World War I is a subject that is relatively underrepresented in gaming, especially when compared to World War II. It is a much more nuanced war than WWII, making it less black and white morally. It is generally accepted that the Nazis were the bad guys in WWII, making “Shoot Nazis” an easier objective than “Shoot Central Powers Soldier.” WWI is also usually considered less glorious and more horrible for soldiers, which deters developers from trying to make a decent WWI game. A good example of a WWI game is Valiant Hearts, which does a very good job of capturing the moral ambiguity of WWI, as well as delivering a compelling story with some great characters. A poor example of a WWI game is The Lost Battalion: All Out Warfare.
The Lost Battalion is a WWI action platformer/shooter where you play an American soldier from Alabama. There are two modes available as of the writing of this review, “Up and Over” and “Arcade.” Both of these modes play almost exactly the same — the player runs around with their little jellybean shaped soldier, shooting German soldiers in order to score points. The main differences between the two is that in “Over the Trench” IS IT OVER THE TRENCH OR UP AND OVER? mode, the player attempts to take over trenches and only has a single shot rifle. Taking over trenches is extremely difficult because it seems that you can only take over a trench if there is American soldier with you. If you don’t have a friendly soldier with you, then it will just remain neutral until you leave, which resets it to German. It is also unlikely for you to have a friendly soldier because of the way the AI is programmed.
There are two types of enemies in this game: Foot soldiers and machine gunners. Machine gunners sit in one place, take a few shots to kill and fire off an insta-kill round every once in a while that will go through an entire line of friendlies until it hits a wall. Foot soldiers just sort of wander around aimlessly until they hit a wall, causing them to turn around and walk the other way. These soldiers don’t fire their weapon, they just walk until they hit something. If that something is you, then they deal damage and keep walking into you until you jump or shoot them. Most of the deaths that I experienced were caused by two soldiers sandwiching me, which stuck me in place and dealt damage each time I jumped. Getting into the manwich of doom isn’t difficult, considering that the enemies fall out of the sky and the controls are extremely laggy.
Other annoying ways to die include — friendlies pushing you into foot soldiers, getting one shot by a machine gunner, and bouncing back into another soldier after taking damage, causing them to juggle you to death. The Lost Battalion also commits the cardinal sin of platformers, having things in the foreground that look like they should be in the background kill you on touch. Barbed wire is the cause of countless German and American deaths in this game.
As mentioned earlier, you play as a jellybean shaped, mustachioed American soldier from Alabama. He doesn’t have a name; however, it is revealed that he is from Alabama through dialogue. He says one of several quips when he takes damage or kills one of the German soldiers. These lines range from “I bleed Red, White and Blue” to “Back in ‘Bama, I didn’t take shit from nobody.” Most of these lines aren’t very befitting of the context of WWI, especially when the German soldiers saying “Nein” in their last breaths as your character says “You goddamn gorilla Huns!” in a stereotypical Southern accent. The game’s bio describes it as heroic, based on real world events type of game, but the dialogue and aesthetic are childish and unrefined.
The Lost Battalion has a hand-drawn aesthetic that can be best described as “doodled.” People and objects are drawn in a cartoonish way, and their animations are very basic. Almost everything is round and childish looking, including the blood spatters when people die. Every animation, from the walk cycles to the bullets themselves, is extremely basic. There isn’t even a vertical or diagonal animation for bullets as they travel across the air; every shot you take has the bullet travel horizontally. There are also strange graphical glitches in this game, including several occasions where the score for the round and cursor were displayed somewhere in the sky.
Everything in The Lost Battalion has some sort of flaw in it: The two modes are almost identical, the objective capturing is dependent upon stupid AI and not player skill, things that look like they shouldn’t kill you are lethal and the dialogue is middle-school edgy at best and downright cringe worthy at worst. The Lost Battalion: All Out Warfare is not worth your time or money.
This game was obtained from Impartial Studios and reviewed on PC. It is up for purchase on Steam.
The feature image of this article displays almost all of the game's problems: The bullet is horizontal while moving vertically into the sky, where there is a glitch causing the score and cursor to appear in the clouds, below which stupidly programmed, derpy looking German AIs are walking into an insta-kill barbed wire that looks like it should be decoration. This game manages to mess up both the big and small things that make a good action platformer.