Project Reality was a hugely popular mod for Battlefield 2. It took the solid mechanics that you found in Battlefield 2, improved on them, and then pulled an amazingly tight-knit community of players around it. Offworld Industries, the studio behind Squad, are the very same guys that were behind Project Reality. As a result they know exactly what is needed to find the perfect balance between a full blown simulation, and an enjoyable and accessible action-packed experience.
I’ve been watching Squad for a while now, ever since it comfortably exceeded its Kickstarter goal. The game raised $435,000 of a requested $184,000; though it is expected to cost about $3,000,000 to complete the full game. Still, having seen the game take off on Steam Early Access, that goal may be within reach.
The full game itself will focus on 50v50 combined arms warfare, on large maps, with vehicles and supply management playing a massive role in the overall experience. The maps are currently quite large, with most reaching 4km2, although most of the combat is focused around several compounds or strategic objectives found within each area. This isn’t anywhere near what you would expect in a game like ARMA3, but it is a great deal more space than you would find in, for example, a Battlefield map.
Currently, vehicles are not in the game, but they have been listed as the top priority by the devs. This means that sometimes I do find myself playing a sort of “running simulator” for some portion of each match. Aside from this, the gameplay is still fun and engaging once you make it into position.
Players currently have 4 factions to choose from: the United States, Russia, the Taliban and an unnamed Militia group. At this stage each faction covers the same roles, and generally they aren’t that different from each other. This will undoubtedly change as more faction specific features are added.
There are few assists to help the player in Squad, and as a result it’s very easy to get lost or accidentally shoot teammates. You will sometimes find yourself in deep grass, between factions lines, surrounded by other players, having to carefully monitor each one to work out if they’re a friend or foe. This is where communication becomes vital.
Players can communicate with their squad through their mics, with the leader communicating with the other Squad Leaders. In addition, you can communicate with any player, friendly or otherwise, if they’re within a certain range of you. This works well, having experienced some excellent team coordination myself, although some players inevitably use this system to shout and scream whatever the hell they want.
A Squad Leader can build a variety of different items depending on how many resources they have. Spawn points, ammunition caches and much more can be produced. You’re also able to build small outposts, with sandbag walls, bunkers and various other defenses. This becomes interesting when defending besieged compounds, with rockets coming in from different angles as attackers desperately try to slip through your defenses.
Personally I cannot wait for vehicles to be implemented, although the devs have been a little vague with when we might see them. It does look likely that we will get light vehicles and gun emplacements in the next major update. Squad should get a lot more interesting with these additions.
The game can currently be purchased on the Steam Store (with the usual Early Access small print), although, with that £30 price tag, I would personally give it a couple more months and allow for some more features and optimisation.