Once again I find myself navigating through the perilous waters of Steam’s Early Access library. Spamming ‘Next in Queue’ to wade through the flood of roguelikes and pixel art games, I stumble across something that grabs my attention: Foxhole. Advertised as a massively multiplayer persistent online war game, the development team at Clapfoot boast that each individual soldier can help turn the tide of war in a real-time clash between two factions of players. Does Foxhole deliver on sandbox warfare, or are you better off hunkering down in the trenches?
While Foxhole is not the first game to boast an online persistent battlefront, very few do so with an isometric perspective, with gameplay leaning more towards top-down shooter mechanics than the likes of first-person and third-person combat games. Despite gaming occupying the vast majority of my youth and adult life, my reactions are not what they used to be. The likes of Battlefield and other strategy-oriented shooters tease and tantalize the opportunity for fast-paced war action, but I often find myself digging a trench at the bottom of the leaderboard. The fresh perspective an isometric entrant brings to the mix is something I can definitely get behind.
Foxhole supports two different game modes with two fictional factions, Colonial’s and Warden’s, which are both fighting for victory. The recently added Skirmish mode offers a bite-sized version of the much larger World Conquest mode. Both modes are as strategic as they are action packed. Two teams begin with a main stronghold, and must expand across a huge map occupying towns and territories as they progress. While you often find the odd solo straggler, the vast majority of players are in huge squads taking orders under an umbrella of experienced players that are designating objectives to each squad and ensuring supply lines remain safe and fluid.
This is where Foxhole shines brighter than most. The community is the perfect example of how a passionate team of developers can attract a passionate community of players. I picked up Foxhole during a recent Steam sale, as did many, creating a huge influx of new players to a game that isn’t necessarily catered well towards the new player experience. Once I joined my first Skirmish, a number of veteran players were offering tours to showcase the games features and in-depth supply mechanics; something you’ll never encounter in a AAA title. The official Discord is a thriving hub of clans and players working together for the sole purpose of having a good time.
That’s a good thing too, as this war is not a casual experience. While soldiers sitting in the frontlines can have plenty of fun occupying bunkers and other fortifications to stop an enemy advance, the true mechanics of Foxhole lie within the logistics of war. Whenever you occupy a town, your forces must construct certain buildings so that your soldiers can supply themselves with weapons and medical supplies – whilst also providing a spawning point for your forces much closer to the front line. For these benefits to remain, players far behind the frontlines must gather materials and transport them around to various forward outposts to ensure supplies remain regular. It doesn’t matter if one side has a death squad of players wiping out the opposition forces; if they run out of supplies, they may as well go to war with a pitchfork.
The logistics of war not appeal to everyone, but there’s no shortage of frontline squads and tank columns looking for additional support. Even the grunts taking the bulk of the heat from the enemy serve a larger purpose than simply killing enemy soldiers. Progressing even a couple of hundred meters into enemy territory soldiers can build minor defensive structures to advance the frontlines, something that is infinitely satisfying after several hours of battling the enemy down a vicious choke point.
Push hard enough, and eventually you’ll break through the line of bunkers and pillboxes to reach the enemies more defensive lines. These can be huge constructs of high walls, anti-tank turrets, mines, and just about every defensive tool you can imagine for the era. The physical and strategic challenge of occupying these heavily defended territories is thrilling and rewarding every step of the way. Each side decides where to construct fortifications. Squads work behind the frontlines building up walls, creating fort-like structures to halt the enemy advance. It’s not all that far off the likes of Fortnite, gathering materials with allies to build large structures and occupy new areas.
The isometric perspective isn’t for everyone, but it doesn’t feel like a cheap alternative to a third or first-person experience in Foxhole. The graphics, animations, and combat are all incredibly smooth, and utilizes the isometric perspective to near perfection.
Foxhole is not without its own set of Early Access woes, but a passionate development team fueled by a one-of-a-kind community provides a war-like experience unlike any other. If you haven’t guessed it yet, this is a definite “Hit It.”
Check out Foxhole on Steam.