approaching distant gunfire before explosions echo around you is a lovely progression that really helps with the atmosphere that makes the title so appealing.
Tannenberg is a very solid experience that is sadly hampered by the fact not enough people own this little gem. The content is a little thin on the ground for some, but that seems to be the running trend with shooters these days. The experience might be a little too authentic for some, but for those who are a fan of authentic shooters and the history behind the wars that inspire them, will love this little gem.