Tannenberg is an interesting creation. It aims to provide a somewhat realistic depiction of WW1 with authentic equipment and well-thought out maps, but this is hindered by the sheer scope of it. It can be genuinely rather impressive at times but is held back by the indie nature of it all. Its ambition is both admirable and detrimental to the central experience.
Tannenberg works as a follow up to Verdun, and as such is a realistic WW1 experience with large battles and tons of items. It has a great level of detail when it comes down to uniforms and forces but this is somewhat let down by the visuals. At its worst, combat looks close to that of a shooter from the previous generation and at its best it is passable. Due to the scope of the game and studio, this is something that I can look past, but it’s worth mentioning.
Whilst the visuals are underwhelming, the map design is mostly very good. The landscapes are taken from real-life battlefields and manage to cultivate chokepoints in interesting ways. Well-placed hills, bunkers and machine guns play a vital role in the control of the map. These manage to emphasise the differences in player styles. Will you go into the trench where people are being mowed down in hope of being the lucky one, or will you take a long flank around the battlefield at the risk of being wiped out by a rifle? This dichotomy of players creates interesting tactics as you argue what the best approach is, and then get shouted at for going the wrong way.
The frantic nature of changing tactics and styles is heightened by Tannenberg’s TTK – the time it takes for a character to die. In Tannenberg, you die very quickly, often getting decimated by a single stray bullet or machine gun. This realism is rather fresh in your first few games but starts to feel tiring as you play more. Getting killed immediately from a spawn is irritating, whilst mowing down multiple people in a single successful machine gun spray starts to lose its shine rather quickly. Ultimately, the TTK is so fast that it starts to make the combat’s charm fade with time. That being said, using Tannenberg as a title to play while cooling down from others makes for a rather refreshing experience that might help its longevity among other contemporaries.
Naturally enough, you can’t talk about a game without mentioning the single biggest factor – its gameplay. There is a certain clunkiness to combat in Tannenberg but a large amount of that is down to its very design. Reload animations take time and so too does aiming. Don’t expect quickscoping or jetpacks in Tannenberg. It often feels rather brutal charging a battlefield slowly with your friends only to be mown down in seconds. Class systems add a distinct level of personality to your character within a squad fitting some needed roles, like those with a long-range rifle or a quicker scout with a pistol. These are unlocked throughout combat with different styles fitting certain regiments.
This level of customization adds a great deal to the overall experience and gives you a chance to try out the multitude of guns available to you. It also helps you to reclaim some sense of personality as you climb over trenches getting mercilessly slaughtered. In this sense, Tannenberg manages to deliver a very solid interpretation of war itself. Battles are terrifying. Guns and actions are slow. Death is quick. This dread is something worth playing for.
There are a few main modes to Tannenberg that all give different feels to the base game formula. There’s a large 40-player deathmatch that pits one team against another, a “rifle deathmatch” that feels like a free-for-all where everyone has a rifle, and something akin to Battlefield’s Conquest mode. Tannenberg’s version of Conquest is perhaps it’s best, focusing on control points on a large map that must be, well, controlled. Each team starts on opposite sides of the map and must capture as many of the seven zones on the map as possible. These give unique bonuses to your team and can help you achieve enough victory points to win. Some zones might give you a recon whilst others help you in gaining victory points.
Tannenberg’s version of Conquest works the best as combat doesn’t feel consistently strong enough to justify solely relying on it. Tactical modes offer the most unique experience as they utilise the parts of Tannenberg that work most in its favour – its realism. Whilst the servers are currently suffering from low player numbers, this is bound to change over time. Furthermore, Tannenberg features offline bots to keep you mowing down enemies even when you don’t have a stable connection.
Tannenberg on Xbox One is stuck in a rather awkward place. It is so very ambitious that it is certainly worth looking at, but it is this same ambition which seems to hold the game back. The visuals are outdated and the gameplay sometimes feels rather clunky. This being said, the attention to detail is phenomenal with gun choices, uniform design and map layouts that all astound. Whilst the TTK can be a bit frustrating, all of these points will make sure that those dropping in with Tannenberg will never have played a WW1 shooter like it.