#5 War Mongrels
I was barely a teenager the first time I watched Saving Private Ryan and I thought it was the coolest film ever. Lots of action and gore – I knew no better. The older I got the harder I found it to sit through the film. Now that I’m firmly an adult, I can’t watch it without crying. Thankfully, that is the correct order of events. If it was the other way round, and the older I got the more I enjoyed the film…
Anyway, I’m still as fascinated by WWII as I was back in secondary school, I can just apply a lot more respect and understanding to that series of events, now that I’m a wise old owl. Hoot hoot. I’m always on the lookout to learn more about the war, which is why War Mongrels caught my eye. Particularly because the game is set on the eastern front, which is often overlooked in this medium. War Mongrels has been developed and published by Destructive Creations. Let’s take a look at their journey so far.
“WE KNOW WHAT DEVELOPERS NEED IN A PUBLISHER, AS WE ARE DEVELOPERS OURSELVES, AND WE SUPPLY JUST THAT.”
Not much is given away on their site, but I did learn that Destructive Creations started out just as a development studio. That was the initial goal, but over time they have successfully transitioned into publishers as well, with four of their own games already under their belt. They are hard workers, constantly looking for new projects and partners, only publishing games that they truly believe in – “otherwise it’s hard to be passionate about what you do”.
In June 2015, they released Hatred to mostly positive reviews on Steam. “Hatred is a violent twin-stick shooter, in which you take the role of The Antagonist fighting against all of humanity.” So, me on a good day.
Less than a year later, IS Defense was released, which garnered very positive reviews. “„IS Defense” is a game set in politically-fictional 2020 – where the expansion of ISIS went out of hand. The player takes the role of NATO’s stationary machine-gun operator, deployed to defend the shores of Europe.”
May 2018 saw the release of Ancestor’s Legacy, again to very positive reviews. This was their first game released on pc and console (PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch). “Ancestors Legacy is a squad-based real time strategy with a strong focus on tactics. Inspired by medieval European history, it brings to life four different nations and their conflicts, usually solved by war.”
Destructive Creations have a clear identity and a strong focus. We now turn our attention to their latest release – War Mongrels. So let’s play!
War Mongrels is an isometric real-time tactics game that takes place on the eastern front of World War II. Dynamic and tactical gameplay with stealth elements, tightly packed into a dark, fascinating story! Play on your own or in online co-op.
When playing this, you’ll no doubt be reminded of titles such as Commandos and Desperados. The tone was set immediately by the musical score. In other WWII games, the soundtrack can be heroic, patriotic and, dare I say it, a little over-the-top. The music here is strictly ominous. It is centered around a melancholic violin, with the odd cough of a distorted guitar. A trickle of single note piano keys are added as the tension builds. It’s claustrophobic and tense, and does a great job of letting the player know that this is serious. That theme is well maintained. Cut scenes may be in cartoon form but they use very little colour and are drawn as if experiencing a nightmare. The game doesn’t shy away from its subject. There is even a warning of how realistically this game portraits its story on its Steam page. Very early on, the player sees a group of unarmed prisoners being mowed down and during one mission you find yourself in a wood that the Germans have been using specifically to kill people in – huge pits filled with lifeless bodies. The story is dark but far from exaggerated. These events happened and I think it would wrong to tone them down, even for a computer game. If you’re sensitive to this sort of material, this WWII game might not be for you.
Before I got started though, the game automatically configured all my settings for optimisation, which I always appreciate. I game on my laptop all the time, but you could put a gun to my head and I couldn’t tell you what a motherboard does. I ran the game with everything on ultra, using my MSI GF65 gaming laptop, with an i7 and RTX 3060, and I had no issues. However, if you are in need of tweaking things, there are a huge amount of settings you can adjust. Most rigs will be catered for, as well as most players, given the game offers five difficulty levels including very easy, easy, normal, hard, and challenge mode. For the latter, enemies are listed as having ‘a serious bone to pick you’. I played on normal and quickly grew accustomed to dying. Here are my impressions of War Mongrels after four or five hours.
There are twelve chapters in the single player campaign (online co-op is available) which takes place from June 1944 on the eastern front. What made a refreshing change is that you start as two German deserters, looking to escape. After three years on the front line, Manfred Raufer and Ewald Faber have had enough. They can’t stomach it any more. They want to go home. These are the two main protagonists but as you progress, your squad will grow to seven playable characters. Each member of your crew has different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and everyone is important and useful in order to complete your missions – the balancing act of character involvement is fantastic. Something I really liked is that if you’re characters don’t move for a while, they have little conversations with each other. You can interrupt these by issuing a command but I liked hearing them talk amongst themselves. It gives a real indication of camaraderie They look out for each other, and teamwork is integral, right from the get go. The opening level sees Manfred and Ewald on the front line, defending their trench from a heavy attack. It is a brilliant introduction with deafening explosions, sharp sprays of machine gun fire, the desperate screams of charging infantry, and the slow mechanical chug of approaching tanks. The attack is the perfect distraction for Manfred and Ewald to make their escape.
As it is the opening level, it doubles up as a tutorial. You will learn how to control characters and how best to use each of them for different situations. Everything is explained and demonstrated really well. Two aspects of gameplay I really enjoyed experimenting with were the ‘planning’ and ‘combat’ modes. The ‘planning’ mode allows you to stop time and give each character their own commands so that when you resume play, they perform them in sync. This is perfect for causing a distraction or when outnumbered by an enemy group. For most of the game, you’ll use the WASD keys (or arrow keys) to move the map around, but when you enter ‘combat’ mode these keys will now control the movement of the character you have selected, rather than the standard point-and-click approach of the mouse. In these encounters, the mouse is now used for aiming and firing. Combat mode is used sparingly as it always gives away your position and you can easily be overwhelmed. It doesn’t take much to kill you. Thankfully, the game is very generous with its automatic saves, although on more than one occasion the save system screwed me over and I was respawning in the middle of shit hitting the fan.
Missions so far for me have included collecting intelligence, killing specific higher ups, blowing up bridges, freeing prisoners, and simply trying to survive. Each level is daunting at first as maps are large, incredibly detailed, and full of enemies. Situations can feel hopeless but just by being patient, observing patrols, and waiting for that small window of opportunity to try something is what makes the gameplay so satisfying. Enemies have lines of sight, which you access by pressing the ‘RMB’ on their persons, and by pressing ‘H’ everything you can interact with becomes highlighted. You’ll need to plan and be careful, and you’ll need your fair share of luck, but this is a strategy game after all. I had an attack all prepared, I knew where everyone was going to be and I had timed it out in my head – it was good to go. Just before I engaged in ‘operation sour-kraut’, one of the guards stopped his patrol to take a piss and I had to rethink. I hadn’t accounted for his child’s bladder and I loved that. That is what these games are all about.
I’m only a few chapters in but I’m really enjoying my time with this game. Given there are twelve chapters, and I’ve clocked five hours already, there is a lot of content here. There are collectibles within missions and a whopping 59 achievements to unlock on Steam. Plus, missions can be successfully achieved in multiple ways, spread out over five difficulty levels, so the replay value and value for money is superb.
War Mongrels is a realistic, refreshing, and challenging WWII strategy game that I highly recommend, especially if you enjoyed Commandos and Desperados, as previously mentioned. I look forward to progressing in my own campaign.
Bravo Destructive Creations and all the best for War Mongrels.
War Mongrels was released on 19th October 2021 for Steam, PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One S/X, and Xbox One
Twitter – @DestCreat_Team
Website – War Mongrels – New Game from Destructive Creations – Home