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Slitherine Addresses Issues in Broken Arrow Demo

Steam Next Fest was a great opportunity to try a lot of game demos but sadly the Broken Arrow demo – one of my most anticipated – suffered substantial issues. Performance issues, incomplete features and lack of a QoL features and tutorials causing players problems are understandable and to be expected in a very early look like this. However, in my time with the game, I was plagued with crash issues preventing my and a lot of other people from starting the game or progressing far through the one demo mission in it. I had planned to give my first impressions of the demo but when I could not play the game too long, an article criticising it for that is not terribly useful or helpful. This is a good opportunity however to combine our impressions of the demo with Slitherine’s response to feedback, which is always excellent to see from a developer and publisher.

Broken Arrow is an RTS that feels like a hybrid of the deep and more realistic gameplay of the Wargame series combined with the faster pace and more arcadey nature of World in Conflict. It follows several recent entries to the genre in Regiments and Warno, both of which are good in their own right but don’t manage to fully scratch the itch for me. What we managed to play of Broken Arrow in the demo was extremely promising. The core of the game – the combat – was hard, fast, and vicious. Units responded well to commands and the balance between the power, durability and utility of armour and infantry was well represented. Infantry caught in the open by an autocannon wielding IFV would get shredded, but infantry moving building to building were relatively durable and man portable anti-tank munitions did their job well in such cases. Only one indirect fire unit was available in the mortar LAV but it was useful as expected, even substantially damaging the softer top armour of vehicles with direct hits. Aircraft were expensive and powerful but perhaps too vulnerable – auto use of countermeasures will help with this.

It’s raining men!

Well represented too was supply – your units only carry so much ammo so once they’re out of their very limited stock of heavy weapons, your infantry are far less useful. To remedy this, you can call in supply units to deliver a supply item deployed to the ground that will replenish units nearby. In the demo this was only available through a truck but there will probably be an air resupply option too. Restocking your ammo was most urgent for infantry but IFVs and especially the mortars would run out of ammo too. This ties into the economy and balancing of your units as you can withdraw them to get a partial refund, which might be worth doing for a severely depleted infantry unit, but it will usually be more efficient to resupply where possible. An interesting mechanic here is that, if you can escort to safety the pilot that ejects from a shot down plane, you will get a partial refund still which is very nice for the very expensive air units.

The multi-stage mission format where you achieve objective A then B then C worked really well for the very large map. I crashed before objective C every time, so I didn’t get to witness the beach landing or get to call in naval fire support, but there was a lot of the map left to destroy. The skirmish mode control objectives will likely be the standard long-term gameplay, but it was good to see they were working on a full featured campaign as these are often afterthoughts in strategy games. Roster creation and a much larger selection of units will be available at release, and many of the units have substantial customization options so you can really customise how your army will fight – will you rely on MANPADS or vehicles for anti-air defence, will you bring dedicated fighter support, or will you use multi-role fighter bombers?

Whatever the question, the answer is always brrrrt.

The performance issues players suffered were quite wide ranging but the worst I found was when playing on high detail, the game would go from a smooth and beautiful 80+fps to a chunky 20fps once there were a lot of units in combat. Lowering the settings helped this substantially – although it would still crash – but it will be good to have this optimised since the game looked glorious on max settings. Also addressed was the limited language support – more languages will be supported at launch, and we can expect more and better battle chatter.

Lastly there will be substantial quality of life issues addressed such as double right click to make infantry sprint, the option for aircraft to automatically use countermeasures, a Line of Sight and Range tool, and so on. We expect a lack of QoL features in a demo but it’s good to see they will be addressed before release – one pet peeve of mine was the inability to bind pause to a hotkey. The game can be intense and having to click the pause button rather than smash space bar like usual was frustrating, though it might be better to get used to not using it before trying multiplayer!

On a related and very positive final note, we have confirmation of a multiplayer beta in Spring (Autumn for those of us in Down Under or otherwise southern hemisphere enabled) which will also be open to everyone. Hopefully a couple more months in the oven along with all the feedback and data from the demo will help iron out the technical issues so they can focus on balance next, the standard bugbear of multiplayer strategy games.

Broken Arrow is listed as coming soon on Steam and release could hopefully be sometime this year. To keep up to date with Broken Arrow, head over to the official website.


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