There are only so many times you can recreate World War 2 strategy games until it gets a bit dull, or at least that’s what I thought until I tried out Men of War 2’s new multiplayer modes. Developer Fulqrum let us go hands-on with three of the game’s multiplayer modes, playable in a free test demo that runs through March 27, and I came away excited about the deep potential of these challenging, innovative modes.
The first mode, Combat, is your standard RTS multiplayer setup. Two opposing teams, with up to five players on each side, build their armies and throw tanks, planes, and infantry at each other until time runs out. The playtest let us choose between armor, artillery, and infantry from the American, German, and Russian armies, and regardless of what you choose, each army and squad has a set of NPC support units scattered across the map. As the fight wears on, you can summon elite units and even air support for bombing strikes.
That might sound a bit too familiar, especially with Relic Entertainment’s Company of Heroes 3 just behind us, but a handful of small, significant touches distinguish Men of War 2’s multiplayer.
Terrain matters more, for one thing. A little, seemingly insignificant dip in the earth can provide shelter for your infantry – or get your tank stuck long enough for the enemy to blow it up. Soldiers can hide under rocky outcroppings and toss grenades, and holding the high ground can actually make the difference between victory and defeat.
Another difference is more exciting, both for the game and for the genre in general. Fulqrum lets you control entire squads and individual units. You can send a squad off to hold a point, then direct one infantry soldier off to do something else entirely, like lob a tank grenade at an incoming panzer. That means more moving parts to keep track of, naturally, but if you plan carefully, you can pull off some incredibly satisfying maneuvers.
Fulqrum also added a feature that lets you literally control a single unit. You can enter first-person mode and direct a vehicle or soldier manually, which is excellent for aiming artillery and maybe not so much for driving tanks, at least until you get used to the literal tank controls.
The second mode Fulqrum let us play was Front Line, which is shaping up to be an exciting twist on Combat mode with a hefty emphasis on managing infantry. You still have your tanks and air support, but the only way to earn points in this mode is having your foot soldiers push the map’s center line forward.
This is a mode that benefits from having more than one player on your team. Building up the right balance of infantry and armor, holding off the enemy’s forces, and keeping your own soldiers safe requires an extra level of management and quick thinking, and it’d be easy to get overwhelmed on your own.
Fulqrum’s additions to the Men of War formula shone through in this mode. Sending individual foot soldiers off to harass an enemy or shore up a defensive point added a new layer of strategy that I appreciated. So often in the genre, your average foot soldier is just fodder or recruited to capture outposts. Front Line honed in on intense infantry battles and makes you think about how to use these humble units effectively.
Incursion is the third mode we tried, and it was my favorite – a hectic, frenzied mess of deceit, failed plans, and desperate triumph. Incursion uses the line point system from Front Line, but once you lose territory, you can’t gain it back. One force invades, and the other force must repel, but the fog of war means there’s absolutely no indication of where the enemy will strike or where their defenses are. The fact that you can’t actually recover lost territory lends these matches an air of tension that I wasn’t used to in other RTS multiplayer modes, and the outcome of our battle was something neither side expected.
I think Incursion is the mode that’s going to stick with people and lead to some memorable moments, but Men of War 2’s multiplayer mode has a lot of potential in general. You can check it out for yourself between March 23, 2023, and March 27, 2023, for free on Steam.
Fulqrum Publishing provided an in-progress build of Men of War 2's multiplayer for the purpose of this preview. Men of War 2 is set to launch later in 2023 for PC via Steam.
Josh Broadwell posted a new article, Men of War 2 multiplayer is coming, and it's brilliant so far