I have played a ton of games that attempted to capture the effort and feeling of playing in a virtual war, but none of them has hit as many of the right notes as Foxhole. Most of those games will focus on the combat: running, gunning, and claiming territory by wiping out the enemy or meeting some other conditions. In Foxhole, while there is a fair amount of combat, it is equally as important that players in the back lines harvest, craft, and supply those positions on the front.
The game takes place in a time period similar to the 1940s, but it has nothing to do with either of the great wars. There are no actual real-world countries represented in the game, nor any of the real life issues that are involved therein. But it is set in that time period with respect to technology, as players have tanks, rifles, and armaments similarly designed and available in that era. Much of the combat on the front lines takes place in trenches or similar dug-out… foxholes.
An amazing, helpful, and collaborative experience
It’s been a few years since we’ve taken a serious look at the game, so I think this time around, rather than listing off the different features, I’ll give you a walkthrough of my first gaming experience in Foxhole. I was able to get a taste of almost every slice of the game.
As soon as I loaded in, while I was reading some of the pop up hints and looking at where to go for a tutorial, I heard a player’s voice: “Hey, are you new? Do you want to learn a little about the game while also being helpful for our faction?” Well, giddy-up, let’s go! Usually I’d want to see what the true beginner experience from tutorial forward is, but I really couldn’t turn down an opportunity like that one. Another new player that spawned right after me agreed as well, and the three of us began our evening’s tasks.
It began by a discussion on the types of resources available and where to get started. He helped us get some harvesting gear, find some trucks to load the raw materials into, and directed us where to go. So we drove off and started smashing trash for raw materials.
We loaded up our trucks, drove back to a refinery, and set the raw mats to be converted to some processed ones. There was a time short time to wait for that to complete, so while we waited, we parked our harvesting trucks and got some trucks suited for these new materials. Once those were loaded up with our refined goods, we drove across the street to the factory to make something useful. Our guide gave us advice on what was best to help out the faction in different events. In this case, we chose to make “shirts.” Basically, bases need these supplies to allow players to respawn there. I think the number of shirts at a base is the number of respawns available.
Once we waited a little longer for the final product to be crafted, the three of us loaded up into another truck and made our way toward the front lines. Now, it does appear that individual players have some fast travel capabilities when you just want to move yourself, but if you have a truck full of equipment, you have to haul that puppy personally.
It was actually a really pleasant experience. I was in the back of the truck, while my co-noob drove and our guide navigated. He had a ton of useful tips about the game that raised the bar on the overall game experience. I’m not sure it would’ve been even half as fun for me to have run through all this solo. But as a group, it was a cool time.
Finally, about 10 or 15 minutes later, when we arrived at the front base, he showed us how to deliver the goods and even was kind enough to hold the equipment so that both my co-noob and I were able to deliver some supplies. The reason he did this was that then both our names would be sent out to the team indicating we had delivered supplies, and we’d both get some commendations and thereby some XP to level up.
After that, he helped gear us up for a some actual combat and we went to the trenches. I didn’t last long at all. I probably would’ve been aided by playing the actual tutorial on how to fight, but I didn’t hate the combat experience in any case.
The gameplay loop more accurately imitates a real war than any game before it
I mentioned this at the top, but I really want to drive it home a bit more by comparing its gameplay to some specific other MMO war games.
The first comparison, based on the time period, might be the Call of Duty games. Foxhole is in no way attempting to run that route, though. Where CoD is aiming for realism in the graphics and intensity of combat due to the first person viewpoint, Foxhole takes a more strategic approach to combat. For starters, Foxhole uses a top-down POV with very limited range of visibility. If you have a rifle equipped and you hold down the right mouse button to aim, the camera will pull forward further so that you can point, click, and shoot, but you aren’t going to be sitting in a building with the wall next to you blown out so that you can jump in and start popping off headshots.
When playing Foxhole, you aren’t a superhero with a skill bar full of powers that can wipe out whole troop regiments. Yes, you can be a large contributor and make important combat moves, but that’s just another one of the many ways to play. Instead, it felt more like being another cog in the machine, completing my task to help the overall faction one small bit at a time.
Now, supplying the front lines might lead to some comparisons to RvR games, like Guild Wars 2’s WvW or even Crowfall’s Infected or Dregs campaigns. GW2’s comparison ends only with the capture of forts and the occasional caravan runs. Crowfall is much closer, but it still is more heavily a game about the combat side of things. In Crowfall, players are fairly reliant on crafters to build up a stockpile of decent gear and materials for upgrading forts, but it doesn’t feel as impactful. When you die in Crowfall, you aren’t literally counting the number of respawns crafters have left available at the nearest base.
Without any side eyes, players can honestly avoid the combat side of the game completely and be a pure gatherer and crafter. It would depend on the player whether that is a fulfilling experience or not, though. Unlike in a typical MMO, there’s not going to a be trading post or a shop to sell your extra goods at. Everything you build, you do so for your faction’s war effort. Personally, it would be a fun aside once in a while, but it would begin to feel very repetitive and grindy for my tastes. That isn’t to say that there aren’t personal rewards for supplying a frontline base. In fact, whenever you do so, a message goes out to your faction indicating that you’ve done so, which often results in players sending commendations for you, which in turn can level you up.
Now, the fact that you aren’t going to be dropping half the enemy forces with headshots to solo capture a base and the crafting isn’t going to make you ultra rich isn’t a knock against the game in anyway. It actually gives you a much more grounded sense of self. While there are players who have leveled and ranked up, the in-game rewards for doing so are negligible. The most tangible reward from a higher rank is that players may be more inclined to follow your directions, but there’s nothing forcing them to do so.
My time in Foxhole was brief so far, but I can really see some of the amazing potential the game has. I think my evening described above probably covers the general gameplay loop you can expect when you play Foxhole. I know you can spend more time in combat that I did, but the fact that it wasn’t required and I was able to chill out and enjoy some laid back gaming was really nice too.
If you’ve ever been interested in a game set in this period when you are fighting over territory against another faction, I highly recommend looking into Foxhole. I didn’t even begin to describe all the different buildings, gear, and armaments you can build for your faction or how critical watch towers and even roads are to efficient and safe travel. If you’ve ever played it or do give it a shot, I’d love to hear how your experience is.