There are few game series out there that really cater to the demands for history buffs, as most titles tend to take massive liberties to historical events. Grand Strategy games such as the Europa Universalis series, or simulated wargames like Verdun or the ARMA series, are perhaps the most prominent examples out there that really dive into the simulation of history, all the while having fun or unique mechanics to make the experience enjoyable. One game is trying to really take this historical accuracy to a new level, focusing heavily on the backdrop of the American Civil War, and that is indie developer Campfire Games War of Rights.
Originally a Kickstarter project launched in 2015, the passion project by Campfire Games aims to be a historical simulator of the 1862 Maryland Campaign between the Federal and Confederate army. It is an interesting project, especially considering how Campfire Games is a studio based out of Denmark and not the United States, but it is one that shows some reverence, as misguided as it can be sometimes, to the source material. The outsider perspective of American history is not unusual in pop culture, but it is refreshing to see someone beyond an American company tackle the rather tumultuous history of the American Civil War.
The war already has a pretty rough history, considering the ethical and moral justifications given by the Confederacy and their desire to fight to retain slavery. It is a simple fact that slavery was the primary motivation for secession from the Union in 1860, and most history touting the ‘Lost Cause’ narrative that became quite popular during the Jim Crow years has been dismissed by serious scholars of the war. Most games barely touch upon this fact, instead focusing on the glory of both sides, and War of Rights is no exception to that. Campfire Games pitch is mostly neutral, focusing instead on the developer's love for the history of the American Civil War and how they hope to make one of the most accurate depictions of the war playable in game form.
The big draw for War of Rights is that historical accuracy. Even in its alpha stage, War of Rights is compelling in how it portrays the American Civil War, right down to historically accurate maps from the Maryland Campaign of 1862. Except for some poor FPS titles, most Civil War games are strategy games that focused on battlefield tactics and resource management, but War of Rights is the first game to really use the first-person perspective well. Players can play as privates, non-commissioned officers, or even colonels, with the goal to play cooperatively with fellow players by lining up in formations against the opposing side. Officers also get command options to give to lower-ranked soldiers, adding to the authenticity of the simulation. Controls are customizable for key bindings and easy to use, making War of Rights accessible at least mechanically in most cases.
It is frankly impressive, that even in an Alpha-only state, that War of Rights can feel realistic enough to the actual battles. Players also need to work together in tandem with their commanding officers, use actual formations and battle tactics, and try to be as accurate possible with their rather inaccurate rifles in near-perfect line formations. There is strength in numbers in War of Rights; players should not expect to run and gun in the game at all, as the fire-rates, accuracy, and even speed of movement is paced correctly to the time period.
This may be a major turn-off to some players, but for simulation fans, War of Rights is a pretty engrossing experience. It is as close as players will get to reenact the Civil War in their living rooms; to live the Battle of Antietam from the comfort of their gaming chair. There are also abilities to rent out private servers or join public ones online for those willing to play with random faces across the net, so there are options for players willing to put up with the games Alpha state.
Of course, that is the biggest drawback for War of Rights. While it is still deep in Alpha, a lot of technical glitches, bugs, framerate issues and more are hopelessly present. The Alpha build already has over 160 updates to it at this point, with the small team working hard to bring the game to its beta phase. Despite the successful Kickstarter, five years on, the Alpha phase is all that is still available.
Still, games like Minecraft made that work, the same can be said for War of Rights. Campfire Games has already announced a roadmap of features they wish to add to the experience, including new battle maps, end-game events, and even player-controlled artillery units, cavalry and generals to really flesh out the battlefield further. All of this is, of course, long-term goals, but with their Alpha stage available for purchase now, it is one that is possible to achieve.
I can’t help but enjoy War of Rights for what it is. It is easy to criticize it as an unnecessary simulation game, but the care is given to the historical accuracy, and the passion of the developer's love of history, certainly makes it a game to watch. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but for those history buffs out there looking for something a bit more in the vein of Verdun or ARMA might want to check this out for themselves.
TechRaptor played War of Rights on PC using a copy provided by the developer.