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If you would like to see the game in action and hear my running commentary, check out this video. If you just want to read my thoughts in...

Foxhole First Look - Video and Article Foxhole First Look - Video and Article

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If you would like to see the game in action and hear my running commentary, check out this video. If you just want to read my thoughts in written form keep scrolling. The written version is far more coherent, since I wasn't being shot at the whole time!

Foxhole is a new game just released to Steam early access that allows you to jump into a persistent online battlefield with up to 119 other players and duke it out in a large scale war in a WW1/WW2 setting. This game has more to it than just that, however. Players spawn into the game with only a pistol, 16 rounds of ammo, and a hammer. You may be thinking, what good is a hammer in shootout? Well, in this game, it's one of the most important items on the battlefield. If you want to get your hands on anything other than that pistol, you or someone on your team will need to get to work gathering resources and turning them into weapons of war.

The map is littered with villages and resource nodes for the two teams to fight over. Once a team secures a resource node, players can begin "mining" those resource points to gather raw materials. Those materials are then taken to a refinery to be refined, and then those refined materials can be used at a weapons factory to produce rifles, machine guns, and so on, as well as the various types of ammunition for them. Binoculars, trucks, grenades, and everything else must be produced in this way. Defensive structures like barbed wire, sandbags, and foxholes can also be constructed using these resources. Finally, that equipment must be picked up by other players or hauled to those at the front. Trucks can be built to transport finished goods to the combat troops, or used to speed up the transport of raw and refined materials back home. This means that in order for a team to really succeed, they will need at least a few players dedicated to this process. I'm not entirely sure that I would enjoy playing this part of the game for more than short sessions at a time, but it is fun to know you are helping equip your fellow players with good weapons and ammo. Your efforts have a real tangible effect on the game, which is more than the crafting in most games can say.

Communication is another key to success in this game. Looking at the map, you can only see which towns are controlled by which team, and your current location. You cannot see friendly or enemy players at all. The only way to know what is going on is to communicate with your team. The chat box will usually be a constant stream of requests for supplies and reinforcements at critical points in the field. You can also use voice chat to talk to other players near you. While this can be off-putting right at first, since you can feel very lost and alone, it quickly became one of my favorite things about the game. I often hear it said that the average soldier on a battlefield only knows what is happening in his immediate area. He has no way of knowing what is going on elsewhere or even who is winning the battle. That is very much the case here, since you can only see a short distance around you. Enemy and even friendly players are only visible if you have direct line of sight to them. At night this viewing distance shrinks even more. Strong communication from your team is needed for everyone to get a clearer picture of the overall battle.

The actual combat is tense and chaotic. The mechanics of shooting are simple enough, just aim at the enemy and shoot, but it's complicated by a few things. First, as discussed, strong manufacturing efforts back at HQ make a huge difference here, since the basic pistol or even rifle will leave you hopelessly outmatched if the enemy has machine guns and SMG's. Not to mention how the amount of ammunition available to you changes how willing you are to use suppressing fire freely or be stuck conserving rounds. Second, visibility is limited to what you can actually see. Often the firefights turn into blind shootouts with each side returning fire at where they think the enemy just shot from. Fire too soon and you give away your position. Fire too late and you may find yourself overrun. The latest Dev Blog shows off some bayonet action, which looks to be very effective if you can catch the enemy off-guard.

Taking all of this together, Foxhole is a game which many players may bounce off of at first, but it looks to have a very rewarding gameplay loop for those with the patience to learn how to the game world works and begin to manipulate it.  Materials must be gathered, supplies must be brought to the front. Trucks carrying those supplies must stick to the roads. So, let's say your team is trying to capture a village but the enemy won't budge. Instead of hammering away endlessly, you might gather up an organized squad and slip past the enemy to cut off their supply lines. Just as in real life, setting up a roadblock at a key crossroads could starve the enemy at the front of ammunition and the resource needed to even respawn there, allowing your fellow troops to overrun their position. The game offers a lot of these opportunities to use real tactics to defeat the enemy. Patrols and reconnaissance are needed to gauge the enemy presence in an area. An armored offensive is possible, but a concentration of effort and resources is needed to build and fuel such vehicles.  Not to mention organizing a unit of infantry to support them, and hold any ground taken.

Currently the game lets 120 people play on each server. There are several different maps that make up the overall game world. The hope of the developer is to eventually link all of these maps and servers together, so that hundreds or perhaps thousands of players are on one seamless battlefield simultaneously. This is an ambitious goal, but I am eager to see them reach it. Such a scale would really open the game up to strategic and operational levels of play. Organized groups of players and clans could coordinate large scale offensives and fight battles that last days or weeks. 

This is still the alpha version of the game, so there is much work yet to be done in all areas. That said, the game runs perfectly fine already. I've only played a few hours, but did not run into any bugs or crashes.

Foxhole is available on Steam early access, and you can find the official website right here:

- Joe Beard